Album: ...Of The Dark Light
Genre: Brutal Death Metal
Review by Steve Jenkins
It must be difficult for Suffocation sometimes. As one of the most integral pioneers of the technical and brutal death metal sub-genres, these guys have their work cut out maintaining their reputation as one of death metal’s all-time greatest acts. It’s a given that their current output will forever be compared to their older material, with many people maintaining that the New York quintet will never top their classics. This is a shame because since reforming in 2003, their material hasn’t noticeably declined in quality, but the everlasting “it’s just not the same” line is constantly thrown around as if it’s some kind of valid criticism. While any other band would be highly praised for releasing something akin in quality to their previous 2013 release, Pinnacle Of Bedlam, the legendary Suffocation seem to be victims of a fan-base who simply won’t accept any kind of evolution, simply because it’s different.
Now, almost 30 years on from their inception, Suffocation face the difficult task of trying to stand out in a scene colonised by the very acts they inspired. It’s a precarious situation they find themselves in, and along with the added expectations of simply being Suffocation, this means that there is always going to be a loud group of people who will be disappointed, irrespective of the quality of their new material. Something becomes apparent immediately that will displease many long-time fans, the production. The sound of this album is lighter than almost anything they’ve released previously. There is no actual problem here, as the guitars have an energetic vibe to them and every note is perfectly audible, the drums are crystal clear without being overtly prominent in the mix, and the bass complacently assists the guitars in giving the riffs a bit of substance without making them sound murky. Simply put, the album sounds absolutely fine, but in saying that, it sounds just like any other death metal album with some added flair.
In terms of musicianship, this is still classic Suffocation, but perhaps even more brutal than the last couple of releases. This album is a non-stop barrage of riffs and blasts, with very little time allocated for relaxing and getting your breath back. Veteran guitarist Terrance Hobbs and newcomer Charlie Errigo are a technically proficient pairing together, and alternate with liquid fluidity between chainsaw style shredding and well executed fretboard wizardry. Some of the best guitar work is found on the track “Your Last Breaths”, with a catchy-as-hell main riff complimented by high tempo shredding that’s saturated with a remarkable amount of groove. There is also a number of wailing solos scattered across the record, the best one ending up on the title track "Of The Dark Light.". Latest addition to the band, Eric Morotti, is superb behind the kit and more than holds his own on this record. Throughout the 35 minute assault, Eric operates like clockwork, at no point sounding as if he has difficulty keeping up with the frenzied guitar work. Vocally, Frank Mullen’s delivery is virtually unchanged from that on classic Suffo album Pierced From Within, maintaining a deep, intelligible and discordant raspiness.
The slower instrumental breaks that we know and love as “slams” are probably the most lacking aspect of this record if anything really. While they’re certainly not mediocre or uninspired, nor do they detract from the record as a whole, they don’t exactly add much either. This is perhaps where the production hurts the album most. If Suffocation were going to deliver their usual brutality abounding incantation of metal, it’s imperative that it sounds brutal. While this is certainly no walk in the park, the non-stop riffage begins to reel back when you realise that the heaviest parts would’ve sounded so much better if the guitars had a bit more of that murky and muddy bottom end. As far as memorability is concerned, this album really isn't long enough for things to begin to start blending together. Sometimes you might have a track in the middle of the album with a softer intro and outro to sort of break things up a bit, but not here. This album is straight up pure brutality from beginning to end.
...Of The Dark Light will of be sure to crush skulls and pulverise internal organs quite like its ancestors, and for sure it has a few flaws. While it doesn’t reach the heights of Pierced From Within or Effigy Of The Forgotten, it’s still a very impressive slab of technical, brutal death metal. Many may listen and forget this album as there are so many high quality releases being made in this particular genre, despite the obvious quality of the material here. One thing is for sure though, no matter how much you want to reminisce to the good old days, these guys have changed. Seemingly taking a fragment of inspiration from the very acts that they have inspired themselves, Suffocation have done an extremely great job and managed to create another solid and super heavy record.
7 out of 10 stars.
...Of The Dark Light is out June 9th via Nuclear Blast Records. Pre-order here at Utopia Records.
Watch the official music video for the track "Your Last Breaths" below: