posted on 9/2006 By:
I’ve been here at MetalReview for almost a year now, but I’m happy to say I'm still able to approach my work here like a giddy little schoolgirl on her first date. Especially when confronted with what I consider to be by far my most important assignment to date, and one of my most enjoyable experiences, after having to respectively drop the chance to review one of my favorite bands (Agalloch) while making my recent exodus from Birmingham, AL to the frigid north of Anchorage, AK. But on to the album: while the eponymous choice of title seemed odd to me at first, after the initial listen, it has now garnered a certain charm. In essence, the decision works completely: this is not just avid laziness from a band who sprawls a decade of extremity; this is a credo, and most assuredly a call to arms.
To be honest, I was hardly satisfied by the less than stunning comeback album, Souls to Deny. Yet while nothing I would call horrible, for me and many other fans, we were left with this strange notion of an average Suffocation along with dashed aspirations of a truly regal addition to their decidedly decorated catalogue. Suffocation does not make the same mistakes.
By this point the only foundational members that remain are Frank Mullen, Terrance Hobbes, and Mike Smith. By now it’s fairly reasonable to assume that in fact we are not dealing with the exact same force that helped create classics like Effigy of the Forgotten or Pierced from Within, but only a fool would deny that Suffocation have stayed remarkably consistent while continuing to progress; there’s something undeniably at the very least different, but at the most more mature about the nature of the beast than previously.
After the nervous anticipation of the brief intro “Oblivion” finally sets in, the carnage of “Abomination Reborn” ensues, kicking off the album with thundering kit work and precise, poignant displays of commanding leads along with lacerating rhythms. The real progression for Suffocation is displayed wonderfully by “Redemption” which creates a sense of macabre, maniacal beauty with its equal blend of melodicism ala the ethereal clean guitar interlude next to their trademark dissonant brutality. It’s these moments of ingenuity and pure professionalism that have always had Suffocation towering over the competition. The on average, more midpaced rollicking “Bind Torture Kill” and “Translucent Patterns of Delirium” efficiently pummel the listener to a pulp with their steady yet subtle groove and Suffocation's distinctively hulking wall of sound rumbling before belaying into furious, beastly straight away blasting speed. The unbelievably sinister melodies and crushing midsections of “Misconceived” along with “Creed of the Infidel” to a slightly lesser extent are undeniably some of the catchiest, yet most poignant moments of the album combining Suffocation's dualistic nature into one violent cocktail of mayhem. After about the midpoint, the album gets less progressive and subtle, opting instead for what I consider the classic Suffocation, no frills, determination with cuts like the brooding “Regret”, the vicious rumbling of Despise the Sun style “Entrials of You” and the nearly absurd fury carried by the intense weight of “The End of Ends.” By the end, Breeding the Spawn's “Prelude to Repulsion” brings the release to an absolutely decimating conclusion leaving the listener with what can only be described as pure euphoria.
The compositions are nearly flawless; each song plays with tempos and tonalities, twisting dangerously through variation after variation but maintaining a constant undercurrent of brutality in everything they do. The constant push and pull tension created by Terrance Hobbes' versatile guitar work is some of the best within death metal. While I’m not completely certain of the level of contribution from Guy Marchais and bassist Derek Boyer, it seems that at the very least they’ve both come into their own. While there doesn’t seem to be too much change on the front of drummer Mike Smith’s jackhammer style, Frank Mullen has made a noticeable change allowing for his style to explore a higher register, allowing for an unparalleled level of clarity and lucidity while still ensuring the visceral quality of his trademark earth shattering tone. Add to all this swirling vortex of power a production that fixes all the soul gutting tendencies from Souls to Deny which fits their sound like a glove, and all in all we have an album what I’ll venture to call not just impressive, but amazing.
It’s time to put the word out; Suffocation is back in full swing: Once the smoke clears and the mayhem is done, there’s no doubt left in the wake of the desolate aftermath to who reigns supreme in the domain of brutal death metal. If you listen to brutal death metal, hell, if you even pretend to know about death metal, this one is a necessity.
