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Across the Suffokate library, you'll find a fair amount of sound changes from album to album. Return to Despair is the final one with highly body modified vocalist Ricky Hoover as frontman, as well as slowest and bumpiest one they have put out yet. A huge majority of the songs sound almost exactly like All Shall Perish with some tempo variations. Everything that All Shall Perish has done for the past few albums and are known for are present here; chugging/bumpy rhythm guitar sections with leads taking all the technicality, crunchy bass and even Ricky Hoover's growls sound almost precisely identical to that of All Shall Perish's Hernan Hermida. To keep through all this and pass it off more than just a coincidence; both these bands are from the same city: Oakland, California after all. So I can't say I'm not too surprised by all these similarities. However, some originality could have pertained relevant and while this record does maintain that in some aspects, its continuous draws to sounding like an All Shall Perish clone is definitely one of its biggest faults.
The first track on the record "My Darkened Eyes" is probably the strangest one on here. It's almost danceable. The rhythm sections are very chuggy, bumpy and almost club worthy if it wasn't for the extreme vocals and heavy drums. Not a bad song but at the same time a strange one at that. Moving on, things take up in speed with the proceeding song "Always Hopeless", which is pretty catchy as it is heavy. It's at moderate speed compared to a majority of songs on the record and while gang shout vocals and the breakdown in it take most of lead, their drummer definitely shines in this one as well. However, everything I just explained here is nothing compared to the song "Let the Waters Rise", which is most definitely the best song on the album if not the best Suffokate song yet. It has a beautiful main riff that makes the entire song, if you have to hear anything from this album, just hear this one track. Not only is this riff incredible but the drums stack up beyond each verse.
It's become apparent by this time that their drummer is the most redeeming thing for the band, or at least on this record. He is talented and while the guitarists get to show a bit more of their talent on parts such as the instrumental piece "Vanishing", Lar Diaz's playing and creativity dominate most of the music. One of the only problems I have though is by after about half the record, the songs again tend to blend into each other, either that or pull too much of a close sound (again) to All Shall Perish. It's almost like you can literally take a track off here (preferably "Never Found"), give it to any All Shall Perish fan and say it's a new song by them and they'll probably believe it.
Now that I've talked about everything else, I guess what I have words left for is the vocals. Hoover on here has growls that yes, sound pretty close to Hernan Hermida, but they're surprisingly understandable. Every vocal by him, whether screaming or growling, are usually totally intelligible without the need of reading the lyrics, which is definitely a highlight in my book. Now his screams, while not sounding so much like Hermida, sound more of like a shrieking skeleton (at least that's what comes to my mind every time I hear it on here). His shrieks compliment the music at the beginning or end of lines while growls are slightly more abundant. All in all, not a bad vocalist, he may be a tad breathy at times, but not a bad singer.
All in all Return to Despair is about as good within the realm of Suffokate's library among the post-Jared Armitage as it seems it's going to get. It has variety, yes, but still falls short in some aspects.
Check out the songs: "Let the Waters Rise", "Everything Is Lost" and "Always Hopeless"