posted on 7/2009 By:
A new Suffocation album seems to be somewhat of an event in the metal world. Even three albums into their comeback, there’s as much hype for Blood Oath as there was for 2004's reunion album, Souls to Deny. And with good cause, arguably one of the top 5 influential death metal bands that set the genre’s course and a band that broke metal race barriers, Suffocation’s legacy and reverence is well earned.
So onto Blood Oath. I remember interviewing drummer Mike Smith back in 2005 and he told me that Souls to Deny was just a warm up, and that the second album after the hiatus would be the real comeback. And he wasn’t lying as 2006's self titled effort blew Souls to Deny out of the water, and thusly the improvement continues as Blood Oath, with a switch from Relapse to Nuclear Blast. Blood Oath is the album Breeding the Spawn should have been. I say Breeding the Spawn, because the song writing feels like Breeding the Spawn (a reworked "Marital Decimation" helps). Except of course for the legendarily bad production, which on Blood Oath is a thick and heavy as anything the band has done (perhaps Zach Ohren’s mixing effort helps), with a menacing murkiness that suits the band’s sound perfectly.
Of course, it also helps that the Mullen, Hobbs, Smith, Boyer, Marchais combination has been together for two albums now, so the chemistry that was missing on Souls to Deny is present and the band finds themselves as fluid and natural as they were in the mid 90s. From crumbling, mid paced opening title track, it's apparent Suffocation are firing on all cylinders as Blood Oath delivers all the aspects Suffocation has been known for all these years, though admittedly, they don’t sound as fresh and punishing as they did 15 years ago, but 15 years of plagiarism from countless other bands will do that. The likes of “Dismal Dream,” lurching “Pray for Forgiveness,” “Images of Purgatory,” “Cataclysmic Purification” and personal favorite “Provoking the Disturbed” display all the classic Suffocation-isms- the trademark suffo-blasts, the heaving slowdowns and Frank Mullen’s now, slightly tired sounding gruff roar, and if you can't tell, lyrically he has not progressed since 1991.
That all being said, while I really enjoy it, I’m not totally blown away by Blood Oath. With the exception of the pummeling “Provoking the Disturbed,” the second half sounds a bit rehashed, and frankly, in a year that has seen the likes of Obscura, Ulcerate and Augury truly push the limits of death metal, Suffocation, (and I thought I’d never say this, ever) sound a bit redundant. The fact they continue to rehash old songs ("Marital Decimation" on Blood Oath, "Prelude to Repulsion" on Suffocation, and even going back to "Breeding the Spawn" and "Synthetically Revived" on Pierced From Within), kinda cements this in my eyes that the band might be running out of ideas.
Still, it's easy to pick at a band that's been so good for so long, and the band's legacy is not hurt by Blood Oath, as those previously mentioned bands are only a few years and couple of albums into their careers. If they, like Suffocation can still belt out this level of consistency and quality almost 20 years later, then they too should get the respect and reputation that Suffocation absolutely deserves.
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Pinnacle of Bedlam
Souls to Deny
Pierced From Within