- reviewed by Russ Breimeier Copyright Christianity Today International
- 2001 1 Jan
Are you like me? Do you find yourself missing the modern rock sound of the band Plumb, especially that of their 1997 debut album? Now that lead singer and songwriter Tiffany Arbuckle is without a label and has recently married, the future of Plumb seems more dubious than ever. Though Tiffany assures fans that a new album will come, I won't hold my breath just yet. Fortunately, while we wait for a new Plumb album, you may want to check out The Benjamin Gate, a modern rock band hailing from South Africa that shares the same heavy electric guitar and effects-driven modern rock sound as Plumb, not to mention mainstream rock band Garbage. The band's name comes from ancient Jerusalem, where The Benjamin Gate was one of the gates in the city wall used to herd the young sheep through. It's a metaphor for the band's mission to lead today's youth to Christ. I can explain their excellent band name, but I haven't a clue why they actually called their album Untitled (or, for that matter, why they chose a gas mask symbol to grace the album packaging and serve as the band's emblem).
Some of you may already be familiar with The Benjamin Gate, especially if you heard the recent Forefront release Eterne, an international modern worship album that featured their song "I Will Never Be the Same." The music on Untitled is much edgier and louder than that song implied, yet it's still very melodic and accessible. The Benjamin Gate's first single is "All Over Me," a driving rock song that sounds like recent Plumb and even some of the songs on Katy Hudson's recent debut. "How Long" is very dark on the verses, building to an almost anthemic and joyous chorus that passionately yearns for the Lord's return. Even more passionate is "Scream," a prayer that expresses our desire to be covered in God's love. The song is a loud and edgy expression of the impatient groans this world makes in anticipation of Christ's return, yet thankfully it's never as loud as the title implies.
Nineteen-year-old lead singer Adrienne Liesching (pronounced "leashing") has an excellent rock voice that's often as strong as Shirley Manson (Garbage) or Tiffany Arbuckle (Plumb), yet can also be as ethereal as Sinead O'Connor or Dolores O'Riordan (The Cranberries). The instrumentalists of the band are also excellent, featuring a strong rhythm section layered with two "wall of sound" styled guitarists who are very good at creating interesting effects through their guitar processors. My only gripe with Untitled is that it rocks a little too well. I love good modern rock, and Untitled is filled with it, but at times the guitar effects are a little overwhelming and the album almost never lets up. I'd say 11 of the 12 tracks could be called rock, and most of those could be considered hard rock. Some of the more intense songs such as "Lay It Down" and "Rush" can take a lot out of the listener. When "Hands" finally comes up on the player, its gentle ethereal piano sound is like the calm eye of a storm (with its worshipful plea for grace) in the midst of a hurricane of guitar squeals and distortions. In that sense, The Benjamin Gate is indeed a lot like The Cranberries—sometimes beautiful, but often extremely noisy.
On the other hand, if you prefer your albums driving in intensity (grabbing you by the ears, throwing you around the room, and never letting go), you're going to enjoy Untitled that much more. (I prefer the album in small doses myself.) The band describes their music as "extreme worship," an appropriate description since the music is definitely both extreme and vertically oriented, though I suspect many will question if this music can truly be used as worship because it's so intense. I would warn away those who have heard "All Over Me" on the radio and think it to be one of their louder songs, since it's actually got a "lighter" sound by comparison. Otherwise, if you know what you're in for, I encourage you to check out the professional and edgy sound of Untitled. With this strong debut, The Benjamin Gate is certain to build an audience in the youth they seek to lead to Christ.