The Suffocating Darkness

In 1998 the Dutch death/doom outfit known as Asphyx disbanded for a short period of time and put out an album under the new name of Soulburn, with a crushing album – Feeding on Angels. Wannes Gubbles on bass/vocals, Eric Daniels providing the ultra heavy guitar crunch and Bob Bagchus rounding out the punishing drums. The album had the Asphyx heaviness in the doom/death area covered really well. However Soulburn attempted some black metal melodies with some of the guitar parts coming across as Bathory/Venom inspired, but never really going the full distance, in those areas. However the Dutch scene has remained one of my favorite genres since the inception of death metal and the Soulburn debut is one of my faves. 2009 saw Century Media remaster the album with bonus content and it’s a thing of beauty. I forged a friendship with Bob Bagchus last year and interviewed him, while he was still with Asphyx, for Teeth of the Divine. Soon there after he left due to the rigors of touring and such, but I then interviewed him for, for a Soulburn interview, since he told me he put the band back together with Eric and I was beside myself. He and Eric had just put out one of the best death metal albums in recent memory with the Grand Supreme Blood Court debut and he told me Soulburn was gonna be resurrected from the grave.

Bob sent me an advance of The Suffocating Darkness several months ago and I have played it nonstop. To say this is not only one of the best blackened death metal albums out there is the proverbial understatement from me all year! The two new comers are Twan van Geel on vocals, from Flesh Made Sin and Remco Kreft on second guitar. So how does this all go together? Quite brilliantly I might add.

How about the title track with its very intense Celtic Frost influence that keeps things at a rocking head banging pace and groove. But then the track switches to a very heavy Bathory influence with the guitar melodies. A very strong Under the Sign of the Black Mark, from Bathory sound permeates this album throughout. Bob was not joking when he told me the Bathory influence was extensive on this. One of the main black metal influences is the vocals from Twan – he sounds killer. Really sounds like he resurrected Quorthon himself, during vintage ’80s Bathory, with a venomous raspiness that coils around your body like pure evil and hatred. So the mix of the black metal and doomy heaviness of old school Asphyx is ever present, throw in some Celtic Frost and Venom influence and what we have here is just brilliance. The last song, ‘Claws of Tribulation’ has the perfect old school Eric Daniels guitar crunch at the 1 minute mark. You’ll know it when you hear Eric’s isolated guitar part come in and it’s a holy s**t moment. Then Bob’s punishing drums come in and after head banging; your head will topple off your head like it had been cleaved ever so cleanly and precisely, by some murderous maniac.

I can go on and on about how all these tunes rip from beginning to end, with perfect mixture of fast, doom/death dirge and pure blackened death metal brilliance, but I’m attempting to cut this review short so you can go out and buy this asap. I will hit you with one more song, ‘The Mirror Void’ – one of my favorite songs in recent memory. OMG!!!!! Starting out with a brilliant doom/death bulldozer then hitting you with the black metal melodies. Then Twan growls out the title track a little while later and the song goes into brutal doom. Then the 1:17 mark had quite possibly one of the best beats this year. You will know it once you hear it. The second part of the vocals during this section is great, with that punishing heavy beat and Bob cracking in a little bit of double bass during this part that makes this quicker part sound even that more punishing and vicious. I swear every time I hear this part I scream out ‘Crossing the Mirror Void’ and then the heavy stomp rhythm comes in and I begin unearthing trees and hitting cars with them, like they are base balls and just going ballistic. Hey we even get a nice little Celtic Frost inspired guitar solo at the 4:35 mark. This tune is genius.

The Suffocating Darkness was recorded at Harrow Productions, so you know it sounds outstanding and under the watchful eye of Dan Swanö, you know this album is monstrous sounding. Everything sounds brilliant. I plunked down money to buy this recently and this first edition comes in a nice slipcase. The album also contains an enhanced portion including the album in the full vinyl dynamic range, as an mp3. Very cool. The layout of the booklet is killer with some nice sinister demonic drawings and lyrics. At my age now I needed to use my reading glasses, since the font was pretty effin small, but that is a minor quibble. The Suffocating Darkness sees Soulburn topping their near perfect debut album, from 16 years ago, and really have expanded their sound a lot more, that makes them stand out a little more from the death metal pack out there. This album is one of the elite and one of my favorites for 2014. All I can say is failing to get this will see you get trapped by a Black Aura, as you die from The Suffocating Darkness. BUY OR DIE!!!!!!!!!!!

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Frank Rini
January 14th, 2015


  1. Commented by: Luke_22

    That sample track sounds very cool. Thanks for the heads up Frank.

  2. Commented by: F.Rini

    Thx Luke for your support. The album is outstanding. \m/

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