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The album that bridged deathcore and beatdown hardcore - 90%

GuardAwakening, July 22nd, 2019

Suffokate really caught lightening in a bottle here, a gorgeous accident combining beatdown hardcore and deathcore songs onto one crushing full length album. This record is 10 tracks (12 if you're listening to the reissue) of pure pummeling heaviness. Tracks like "Slaughter Your Enemies" and "Every Crisis Faced" are bruising beatdown tracks, while "Forever" and "The Wrath" are stunning, near-technical inducing deathcore bangers. The result of these two worlds coming together seems to be an accident. Most people tend to refer to Oakland as simply a deathcore album, but this is incorrect. It is, in fact, a combination of deathcore and beatdown hardcore, and it was about to change the entire world of most genres forever years after its release.

It isn't hard to understand that Suffokate were initially attempting to be a west coast hardcore band with strong influences from New York's beatdown hardcore offshoot (examples of such NY bands include Bulldoze and Irate). This album's first few tracks couldn't make that more obvious. Coming up on the blueprints, something happened though; their riffs were just a tad too brutal and metal-influenced, they started incorporating death metal influence on a few select songs which spawned early deathcore through the hybridization and chemistry of the members' musical inspirations. I would not at all be surprised if one of the two guitarists on this album is a At the Gates and Possessed-sort of guy, nor would I not be surprised if at least two members were listening to a lot of Irate, 25 ta Life and Billy Club Sandwich when writing this record. There's so many parts where a track comes on and I can't tell if I'm listening to beatdown or a early deathcore album. Oakland is a spectacular experience and in the beatdown world, I feel like it's truly a underappreciated album.

This was a album long before Suffokate was gaining Tumblr clout for Ricky Hoover's huge earlobes. Wait... Ricky Hoover? Who is that again? There is no Hoover on this album, instead the vocals on this goliath of a record are handled by two Oakland-native boys; Carlos Guiterez and Jared Armitage, each one possessing a distinct growl and shout style, much like the album's formula, the vocals as well are a hybrid of hardcore's bark and death metal's monstrous growl vocals. The end result, especially when performed by two thuglike individuals is a menacing vocal performance fit to forefront the entire bruising package.

Drum performance gets a lot of love from me as well, whether it's during those long sustained beatdown-esque notes the guitarists do or the early deathcore-style melodic riffery, somehow that clanky snare fits for both worlds. Some moments of some of these songs don't even sound like the same album at times, but the sound of the drums nor its playing style ever differs much when the band are swaping between styles.

Isn't it weird how I got this far into a "deathcore" album review and sitll haven't talked about the breakdowns? Oh yeah, they're amazing too. This is pre-MySpace stuff so this was before bands cashed in on having as many breakdowns as possible, instead it was left to the musician's descretion to decide when the crowdkills should begin and I can't really complain about a single breakdown on here. Every single breakdown is perfectly placed. My favorite kinds of breakdowns in these kinds of bands are the ones to break up the monotony; as soon as the music starts to feel even slightly tedious, a good breakdown can always rescue the song's potential and bring the listener back to banging his or her head. Suffokate has mastered that art perfectly on this album and do so throughout almost the entire runtime. Listening to a lot of albums from front to back tends to bore me, but Oakland with its dual-genre style and crafty use of breakdowns, I can honorably declare this the prime anti-boring album.

Not that long ago Suffokate generally got a lot of hate by people who aren't kids with stretched lobes in Oceano shirts, and I can understand why. They're a deathcore band that aren't, by any means, going to change your mind if you dislike deathcore. But this album is a goddamn gem, as I've said before earlier in the review, I don't even personally declare this record really a "deathcore" record as much as it is incredible accident gone so horribly right and just happened to meld NY-style beatdown hardcore with Swedeath riffs and all at once created a early prototype of deathcore by doing so and (all the while this was going on) merged the tropes of deathcore and beatdown into one. This is a brutal-ass album.

Holy shit, a decent Suffokate album! - 73%

Hellish_Torture, July 16th, 2014

The first Suffokate song I ever heard, few time ago, is “Not the Fallen”. I was really shocked by its level of shittiness (a single-note breakdown played for the whole song!) and I temporarily elected it to “worst deathcore song ever”. Searching informations about this abomination of a band, I found some interesting shit, for example the fact that, until few time ago, they had a vocalist with extremely dilated lobes and with more tattoos than pores on his skin, and he has recently left them to become... a hairdresser. What an enterprising guy.

