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Apparently, I am not the only one who bought this without digging into it to see if it was really worth the money. Not really surprising, because hey, it says ‘Suffocation’ on various sides of the package, so what could go wrong? To give the predictable answer to my rhetorical question: a whole fucking lot. This release suffers from multiple blunt force traumas and I have to admit, that only hit me after a reasonable amount of spins. It is one of those typical albums that seem good because you think they have to be good, since its band X or Y and they have always been awesome, so they still are. It also seems to be good, because it is good on the surface, something like a big chocolate Easter bunny. Looks all too great until you chop an ear of and hey, fuck me, the bitch is hollow. And then you take another good look at the outside and it is actually makes sense that a 10 or 12 inch bunny is hollow. So let’s take a bite out of this deceiving disc of chocolate Easter metal.
The main problem here is, in my experience, the production. It is very clear, I’d almost say crystal clear, although it is not as polished as say, nowadays Behemoth (Pol). Of course, this can be excellent and I know a lot of brutal death and/or tech death releases that are almost rendered worthless due to the muddy, muted productions. It could have been a step in the right direction for Suffocation, but apparently, they lost their balance and ended up misplacing their foot. So this is the first element that seems to be right, but actually is wrong, because when they gained the clarity, they gave up the following essentials.
First of all, it’s loose sand. The instruments don’t connect with each other, the sound is not a coherent wall of music, there’s no real body to it. This also makes that sometimes riffs or drum patterns/fills seem out of place or downright strange, because they pack a certain atmosphere or amount of heaviness that is not backed up by anything properly. The earlier Suffocation releases might have been muddy, ‘over-cemented’, but they now scraped away all the cement between the bricks and the wall tends to come down.
Next problem is the overall atmosphere. This has also got to do with the production, and it very much reminds me of the 2007 ‘Sworn to the Dark’ album by Watain. Yes, I know Watain is black metal, but both albums suffer from the same production problem. It is really hard to put my finger on the exact cause, and I only know that the ultimate effect is a soulless, bored sound. The riffs are, in a way, too perfect, the music is too predictable. Not that I can exactly tell when a solo will kick in, for example, but nothing is surprising either, everything is just as it is ‘supposed to be’, which makes it very uninteresting.
Parallel with this problem is the bored sound. There are two causes to that: first of all, the overall sound (again), and secondly the fairly mid-paced character of the album. Both guitars and their riffs sound powerless and don’t only bore me because of their lack of energy, but also bother me because it sounds as if the musicians themselves were bored when playing this. Band members, half lying, half sitting on a couch, lazily chugging away some riffs on their guitars, images of that nature come to mind. They even somehow succeeded in making fast parts sound slower than they actually are. But to summarize the issue: no passion, no fire, no aggression, nothing.
And that brings us to the vocals. A glimmer of light, an element of sole positivity? Not entirely. Of course, this guy certainly has a respectable throat, but the sound of the growls is very generic. They too suffer from boredom, but my main problem with them is the forced sound. They don’t seem to roll and gurgle out easily as with many other vocalists and that makes it an unpleasant listen. I know this seems far-fetched and you’ll probably say he has proven his worth since many full-lengths, but still, it’s just the sound it has and neither his name, nor the band’s is gonna change that. Another production might, though.
Now that I am nearing the end, I am obliged to state the obvious before closing it up. And that is, of course, this still is Suffocation, and all individual members still show great skill on their instruments and that is very clear nonetheless. I’d also like to stress again that this album is not at all entirely devoid of good riffing and good songs, but they’re simply not done justice, which is a huge turnoff.
It might be a fact that many bands nowadays release music that are deemed as Suffocation worship (funny, how death metal bands are mostly said to be ‘worshipping’ the great names of the genre, while black metal bands are ‘cloning’. Conceptually speaking, it would make more sense the other way around), but I sincerely hope this isn’t setting a new trend. Due to its open, accessible sound, this might be a great album for those new to death metal and its subgenres, but for the more experienced (death) metalheads, I’d say this is superfluous, especially because of the earlier Suffocation works.