Ah, Suffocation… One of the most successful, revered, and downright imitated staples in the realm of brutal Death Metal. A new release from these scene giants is an event for the Death Metal lifer, and one that somewhat begs the question of how necessary a review even is. You either love Suffo and will track down Pinnacle of Bedlam at all costs, or you’re some fag/whore who doesn’t care about Suffo and therefore shouldn’t be acknowledged as a human being. Either way a review is academic. Still, that hasn’t stopped any Metal scribes so far. I’ve seen everything from “their best since Despise the Sun” —which certainly caught my attention as that’s likely my most listened to recording from these legends— to “highly evolved” to “super different” to “for fans of Dying Fetus.” HA! Well, I don’t know how “evolved” this is considering these guys have been at the top of their game since the beginning, and I’m not sure if this is better than Despise the Sun —maybe they meant “best drummer since Despise the Sun” as Dave Culross is back on board— although it is significantly better than 2009’s arguably phoned-in Blood Oath. Perhaps its greatest strength is that it really isn’t all that different. Why mess with success? The band’s signature Waltzing pummel, blastbeaten fury, and breakdown savagery sound as terrific as ever. There might be Death Metal vocalists who are as good as Frank Mullen, but there’s no one better. You can pick the man’s intelligible roar out of 666,666 growlers and he’s in fine form here. The album might not have the same high-memorability factor as post-reunion gems like Souls to Deny and the self-titled LP —all that really stands out after my first dozen spins is Mullen’s pronunciation of “cycles” (“sigh-cools”) on the opener and those wicked clean guitar flourishes on “Sullen Days”— but their instantly recognizable sound and unmatched technical prowess are memorable enough on their own to keep me coming back for more again and again. That’s why I only dominate Suffocation pits.
Note: no points added or subtracted for the bonus DVD, which features pro-golf tips from Carl Weathers and some of Barefoot Contessa’s favorite recipes. Just kidding, it’s the dreaded “making of” companion piece. I think I already know how the album was made. These guys went into the studio for a couple months and fucked shit up while someone pressed “record.” Why not some live footage and/or videos instead?
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