Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Death Metal Tuesday - Pinnacle of Bedlam

Death Metal Tuesday:
Among the myriad of technically over-the-top DM bands available to us nowadays, it's quite reassuring that the inventors of the sub-subgenre are still dishing it effectively out. And not just effective mind you, but with a certain flair lacking among their younger peers. I speak of, in my mind, the most important New York DM band of the genre's history (yes, over Cannibal), Suffocation.

The original core of Mullin, Marchais, and Hobbs has remained, despite 2-3 year-long breaks here and there, consistently churning out the silly-named "brutal" death metal for 20+ years. Having talked about a recent Cannibal Corpse release a few weeks back, I can say with confidence that New York neighbors Suffocation's 2013 album is several times more inspired and engaging than Cannibal's output over the past ten years - and it doesn't sacrifice any brutality or genre-faithfulness. The key difference, is Suffocation has not forgotten how to write a memorable hook. It also doesn't hurt that Mullin is a much stronger vocalist than Fisher. 

This isn't a Suffocation vs. Cannibal Corpse article however, so let's discuss Pinnacle of Bedlam. The stop-and-start tempos of old-school Suffocation are still the norm, as are the atonal riffs. There is, however, an abundance of melody and fairly structured parts as well - somewhat more so than in the past. Check out that middle breakdown in the title track or the (gasp) clean intro of "Sullen Days." Hobbs and Marchais still know how to structure a proper DM tune, obscuring structure and melody below the surface to be discovered after repeated listens. The broken rhythms of "My Demise" can slip by you if you play this album in the background, without fully attending to it. They manage to make music that holds together subtly, while sounding like a complicated mess to the uninitiated. 

The formula that Suffocation solidified on "Pierced from Within" remains consistent in their music, but so many other bands took their sound to soulless technical extremes, that it is nice to hear the fathers of the genre can still blend technicality with brutality and competent song writing. I'm also just stoked that these guys still rock this hard after almost 25 years. It gives me faith in the future of the genre. 4.5 out of 5 

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