Review Summary: Smithblast from the past? No, not really, but easily Suffocation's best in their new style.
No one in their lifetime should have to see the most important figure in any movement become irrelevant or swallowed up by the likes of those they influenced. Such was the case with post-reunion Suffocation...until now.
Although Blood Oath has the band at the best we've seen them in a long time, it isn't exactly the band in their creative prime. Too scarcely does the band fall into old habits which, by all means, is a wonderful thing when you're Suffocation. What can be taken from the album though, is that it seems more thought went into the songcraft this time around, compared to even their greatest efforts, which were no doubt fueled by youth's benefits. Which brings me to my foremost concern with the album: the band's energy.
Well...more like the band's lack thereof. Blood Oath doesn't have the band struggling to create coherent songs this time around, but their struggle lies with not being able to project the energetic assault that the band is known for. Overall the riffs feel weighed down, which is good for heaviness (an aspect most certainly targeted in creation, and one largely benefited by the mostly excellent production), but can sometimes feel tedious, especially given the dosage. Most guilty of indolence, and frankly flat out boring, is recidivist - I mean vocalist Frank Mullen, who hasn't really done much in advancing the band's studio sound since Effigy. Exempt from the same crime is Mike Smith, who is perhaps too
enthusiastic behind the kit, given the other members' performances.
With all that said, the album is a mid-paced affair for the most part, not unlike their previous two studio albums. However, unlike StD and their self-titled album, which contained one or two good songs, but failed to deliver past that, Blood Oath inversely has the majority of the songs being high quality with one or two stinkers. This allows for much more consistency than the band has been known for lately.
Most importantly, Blood Oath has Suffocation advancing the sounds that they introduced post-reunion, without relying on creating a carbon copy of Pierced From Within (if that were even possible), which is probably all-too-easy of an option...that fact alone being commendable. The band does sometimes take cues from their earlier output though, and some of their earlier contemporaries for that matter. Even the re-recording of Marital Decimation fits in very well, but then again it always was the weakest track on Breeding the Spawn.
Anyone who is expecting a complete revival in form from Suffocation should probably just spin Pierced a few more times, as to satiate that hunger, and then give Blood Oath a spin if you're looking for Suffocation's new sound done very well (and probably the best it can get). I make no hesitation in labeling Blood Oath the band's best effort since Pierced From Within.
Come Hell or High Priest