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Review: Suffocation – …Of the Dark Light

Going for over 25 years, Brutal Death Metal pioneers Suffocation released their new album …Of The Dark Light just last week on the 9th of June. Often categorised as tech death or just death metal, it is great to hear that they have neither slowed down nor strayed.

The opening track Clarity Through Depravation remains faithful to the fast and passively technical sound that the band revolutionised in the 90s. The segment of the song that stands out is the lengthy breakdown with an accompanying guitar solo – Terrance Hobbs is one of a kind. This is a prime reminder that breakdowns were used long before Deathcore became a recognised genre. Interestingly enough, the first few Deathcore bands had mentioned they were heavily influenced by Suffocation. The more you know.

The second track “The Warmth Within The Dark” reminds me so much of their previous album Pinnacle of Bedlam – in particular the intro of Purgatorial Punishment. While the tempo is mid-paced (for them), I get a mental image of a black hole devouring some unfortunate galaxy. This is perhaps the only time I’ve ever heard this band play one riff for a whole two verses. It works, like it’s leading to an inescapable fate (hence the blackhole), and has some very bouncy riffs to hold the structures together.

“Your Last Breaths” is without doubt my favourite track, it was released as a single before the album launch, and for very good reason. It builds before it comes out zigzagging, has perfectly placed time transitions, and the best part of all, the bridge. Introduced by an isolated bass line, it chugs away at a medium tempo and possesses the listener in a chin-to-chest head bang. Although this chromatic-like chugging is nothing new for them, it is curious to wonder where the earlier slam bands got their inspiration from.

“Return To The Abyss” is perhaps the most typical brutal death metal song on the album. It opens as a hard thrashing meat grinder all the way, and is arguably the simplest to follow – definitely one to keep on the set list. While many bands have tried to imitate this formula, many often paled in comparison. You see, for the band it’s never been about who can generate the fastest blast beats or who can have the most brutal looking logo or album cover. As a listener, they have always felt more about being rich in quality by accentuating and capitalising on their relentlessly skilled abilities. Yet one aspect that has always prevented Suffocation from being completely shoved in the tech death locker is the fact they have rarely fallen into the trap of overplaying with the unnecessary use of notes. The sweet science many tech death bands neglect.

Though it is difficult to determine which song is the most instrumentally complex, it is very easy to notice that “The Violation” has the best guitar solos. It would seem Terrance Hobbs is without limit when it comes to creating a solo to go over a riff. He won me over immediately when I first heard the Souls To Deny album back in 2004. A very underrated lead guitarist.

The title track “…Of The Dark Light” is unique in the sense that there is an unmistakable slam segment for the second half of the song. Yes, there is a definite hammer break there as the snare slows right down, and the double kicks vary between full speed and tapping speed. I did not expect this once, but I know the listeners will love it.

The seventh track “Some Things Should Be Left Alone” is surprisingly melodic, in a dark way. Relax, they haven’t gone soft! Roughly at about a minute and ten seconds in, the song takes on a tremolo-picking melody backed by blast beats. If I had to name an example, I would probably go with Incantation or Morbid Angel just to give you an idea.

“Caught Between Two Worlds” feels like the slowest paced song on the album, but it doesn’t bother me at all as I cannot get over how much I love the drums. I think this is the track that can possibly act as a gateway for Lamb of God fans – I mean let’s be honest – the drums are that band’s strongest link. Eric Morotti’s fills truly shine the brightest on this track.

The final track “Epitaph of The Credulous” is quite the all-rounder. Instrumentally, everyone stands out so easily; there’s a brief bass solo, guttural vocal holds that share some Grindcore traits, and a slam bridge. What a way to end such an awesome album.

Overall, I loved the album a lot more than Pinnacle of Bedlam and kind of wished the duration of this album could have lasted for just a little longer. I really hope Suffocation continues making more albums because as far as I’m concerned, there will never be enough.

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