Suffocation - Hymns From the Apocrypha (2023)Release ID: 48419
I was quite surprised to say the very least when I saw the glorious amounts of praise that reviewers were giving to the newest Suffocation album; their first in nearly six (6) years. This New York based tech-death outlet are considered one of the finest in the circle and helped to brutalize death metal far beyond its earliest iterations. But this new record, Hymns From the Apocrypha is the first to not feature longtime vocalist Frank Mullen. That honor now belongs to Ricky Myers and upon first listen I was not impressed. The new vocal timbre is incredibly overplayed and emotionally dull. The guttural howls are instantly forgettable and would fare more positively if they actually grew into something instead of being played in a safe, monotonous tone.
Okay, so the vocals on a tech-death album don't sound great, so what? No one is listening to Suffocation for their nuanced political positions. How does the music compare? Well honestly, not much better. Suffocation have always had top notch performances and pin point production on their previous records and even though I've never liked this side of death metal, I could always respect Suffocation for that. But, on Hymns From the Apocrypha, we have gotten to the point where this band could release anything and they would expect listeners to eat it up based on namesake alone. This record is littered from top to bottom with levelling issues and peaking in the mix. Anytime the guitars drop out for a brief period of time, and all that's left is a held guttural or on rare occasions, a bass break, the return with the percussion always sounds bloated and the mix blows up. I seriously wonder how many times this had to go through post-production and no one thought to question these atrocious transitions. And this happens several times! And on an album that is as brutal as this, with so much cacophonous noise happening continuously for over forty (40) minutes, the breaks become that much more noticeable, with the release afterwards becoming more painful each time.
When Suffocation are playing at that high octane level, Hymns From the Apocrypha sounds fine I guess. The guitar solos are a nice divergence away from the constant tremolo guitar picking and allows for some harmony to exist between the rhythm guitar and bass. Otherwise, the bass is only a formality as it just doubles the rhythm guitar with the amplifier at the lowest possible volume. And, despite the mixing, Suffocation are still keen performers and the heaviness is performed with a lot of detail and precision. But polishing a turd does not make it less of a turd. I wanted to give the new Suffocation album a chance because I've never clicked with this group before and a new album with lots of critical acclaim seemed like a good a place as any. But, even with my limited knowledge of brutal death metal, I can tell that this record is not great. Perhaps this is more solidification that Suffocation are not a band for me since they are now firmly in the "legacy band" territory. But even by those standards, I'm not sure they are deserving of that title.
Best Songs: Perpetual Deception, Seraphim Enslavement