I’ve always thought there was something pretentious and lazy about self titled albums. A self titled alum smacks of either “This album is so good we don’t need to put any thought into what it is called” or “This album is so bad we couldn’t be bothered to name it”. Luckily, Suffocation’s much anticipated 5th studio albums and second album after their long hiatus falls into the former category.

After Suffocation released the somewhat disappointing (considering it was a comeback album) Souls to Deny, I interviewed drummer Mike Smith at a local show and he told me that album was basically a dry run and that the next album would be the real comeback. As usual, I take all “our next album will be faster, heavier, better” comments with a grain of salt, but in this particular instance Mr. Smith was indeed correct.

Suffocation is good. Really good. Not classic, not even legendary as say Effigy or Pierced but certainly much better than Souls and Breeding the Spawn. First and foremost, the band has fixed the production issues that plagued Souls, as Suffocation is clear, heavy and most definitely Suffocation, especially Smith’s drums. Second, the band seems to have tangibly moved away from the breakdowns that defined the band’s early releases. In distancing themselves from anything remotely ‘core’, the band’s slow moments are now tumbling, antagonistic landslides of heft rather than open note, resonant grooves. And it works. This is not more apparent than on “Misconceived”, a track that did not impress me when they unveiled it at their Myspace page, but the record version as opposed to the mp3 version, literally blew me away. From the 1:17 mark to the 2:31 is arguably some of the heaviest moments the band has penned.

Of course, Suffocation is still mainly about swirling blastbeats and technical savagery courtesy of Terrance Hobbs and Guy Marchais who now seems more comfortable in his role. The devastating vortexes of “Abomination Reborn”, “Translucent Patterns of Delirium”, “Entrails of You”, “The End of Ends” mingle with tempo shifting behemoths like “Redemption”, “Creed of the Infidel”, “Misconceived”, “Regret” and the reworked “Prelude to Repulsion” which blends in seamlessly with the new material, to produce a chest tightening array of intensity, heaviness and death metal mastery that shows a band truly finding their prior form.

Of course lyrically, Frank Mullen is no Chaucer and his vocals seem to get slightly less death metal and more understandable with each release, but he is forceful and powerful with his gruff tones and cliched death metal rants.

Ultimately, Suffocation is indeed a more deserving return than Souls to Deny and along with Skinless’s newest effort gives Relapse two of the years best death metal albums from artists that both needed strong efforts.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Erik T
September 12th, 2006


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