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An Awesome Return for the Legends - 70%

BroodleBrain, October 5th, 2006

After a long six year hiatus without hearing any new material from New York brutal technical Death Metal legends Suffocation, the scene was getting saturated with “Suffo-clones”. And so when I first caught wind of their impending “reunion” (minus Cerrito and Richards), I was excited. It was time for the legends and curators of brutal Death Metal to return and crush all their imitators. Not only that, but one of my favorite drummers of all time was coming back in Mike Smith. Suffocation last left us with their mouth watering EP, “Despise the Sun”, and it proved a great mix of the old, early 90’s and “Pierced from Within” styles. So what would “Souls to Deny” serve us? The answer is plenty more great metal to dig your teeth into.

There’s no doubt about it when you first put it in your stereo, it certainly is Suffocation, but this time there are musical changes that must be noticed. First is obviously the departure of Doug Cerrito. Listen to the guitars and speed on almost all of Effigy and the beginning of Breeding. That is mostly the work of Cerrito. The well structured, blast beat focused writing, with an emphasis on the riff at a fast pace. He did it in such an over the top technical way. But the end of Breeding and quite a few sections on Pierced, we hear the writing of Terrence Hobbs, who has a slower structure with off-time drumming and more harmonic approach.

The later is pretty much what we get on “Souls to Deny” Blast beats are sporadic through out the album, as the focus is on harmonic guitars, sometimes playing two different parts simultaneously. This approach is what makes Souls slightly different than every other Suffocation album. However great song structures, a staple of every Suffocation release thus far, is still present and their still are plenty of brutal breakdowns. The drumming of Mike Smith is great as usual, as he bashes the hell out of his kit. He actually had a pretty long absence from extreme metal, which makes his performance all the more awesome!

On that same note though, it seems a few sections of the music is rehashed from previous releases. “Subconsciously Enslaved” is the one song that stick out as sounding like much of Pierced. But for the most part this album is where Suffocation tried a new approach and it works just fine in my opinion.

One of the complaints from a lot of people including me is the production. Though nothing as scary as Breeding’s, the vocals aren’t so hot. At first listen I thought the vocals were coming from behind me as I sat in front of the stereo. And odd mix is definitely to blame for that. Also I feel as though Frank Mullen isn’t as intense as on previous releases. The instruments are mixed well, and everything can be heard real well including both guitars, as one needs to make the separation through each speaker to get the proper feel for the music.

I really feel this album is underrated, though at the same time it’s not even close to their best. The whole Suffocation discography is so amazing that no one could actually believe that Suffocation would top Effigy or Pierced. This is definitely an unusual album to make your return with, it almost feels as though it should have been written right after “Despise the Sun”. After six years with no new material, fans certainly were looking for an album in the older intense blast beat style yet still expanding their sound with a great deal of originality. Yet Suffocation came at you and wrote an album full of slower structures and harmonic riffing which threw the fans off. All in all “Souls to Deny” is a hell of a return for the legends and a must have for all Suffocation fans, and fans of technical Death Metal.