Legendary death metal machine Suffocation are back with …Of The Dark Light, a typically tight and brutal outing. This is classic death metal despite boasting chops that rival any tech death band.
In many ways, a new album from a band like Suffocation resists review. On a very literal level, all that’s necessary is to write “It’s a solid Suffocation record. If you like their other ones, go ahead and check it out.” And that is 100% accurate. I mean, how many people that like this genre are really checking out Suffocation for the first time? Some? A few? None?
Considering their genre and their place within that genre, Suffocation has some unique qualities, some of which have emerged since their debut, 1991’s Effigy Of The Forgotten. While their early records are death metal classics, the band have taken on new elements since then. Most notably, they have a tightness that is remarkable even among musicians known for precision. There is a quality to the music that feels like a well-strung trap, just waiting to be sprung. The degree of precision they’re presenting is almost claustrophobic in the attention to detail. Some might find it suff—sorry, that was just wrong.
To push a death metaphor, many bands are ripping flesh from the bones and eating it raw. Suffocation is more like the skeleton of a long dead murder victim baking in the desert sun. Dry as hell with a timeless permanence.
The band’s most notable feature is the rasping death growls of frontman Frank Mullen. Not surprising, given he is the only original member remaining, aside from guitarist Terrance Hobbs. Mullen might not have the deepest growl out there, but it packs a ferocity that few can match and fewer still can exceed. On top of that, his voice is immediately recognizable; a real feat considering that too many growlers are generic dime-a-dozen types. For evidence, look no farther than bands who have replaced vocalists causing no one to bat an eye. Death metal (and assorted offshoots) is perhaps the only genre that can claim this dubious honor.
The album is front loaded with the strongest tracks, “Clarity Through Deprivation” and “The Warmth Within The Dark,” both of which are the most likely to occupy space in your head without paying rent. However, the individual tunes are largely beside the point. This is an album, and it packs a lot of riffs and punches into a running time that is about one song over half an hour.
Perhaps the coolest part of the whole thing is a quick pause towards the end of “The Warmth Within The Dark.” When the song resumes, it feels like a new song. But it isn’t, and that’s important, as the tightness of the individual tunes and the way they come together as a cohesive whole is one of …Of The Dark Light’s main strengths. While Suffocation’s songwriting skills have gradually grown stronger through the years, their album making skills have made quantum leaps, to the point where this feels less like a collection of songs and decisively like an album. This is partly due to very improved production, without a doubt. But it’s also composition skills. One of the best things about extreme metal is that the best bands do make albums, and Suffocation is among the best. While they aren’t reinventing themselves or taking any huge chances, they do come with a pedigree and catalog of documented sickness. Long may they breathe life… um, death.
Suffocation’s …Of The Dark Light is out June 9 through Nuclear Blast. You can purchase it in pretty much any form you desire on Nuclear Blast’s site here.