Label: Nuclear Blast
Release Date: February 15, 2013
Since the release of Effigy of the Forgotten in 1991, Suffocation have been considered the creators of the framework of the 1990’s death metal scene. Their music contains guttural vocals, down-tuned guitar, fast complex riffs and drumming, and a sophisticated style of songwriting, where many of these elements derive from influences of grindcore.
When Suffocation made their return from their hiatus, which lasted from 1998 to 2003, they released Souls To Deny, which continued much of the same signature as their previous work. However, an evolution began to take place with their next release, their self-titled album, where the production dropped some of the old school death metal feel. Blood Oath, their 2009 release, continued this trend. Pinnacle of Bedlam adds to their extensive discography, and to be quite honest I’m on the fence about it.
“Cycle of Suffering” jumps out of the gates and immediately rips your face off with the brutal guttural vocals and eviscerating guitar work. Suffocation is the type of band that doesn’t mess about and very rarely incorporates any sort of introduction to their albums. They keep this quality true with this release and it is somewhat heartwarming. You also get a taste of their ever so famous use of breakdowns, which have been said to help in the creation of the “deathcore” genre.
“Purgatorial Punishment” shows off more of the technicality that Suffocation is known for. The interchanging guitar sections up to the cutting guitar solo are grand examples of the experience and force this band offers. This continues into “Imminent Wrath” which seeks to melt your face off with the guitar opener as well as the accompanying rapid-fire drum work.
“As Grace Descends” doesn’t do much with the technicality aspect (at least in my opinion) but the high energy and pace is highly noted. The songs begin to follow the same “sound formula” in most sections, but each song has its own identity and plays a vital part of the whole. The last section of the song took me off guard, as I heard what sounded like, a thrash inspired riff section to finish off the waning seconds of the track.
And if you want to talk about more surprises, “Sullen Days” pulls out a toned down version of Suffocation you won’t hear very often, if at all. The word “sullen” itself defines this track perfectly especially when compared to most of the other songs in their discography. It really wierds out my ears as well. Hearing a different aspect of the band is refreshing, but I’m not quite sure how “right” it really is.
The title track is somewhat of a guitar frenzy. Much of the focus lies on the riffs throughout and especially the laid out solos that occur in the first half of the tune. The attention becomes more evened out later on, which is timed perfectly as I’m not too fond of overly flashy use of guitars.
I feel the last half of the album isn’t as strong as the first. It seems like it is the same formula being put forth with a few little surprises thrown in. For some, it may steer them away. I find the rest of the album to flow well and remain different enough to keep me listening. Suffocation still remain on top of the songwriting and composition, throwing out certain elements at the right time, I’m just not seeing any sort of progression as the album keeps going.
I also felt that the lead guitar was trying too hard to be showy. The over-the-top solos just didn’t work for me. It immediately reminded me of Job For A Cowboy’s recently released Demonocracy, which was a great technical album but fell short due to containing the same elements as some of this album.
Some old Suffocation fans will dig this record, as well as the new. The elements that made this band popular and pioneers of their genre is apparent, but I feel they have taken quite a big leap into the modernizing of their sound and even their image. I understand appealing to a wider audience but I’m just hoping that their next work doesn’t try too hard. “Pinnacle of Bedlam” is a solid album with solid sound and remains consistent throughout. I don’t know if I see this as a contender for the end of the year but the album may continue to grow on me.