posted on 9/2006 By:
As I see it, there are two ways of looking at 2006 for death metal as a genre. On one hand, you could decry the lack of significant stylistic innovation from younger death metal bands, as even the most left-brained acts have elected to rest on their proverbial laurels rather than forging into new territory (the only significant exception is the spectacular new Unexpect album, which only questionably falls into the category of death metal). On the other hand, you could revel in the revitalization of many of DM’s more venerable acts. Both Cannibal Corpse and Dismember have released what many consider to be their finest albums in a number of years, and the famously inconsistent Deicide made a significant musical step forward thanks to the keener melodic sensibilities of their new axe section. Even the oft-ignored Grave have plugged away with another platter of rock-solid Stockholm savagery. I’m even more inclined to consider ’06 a good year for death having experienced this newest output from the mighty Suffocation. Like a lot of Suffo fans, I was sated but not entirely pleased by 2004’s Souls To Deny, and remained skeptical upon hearing that the band viewed it as more of a ‘dry run’ than an actual continuation of their catalogue. I stand corrected. This self-titled effort is clearly the next evolutionary step up from the stellar Despise the Sun EP, and ranks easily with classics like Pierced From Within and Effigy of the Forgotten in terms of sheer, gut-busting quality.
This being said, it doesn’t exactly sound like the New York greats’ early catalogue. S/T’s comparatively sparse cover art and eponymous title promise a modernized, streamlined Suffocation, and the band waste little time in making good. The results are some of the most cohesive, fluid songs this band has ever crafted, tricked out with a typically dominating technical performance and supported by a flawless production. Recorded at Long Island’s Full Force Studios, S/T’s tones are clear, separate, and finely textured, thus allowing the band to more fully display their capacity for musical intricacy than virtually ever before. This is especially evident with the iconic growled vocals of Frank Mullen, which are…well, actually comprehensible without the aid of a lyric sheet. This can be disconcerting for the band’s older fans, especially when Mullen is heard doing things like bellowing “YOU’RE SO BEAUTIFUL” clearly and audibly over a bestial chugga section, but it adds an extra layer of (slightly goofy) hookiness to the vocal work.
More central to S/T’s success is the tuning this band has done since their last release. Ironically, Suffocation seem to have incorporated a few tricks from the playbook of equally legendary death metal giants Morbid Angel this time around. “Creed of the Infidel,” for example, features both a decidedly Floridian sense of insidious melody and an oozing tremolo-picked slowdown section that gave me some serious “Where the Slime Lives” flashbacks. Guitarists Terrance Hobbs and relative newcomer Guy Marchais have clearly done their Azagthothian solo homework as well, and this album is spattered with skittering, arthropodal leads that exude druggy malice. Suffocation still rely on pure riffage for efficacy, though, and the absolutely blistering “Redemption” is an example thereof; the song features several variants of an unusually melodic blastbeaten guitar tag team that evokes an almost Vital Remains-like atmosphere of sweeping, epic savagery.
But in the end, this is still Suffocation being Suffocation, and the majority of this disc is given over to the swirling maelstrom of technical teeth-gnashing that won this act their fame. Opener “Abomination Reborn,” “Entrails of You” and “Translucent Patterns of Delusion” are all vintage Suffo, complete with dense, chromatic chord beatdowns, stop-start cymbal-grabbin’ interludes, and Mike Smith’s trademark convoluted fills and blastbeats. And, of course, there are the heart-stopping death metal grooves that define the New York death metal sound. S/T sees Suffocation bringing a level of complexity and sophistication (I’d almost call it elegance) to their breakdowns that was hinted at on Despise the Sun but never fully realized. Where once there were open-chord chugs that very nearly verged on hardcore, songs like “Misconceived” and closer “Prelude to Repulsion” feature grinding, churning chunkfests that refuse to hang on to one rhythm for too long before blindsiding the listener with an unexpected shift. The 3:10 mark of “Bind Torture Kill,” in fact, features what I feel comfortable calling the heaviest riff Suffocation has ever written. An intricate chorus-like groove that starts at around 2:40 suddenly drops out, stranding Frank Mullen in a moment of tense a cappella, until the super-thick chords return at half the speed and with an absolutely mindblowing quantity of violence. The result is a moment of unadulterated death metal viciousness that I find myself headbanging and scowling furiously to no matter how often I hear it, and it’s this kind of moment that highlights how truly special Suffocation are.
That S/T is mandatory listening is unquestionable, and it’ll certainly find its way onto many a year-end list (I know it’ll be on mine). Where it stands in comparison to Suffo’s back catalogue depends on the metalhead, but I honestly feel that with time this could become my favorite of their entire canon. Suffocation do death metal about as well as humanly possible, and it warms my crusty little heart to hear these lifers slinging riffs about with such stunning intensity. Buy this album.
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Pinnacle of Bedlam
Souls to Deny
Pierced From Within