Aside from a very brief press intro, which unfortunately went to some obscure part of SonicAbuse that no-one ever checks and thus remained unnoticed for some weeks, I knew nothing of Ben Simon before placing his debut album, ‘the reckoning’, into my player. As a result the album proved to be something of a voyage into the unknown and one that was entirely rewarding. The album, bandcamp informs us, was recorded as a means of helping Ben deal with the loss of his father. As a result the album is a labour of love and one that offers a great deal, not least because ben Simon is an incredibly gifted individual. Operating in the realm of progressive metal and funded by a successful kickstarter campaign, ‘the reckoning’ is a varied and powerful piece of work that deserves your attention.
Opening with a brief, self-titled introduction which sets the album’s dark, complex tone, the first proper track is the brutal ‘overthrow fear’ which features a powerful and poignant sample at its heart in place of lyrics. The drum programming is powerful and realistic (not always the case with electronic percussion) and the guitars are furious and incisive, Ben tearing into the riffs with energy and aggression. With multiple tempo changes on display, the track makes up for the lack of vocals with a varied, multi-faceted approach that rarely stays still long enough for the listener to fully appreciate the scale upon which Ben operates. ‘The celebration’ is a scything, brutal track which, perhaps more than its predecessor, sounds more as if it would benefit from vocals. The riffs take on the aspect of pile-drivers, each successive effort flattening the listener’s skull, but whilst the riffs are technically competent, the lack of solos means that the track ultimately fails to fully deliver upon its initial promise. ‘Horizon’ offers a change of pace and it’s a beautiful, reflective piece awash with reverb and gentle synth only for the feedback arcing ‘Be(lie)f’ to come crashing in with an unholy fury. It’s another track that relies on its crushing riffs and yet struggles to feel complete without either a vocal or solo upon which to anchor the piece. That’s not to say it’s not impressive – the music is powerful and full-blooded – rather it feels as if there’s a final piece to be added to the puzzle and on future releases it would be good to hear Ben team up with a suitably powerful vocalist as the result would undoubtedly be immense. Initially a slower, more contemplative piece ‘The river Celadon’ is a gleaming blast of hi-tech thrash that has some blistering fret work whilst the final track, ‘merciless’ is exactly that with its brief, Sparta-referencing sample and crushing riffs all deployed over a cacophonous, semi-industrial percussive framework that threatens to tear down the foundations of your house. Better still, ‘merciless’ offers the sort of lengthy solo that the rest of the record has been crying out for, making it a memorable conclusion to the album.
Overall ‘the reckoning’ is a mightily impressive piece of work that shows great potential. The sticking block, mitigated somewhat by the brevity of the album, is that without either vocals or solo, the songs rapidly start to lose their impact, and it would be hard for such music to hold the attention over a ten track release. What really strikes home is the promise that ben Simon offers up here. He is clearly imaginative, passionate about music and talented and if he could harness his skill to a band with similar ambition and talent then the resultant material would surely be stunning indeed. A remarkable debut, ‘the reckoning’ does not quite fulfil on its early promise, but it comes close, and it certainly highlights Ben’s immense potential should he choose to continue down the musical path. Impressive and well worth a listen, I very much look forward to hearing Ben’s next musical move.