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Suffocation. Within the Death Metal Underground, it is a name synonymous with technicality, brutality, and legendary releases. Suffocation didnt become Death Metals "most plagerized band" by wallowing in mediocrity; the Suffo boys are the real fucking deal. One listen to Effigy of the Forgotten or Pierced From Within more than proves it. But after the band reformed and released Souls to Deny, an experimental and somewhat misunderstood release, many fans were skeptical about the future of Suffocation. And it seems with the bands new s/t album, the concerns of the fanbase were heard lound and clear: Suffocation are back to crushing skulls.
The first thing that struck me about this album is the production. Its extremely clean and very clear, a stark contrast to Breeding the Spawn. The vocals and drums are much more in the mix, the bass audible, and the riffs much clearer. My hat goes off the producer: technicality like this needs to be heard, not muted.
Of course, all that is secondary to the music. In this department, any more progressive or adventerous elements that the band may have had are thrown out the window for Suffocation. Guitarists Terrance Hobbs and Guy Marchais are fucking machines; each of the 5 billion riffs on this album are the definition of technicality or brutality. Seriously, listen to the riffs on songs like "Redemption" or "Entrails of You" and tell me this shit is not Death Metal guitar playing at its finest moment? Mike Smith also has his best performance behind the kit yet; he improves with age, growing only faster and more intense. I must also the say the bass performance of Derek Boyer is very impressive. Fast, technical, and low, just like I like it. And thanks to the slick production, the Smith/Boyer rhythm section make a much larger impact. As for vocalist Frank Mullen's performance, which was widely criticised on Souls to Deny, all I can say is welcome back Frank. His performace is excellent; thankfully free from over "brutalization" like on Effigy, the vocals sound real and powerful, and Frank is one of the few vocalists in modern Death Metal that understand the uses of cupping the microphone; moderation.
This s/t album has a lot going for it, but misses the mark a few times. A couple of the songs on this album are snoresville; "The End of Ends" damn near put me to sleep. Also, the lyrics come off 50/50 for me. Mullen must be given credit for thinking outside the box when it come to the lyrics; instead of robotically relating tales of gore, violence, insanity, etc., he tries to express the more thoughtful side of darkness. What are the thoughts going through the killers head, not body part the killer is chewing on. But in the end, it was a failed endeavour. Many of the lyrics come off childish and, dare I say, "Kornish." Its not all bad, but I hope to see this more literary side of Suffocations lyrics come out in the future.
There is little left to be said about Suffocation. Along side such bands as Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel, Deicide, and Death, Suffocation can be counted as one of the greatest Death Metal bands ever. And if this album is a sign of the future, Suffocation have many more years of destruction and domination ahead of them.