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I can't lie - after hearing "Souls To Deny," I was a bit disappointed. The songs were well written and brutal, as was to be expected, but the production fell short of impressive - in particular, Frank Mullen's vocals had way too much treble on them, without any bass to reinforce them, so the gutteral pummeling of his growls were lost in the mix. Despite the minor setbacks of their last album, I still patiently awaited the release of their newest full length album, simply titled "Suffocation."
What struck me about the album when I first put it on is that the production improved VASTLY over the last album - the instruments are well mixed as to make each one audible - each of them avoids being overshadowed by the others. The mix on Frank's vocals were brought to absolute perfection - the growls he unleashes on this album are something akin to those of - here goes - a sperm whale beating the shit out of a dinosaur. After seeing them live 4 times in the last 2 years, I've become a huge fan of his vocals, and was anxiously awaiting how they would be represented on their forthcoming release.
The drum production is impeccable - I'm almost positive that triggers were not used on this album, except maybe on the bass drums, but nowadays, who the fuck doesn't trigger the bass drums? Anyway, Mike Smith's drumming was never anything to scoff at (to hear what I mean, listen to the track "Bind Torture Kill") it's always been precise, driving, and diverse. In an interview with Ruthless Reviews (which, for some reason, was taken off the site) he claimed (in short) that constant blasting was killing death metal drumming, in that it allows for very little variation. To combat this phenomenon, he lets loose a barriage of different rhythms, which, while complex, are never short of pounding. Somehow he manages to balance technical proficiency with utter aggression, and the result is simply astounding.
As for the guitars, Terrance Hobbs has never had anything to be embarassed about. Even on Suffocation's least talked about album, "Breeding The Spawn," his guitar parts stand out as technical masterpieces. On "Suffocation," he and Guy Marchais combine forces to write songs that are furious, enthralling, and at times extremely claustrophobic sounding. I say claustrophobic because at certain points throughout this album, the guitar parts feel extremely confusing and confining, such as those in the first minute or so of "Translucent Patterns of Delirium." The lead parts stand out in this album, moreso, in my opinion, than on the last album, which is a definite plus. Leads have always been important in Suffocation's work, ever since the mid-range, bludgeoning riffs of "Infecting The Crypts" kicked everyone square in the nuts. On top of the technical proficiency, tactful lead construction, and brilliant soloing, the production, much like the aforementioned instruments, is outstanding.
The one complaint I have about this album is that the bass doesn't stand out as much as it did on their earlier albums, such as "Pierced From Within." Though audible, it doesn't have that certain twistedness it used to. Not to downgrade Derek Boyer's talent in the least - I've seen them play with him quite a few times, and he fucking nails those old songs - I just think he should have featured his instrument a bit more on this album. However, the fact alone that he can keep up with Hobbs and Marchais is astounding. The sound of his bass is far from lost in the mix, but it could have been played around with a bit more than it was.
Despite virtually unnoticeable setbacks, this album blew my fucking head off the first time I heard it. If I could sum this review up in one sentence, it would be this: it appears that Suffocation have found a healthy balance between old school Suffocation and newer Suffocation, circa "Despise The Sun." Suffocation have proven once more that their sound is a force to be feared.