Suffokate, at the moment, have recorded three albums. The curious fact is that the first album, “Oakland”, came out in 2004, a time when deathcore was a respectable genre, excluding few stuff like The Acacia Strain (totally crappy band). So I wondered: did this band use to suck even ten years ago? Was already an Acacia Strain clone? Was one of the first bands to spread the disastrous “moshcore” virus around? So, I committed a totally masochistic act: I downloaded all their three albums. And my suspects were confirmed: yes, the latter two albums opened me a world of unique boredom and dumbness, beyond every human limit (especially “No Mercy, No Forgiveness”), but the first album, the one which came out ten years ago... is actually decent.

“Oakland”: this title is a clear homage not only to the place of origin of the band, but also to the nascent californian deathcore scene (which had his fulcrum right in Oakland, where All Shall Perish were the leaders and their fame was increasing). Beyond All Shall Perish and Suffokate, also Antagony (the true inventors of deathcore), Animosity, As Blood Runs Back and similar names were moving their first steps. Between them, there was also the inauspicious act Suicide Silence, which would have contributed to commercialize and dumb down the deathcore formula in the second half of the 2000s, but well, never mind. At that time, deathcore bands knew how to use breakdowns tastefully, and they actually had death metal influences in their music (in various forms: principally melodeath and slam/brutal), differently from modern deathcore bands like Emmure (have you ever heard death metal influences in Emmure?). The Suffokate debut is a fine little piece of the californian deathcore scene and manages to epitomize it pretty well.

Luckily, what we find here is not an endless gallery of mechanical breakdowns, but a “sane” deathcore formula. I can’t believe I’m saying it, but yeah, there is a lot of riffage on this album, and, holy shit, it’s great riffage: you find a lot of typical melodeath stuff, à la “Slaughter of the Soul”. The best melodeath riffs are probably on “The Wrath”. Sometimes, a blast-beat comes in, and it’s accompanied by excellent tremolo riffs, in the perfect melodeath fashion (a good example of it is on “Forever” and on the last two tracks). Sometimes, the tremolo stuff is put over the various breakdowns/slams (like on the “Intro” track), and, this time, it works (on the next two albums, it won’t be sufficient anymore to save you from the incredible boredom). On “Betrayal”, you will even find some “surgical” death metal phrasings (yes, I said “death metal”, not “melodeath”) and this is a great surprise in a deathcore album. Along with it, you will find also a lot of up-tempo hardcore riffs, groovy/sludgy stuff and, overall, many mid-tempo palm-muted riffs, sometimes very insistent (“Slaughter Your Enemies” is the epitome of all the stuff I mentioned in the last sentence).

Now, the mosh stuff. Yes, this album is full of breakdowns and slams. But not like you’d expect from Suffokate: they are decently diluted with the rest and, most of the time, they actually sound very heavy and powerful, differently from the next two albums where everything sounds frustratingly mechanical. The slams are, obviously, the heaviest thing on here: the ones in the “Intro” track are probably the best, and also tracks like “These Eyes Will Watch you Die”, “5 Years” or “Forever” deliver some excellent slamming madness. The breakdowns, honestly, are very variegated and play an important part. Very often, they tend to be very insistent (like on “Slaughter Your Enemies”) and, sometimes, a bit too prominent and tiring (like in some parts of “The Skies Were Filled with Fire”), but however still doing a nice job. On the opposite, on certain episodes, the alternation between different elements (riffs, slams etc.) and breakdowns sounds surprisingly fresh and entertaining to hear, and you can’t help but wanting to mosh around like a fucking beast even if you’re the thinnest guy on Earth; you just don’t give a shit about anything.

I wanna spend some words about the vocals, too. Luckily, this album doesn’t feature Ricky “Dumbo” Hoover, which is a totally generic vocalist. On the contrary, on “Oakland” there are two vocalists in almost every track (except the last two): Carlos Guiterez and Jared Armitage. The “dual vocals” formula is really good. The growls are ugly, deep and very expressive, and I must admit that the result is very “menacing” for a deathcore band.

And, yeah, “menacing” is the most fitting term for this release, as unbelievable as it could seem to most people. This variegated mix of slams, breakdowns, various grooves, mid-paced riffs, melodeath stuff and wicked vocals has almost an “intimidating” effect on the listener. On the other hand, it’s a very funny listen. I have to confess that, if I had known Suffokate ten years ago, before all the shit that they released in the last years, I would have liked to see them live, because “Oakland” is a perfect album if you wanna mosh like hell and I’m very curious to know what would be the impact of these songs, if played live. Obviously, I’d NEVER go to see them live nowadays, but, at that time, it would’ve been sweet.

In conclusion… “Oakland” is a pretty good early deathcore album. It has its notable flaws: sometimes, the songwriting would require more consistency and, occasionally, some breakdowns should have less space (some songs are a bit overlong and some parts could be cut without problems); but, if you want some deathcore that manages to be perfect for mosh but also creative and “intelligent” at the same time, this album’s for you. Give it a try and forget what came after.