Blood Oath

Written by: AB on 04/08/2009 01:04:39

Suffocation shouldn't need any introduction, but since I gather a lot of non-metal heads (why you want to be one of those I still don't know) read the site every now and then I guess I'll give a quick run-down. They are one of the oldest death metal bands still going strong, credited for founding the brutal death metal genre, and especially their three first full lengths from '91, '93 and '95 are all considered milestones of death metal. They are also the fathers of one of my all time favourite albums, their oft maligned 1993 "Breeding the Spawn" (to all the death fans out there - yes, really!), which also was one of the albums that got me into extreme metal. However, their last two albums haven't interested nor impressed me much, so it with mixed feelings I've been waiting for their new effort "Blood Oath".

However, it is soon clear that "Blood Oath" is way better than the other two latest albums, which were decent enough but not as weird, brutal, dizzying and impressive as the earlier works, but rather strangely... boring. On the other hand, "Blood Oath" seems to me to point back a little to the excellence of yore, with the return of the twisted trademark Suffocation riffs. If I have to compare to earlier works by the band, I'd say "Blood Oath" sound like a mix of the crushing, mind bending darkness of "Breeding the Spawn" with the in-your-face, no bullshit brutality of the "Despise the Sun" EP. This has resulted in an over all mid paced slap of death metal, without much change in pace in between songs. This is, however, spiced up with the patented Suffocation breaks, that go from the utter crushing to the awesome weirdness - see them mix a solo and a breakdown in the title track, which works incredibly well and sounds like something that could go on an Immolation album!

Though it lacks variation in speed - I especially feel a need for a few faster songs - there's no shortage of heaviness or brutality though. Tracks like "Undeserving", "Dismal Dream" and "Provoking the Disturbed" hammer the point home efficiently - Suffocation are still heavier than thou, and that's just the way it is. However, it is songs such as "Cataclysmic Purification", the title track, "Provoking the Disturbed" (both heavy and intricate!) and "Pray For Forgiveness" that show how old guitar handler Terrance Hobbs and relative newcomer Guy Marchais (joined in 2004) have been inspired by the older Suffocation works. "Blood Oath" doesn't quite sound like an updated version of the awesomeness of yesteryear, but the inspiration is clearly felt and heard in the intricate, strange riffs, time signatures and solos. Speaking of updated sound, they have re-recorded a song off of "Breeding the Spawn" (as they have before, due to it's generally seen bad production - a viewpoint I don't share) - this time, "Marital Declimation". It's well done, but I prefer the original.

The drumming is awesome. Mike Smith has shown time and time again that he really knows how to handle the old sticks 'n skin, and so he does once more. Though the overall pace is slow, there's the patented Suffo-blast, as well as a generous helping of odd time signatures, fills and cymbal work. Bass wise, it is, like all Suffocation albums, a very bassy album, with it being clearly audible, as well as nice. There's even a bass solo or two, though they don't impress as much as the bass awesomeness of the old records. Still, it is as always very nice that all instruments play a part in the record. And then, of course, there is Frank Mullen. Mullen, one of the guys with one of the most guttural death growls ever (the debut album really upped the standards for death metal vocalist back in 1991!), actually sounds... distinguishable! His vocals are more throaty and hoarse than deep this time around. It actually fits well with the album; I guess it's a matter of taste if one likes ones vokills guttural or raw - both works for me.

All in all, I won't hesitate to call this the best Suffocation work since "Despise the Sun", maybe even as good as the EP. However, everything has been heard better before - more dark, evil, impressive, brutal, technical and so on - from the very same band. To me it is clearly superior to the last two records, but it can't really touch the genius of the oldest works. It is, indeed, a very solid record all the way around, and while I've heard much lamenting on its account on different internet fora, I've no doubts that it'll end in its fair share of 2009 Top 10s - though I do doubt that it will end up in mine.

Download: Blood Oath, Provoking the Disturbed, Cataclysmic Purification
For the fans of: Death Metal!
Listen: Myspace

Release date: 03.07.2009
Nuclear Blast

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