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I'm fuckin speechless... SUFFOCATION! RARRR!! - 90%

chaossphere, April 6th, 2004

Ahh yes, Suffocation. The band who single-handedly took death metal to a new level of violence with their early-90's efforts and then cemented their crown as the reigning kings of brutality with the timeless 1995 masterpiece Pierced From Within. With their first studio effort in 9 years after a recent reformation, there was a lot of weight on their shoulders to deliver an album that lives up to the legacy of those old classics (1993's underproduced flop Breeding The Spawn notwithstanding), but i'm glad to say that they've risen to the challenge and thrown down a gauntlet of their own. The past masters of extremity have delivered 8 songs which will once again secure their place on the blood-soaked throne of death metal.

It would really be pointless to focus on individual songs, since every one of these tracks is an instant classic in it's own right. Not content with re-cloning the dozens of bands who've ripped off their sound, Suffocation instead returns to a perfect balance of all era's of their previous incarnation. Despite numerous lineup changes, and the absence of one of their principle songwriters Doug Cerrito, Souls To Deny is an obvious blend of the insane fury of Effigy Of The Forgotten, the bludgeoning technical madness of Pierced From Within, and the grinding intensity of their final EP Despise The Sun. One major improvement comes from original drummer Mike Smith, who obviously spent the last 10 years practicing his ass off, because here he simply blows away all his previous performances in a frenzy of blastbeats, double-bass abuse and stunning fills. The songs, meanwhile, are based on the usual construct of speed-driven riffing contrasted by slower, grind-inspired
"breakdown" riffs, headspinning technicality and belching vocals. Aside from a bit of extra melody (and I mean a bit, and I don't mean gay recycled Iron Maiden solo's ala Gothenburg Inc.) there's nothing here that hasn't been done before, which is just the way I like it. Rather than playing with some stupid envelope, Suffocation have opted to set it on fire and crush your skull instead.

The production, too, is near-perfect considering the small timeframe they had to record this disc - the guitars aren't quite as sharp as they were on Despise The Sun, but they compensate with a shitload of weight and low-end power, while the drums manage to remain clear without resorting to the "clicky typewriter" sound so prevalant these days. If anything, this is how Effigy Of The Forgotten would sound were it remixed and remastered using modern technology. It seems 2004 is becoming an excellent year for death metal, and Suffocation just upped the ante by several miles. Note that i'm writing this review based on low-quality advance mp3s, so dog only knows how much more powerful this album is going to sound when it's released on CD in May.