||VERONICA FREEMAN: IN CONVERSATION ABOUT BENEDICTUM
Gary 'Rockulus' Clarke
Benedictum is a Heavy Metal beast that is currently elated with the release of 'Obey', and this couldn't be more evident than when you hear the enthusiasm and joy from lead vocalist and front-lady Veronica Freeman.
'Obey' dwells in a mixture of battle-cry style and personally sincere lyrics, settled within the thunderous barrage of razor cutting riffs and pounding beats. It took me by surprise when I put the cyber-stylus to the virtual vinyl and heard Heavy Metal nuggets like 'Scream', 'Crossing Over' (a personal fave) and 'Fighting For My Life'.
With three previous studio albums lurking with intent, Benedictum were no newcomers to the scene, and when I had a second opportunity to speak with the charismatic, articulate and thoroughly enjoyable Veronica, I wasn't going to pass it up.
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After being exposed to a real lashing over a previous article I had assembled about the band and coming out of that scathed to the core, (not really, we laughed together but don't tell anyone I said that), I gulped and with a deep breath began the questions.
In 2011, the band had appeared at a festival called Metal Female Voices Festival in Belgium which sounded interesting. Being unaware of this event, I posed the question, what was that occasion like?
"That was fun. I think it was the second time we played it, and was Doro there that time? I know we had fun and they have some of the best food. The other place that has the best food is the Z7 in Switzerland (festival that hosts rock and pop music in a location called Pratteln in the district of Liestal). Oh my God, the cook there is off the hook! So yes, we had a lot of fun."
Then adopting a joking tone of voice and mocking herself, Veronica adds: "Those are my priorities, I don't know who played but we were eatin'!"
This conversation took place earlier in the day of the CD release party for 'Obey' over at a venue called 'Joe's Grotto' in Arizona. With thoughts of this imminent live showcase featuring the mighty Faster Pussycat also on the bill, my questions were targeting the live side of their output. Especially as Veronica was doing all manner of things in preparation for the event.
I asked Veronica what she thought of the UK? "That I was just there in London as a matter of fact, in London and Birmingham and Banbury. I didn't want to go home. I was there in April and I had one of the best little vacations I've had in years. I had to connect with some very close friends and some new friends. I had the chance to meet Tony Martin and I got to see McLarens, you know I love cars. So we got to walk by the McLaren dealership and I was like salivating so there's probably still drool on the window!"
She inhales before going over some other thoughts regarding the UK: "We had the chance to play there, I think twice. One of our first shows back in 06 and then we had the chance to play Hard Rock Hell in 08 and that was a blast!
"I knew I wanted to come back and so I went back there like I said this year; and we've been trying to go back there and get some shows booked constantly, so if anyone is reading this then let's make this work."
Finding out how hungry Veronica was to bring Benedictum over to the UK, I asked if there were any festivals or places she'd want to take the band. "That's easy! Give me something difficult; Bloodstock; I want to play Hard Rock Hell again; I want to play Download, all your major festivals! I want to go, pick me! So I'm ready, I want to be a part of it more than you know."
What follows is a list of people that Veronica wants to give shout outs to as she soaks up her ambitions to play live in the UK a lot more. With the momentum rolling Veronica says she wishes to give a shout-out to Carl Portman, Peter Freeman - who she says has the same surname but isn't related, Julian Birch, Richard Ellington, Tom Filskow, Jeff Collins and Bob Ploughman. These individuals mean a lot to Veronica and she associates them with her love of the UK.
The reference to former Black Sabbath lead vocalist Tony Martin previously is more relevant than you'll know unless you've bought 'Obey'. Martin collaborates with Veronica on the track 'Cry' which according to my first encounter with the mighty V, front-woman of Benedictum, was a fairly straight forward coming together of minds.
After getting in touch via a popular social media website, two songs were initially proposed as Martin considered the approach. One song was 'Retrograde' which Veronica felt was an ideal fit. History will tell us that Martin selected 'Cry' and does a fantastic job with it.
The prominent subject matter was evidently the live side of life for Benedictum considering their CD release party was looming on the ever-closing horizon, so getting back to their attitude regarding that topic, Veronica explains her thoughts.
"Those things are very important to us. I like to be entertained myself, and I know when I go to a concert, I don't think people realise how important it is what songs you have and in what order; because it takes you on a journey not only sonically but energetically. You can have someone with a thousand hits but if they're not played in like the right order, if it drags too long, it's good to hook 'em in and take people on a little journey and then close out strong. That's how we look at it.
"There are some songs that are harder for me to sing towards the end of the set and some that I would prefer to sing at the beginning of the set. So all of those things we take in to consideration."
After establishing with the first conversation I'd had with the mighty V that she invested some personal insight and emotion in to the lyrical side of the band's creativity, I then posed the question of how important the lyrics played within selecting the order of songs during a live show?
"Because the albums are not conceptual, so it's not like they're going in some sort of lyrical progression, therefore it doesn't really matter to me that way. It's just more about tempo and energy. If there's a song that has a strong hook that people can sing along with, I want to get that, one at the beginning of the set to get people engaged; one at the end of the set.
Veronica continues to explain how their approach differs with regards to a club show and a festival show. Taking in to account audience demographics plus the atmosphere and surroundings, times and circumstances, and how they all play a part and influence the sort of reception they receive, their set list changes accordingly.
The coolest thing about getting in to Benedictum's music and their mindset is how it becomes evident early on that they are not simply a band with an image, but also they have their substance too. This sort of commodity is special. Sure they love their fist pumping anthems and their leather wearing but listen to their lyrics and listen to Veronica explain the thought and feeling that goes in to all aspects of their music and presentation and you realise that they love what they're doing, and they're proud of it.
While you pop off to grab a cup of your favourite hot beverage, I'm off to protect myself against a torrent of criticism and ridicule from the mighty V as she points out all the aspects that are incorrect or inaccurate about this article! (I'm only kidding, but don't tell anyone I said that).