Suffocation
Pinnacle of Bedlam


3.5
great

Review

by Jacquibim CONTRIBUTOR (45 Reviews)
February 17th, 2013 | 17 replies | 2,460 views


Release Date: 02/19/2013 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Suffocation deliver yet another solid record

It must be difficult for Suffocation sometimes. As one of the most integral pioneers of the technical and brutal death metal subgenres, these guys have their work cut out maintaining their reputation as one of death metal’s all-time greatest acts. It’s a given that their current output will forever be compared to their older material, with many people vigilantly maintaining that the New York quintet will never top their classics. This is a shame because since reforming in 2003, their material hasn’t noticeably declined in quality, but the perennial “it’s not the same” line is constantly thrown around as if it’s some kind of valid criticism. While any other band would be lauded for releasing something akin in quality to their self-titled album, Suffocation seem to be victims of a fanbase who simply won’t accept any kind of evolution, simply because it’s different.

Now 25 years on from their inception, Suffocation face the arduous task of trying to stand out in a scene colonised by the very acts they inspired. It’s a precarious situation they find themselves in, and along with the added expectations of simply being Suffocation, this means that there is always going to be a loud group of people who will be disappointed, irrespective of the quality of their new material. Something becomes apparent immediately that will displease many long-time fans; the production. The sound of this album is lighter than almost anything they’ve released previously. There is no actual problem here; the guitars have an energetic vibe to them and every note is perfectly audible, the drums are crystal clear without being overtly prominent in the mix, and the bass complacently assists the guitars in giving the riffs a bit of substance without making them sound murky. Simply put, the album sounds absolutely fine, but in saying that, it sounds just like any other tech-death album.

In terms of musicianship, this is still classic Suffocation. Apart from a brief acoustic intro in “Sullen Days” and a corresponding outro, this album is a non-stop barrage of riffs and blasts, with very little time allocated for relaxing and getting your breath back. Veteran guitarists Guy and Terrance are more technically proficient than ever, and alternate with liquid fluidity between chainsaw-like shredding and well-executed fret-board wizardry. Some of the best guitar-work is found on the aforementioned “Sullen Days”, with a catchy-as-hell main riff complimented by high tempo shredding that’s saturated with a remarkable amount of groove. There is also a number of wailing solos scattered across the record, the best one ending up on the title track. As much of a treat it would have been to have Mike Smith on board for this record, Dave Culross is still superb behind the kit. Throughout the 38 minute assault, Dave operates like clockwork, at no point sounding as if he has difficulty keeping up with the frenzied guitar-work. Vocally, Frank Mullen’s delivery is virtually unchanged from that on Pierced From Within, maintaining a deep, intelligible, breathy rasp.

The slower instrumental breaks that we know and love as “slams” are probably the most lacking aspect of this record. While they’re certainly not pedestrian or uninspired, nor do they detract from the record as a whole, they don’t exactly add much either. This is perhaps where the production hurts the album most. If Suffocation were going to deliver their usual brutality-laden incantation of metal, it’s imperative that it sounds brutal. While this is certainly no walk in the park, the non-stop riffage begins to falter when you realise that the heaviest parts would’ve sounded so much sweeter if the guitars had a bit more of that concrete-thick bottom end. As far as memorability is concerned, this album can begin to blend together at certain parts too. Two or three tracks in and you’ll sometimes find yourself zoning out. The intro and outro on “Sullen Days” almost serve as markers for the very middle of the record, but another couple of tracks further along and you might find yourself zoning out again. It seems the inclusion of two softer parts in the middle of the album were obligatory for keeping the album interesting, as the songs themselves aren’t quite dynamic enough to maintain the listeners attention without an intermission.

Pinnacle of Bedlam may not crush skulls or pulverise internal organs quite like its ancestors, and for sure it has a few flaws. While it doesn’t reach the heights of Pierced From Within or Effigy of The Forgotten, it’s still a very impressive slab of technical not-so-brutal death metal. Many will interpret this as complete failure on Suffocation’s part, despite the obvious quality of the material here. One thing is for sure though, no matter how much you want to harken back to the “good ol’ days”, these guys have changed. Seemingly taking a modicum of inspiration from the very acts they inspired themselves, Suffocation have done a damn fine job and managed to create another solid record.

3.5/5



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Comments:Add a Comment 
Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
February 17th 2013



11388 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Tried my best to keep on the subject of this record without referencing their old stuff too much, not really sure if I did that well.

Criticism very welcome.

Digging: Howls of Ebb - Vigils of the 3rd Eye

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
February 17th 2013



5611 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Terrific review, pos.

As I have listened to the album in YouTube, I agree with everything you wrote.



one suggestion:

that the heaviest parts would’ve so much sweeter

would've sounded so much sweeter.

Digging: Mekong Delta - In A Mirror Darkly

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
February 17th 2013



11388 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Ah cheers, I always manage to make one stupid mistake like that. :D

DirtBagDan
February 17th 2013



582 Comments


Review is overly long and not direct to the point. Good review though (:

MichaelSnoxall
February 17th 2013



12163 Comments


Good review, but I don't really like how you seem to accuse everyone who dislikes it of only being nostalgic about older Suffocation. Maybe people just don't like the modern dm sound?

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
February 17th 2013



11388 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

I'm not saying some people don't have legit reasons for disliking it, but it's also true that a number of people have just dismissed it simply because it isn't Pierced 2.0.

I'd actually like to see a decent negative review of this, but it doubt anybody would really be able to properly justify anything lower than a 3.

MichaelSnoxall
February 17th 2013



12163 Comments


It's just another generic modern tech death album. It has good riffs and solos, but other than that it feels thin and bodiless, and Mullen's vox are weeeeaaaak.

Belloq
February 17th 2013



40 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

there's a bunch of close minded cowboys out there

Voivod
Staff Reviewer
February 17th 2013



5611 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

Instrumentally, this is Pierced From Within without the sludgy "1995" sound production and there is nothing wrong with that.

Just because every shitty or decent tech death metal band has used this type of sound engineering before, doesn't mean that Suffocation are not allowed to do so.

As for the vocals, I partially agree with Michael, but this is (or will be eventually) the case with nearly all dm growlers out there, they cannot maintain the same ferocity for ever without utterly destroying their vocal chords.

MichaelSnoxall
February 17th 2013



12163 Comments


Nah, this isn't the same as Pierced From Within. The intrumentals are much more generic and tech-oriented.

DirtBagDan
February 17th 2013



582 Comments


Fuck it, i'll do a negative review of it tomorrow. its a 2/2.5 for me anyway

SpiritCrusher2
February 17th 2013



2616 Comments

Album Rating: 3.0

"Instrumentally, this is Pierced From Within without the sludgy "1995" sound production and there is nothing wrong with that."

yes, there is. the sound on Pierced alone was what made it so fucking heavy and brutal, this shit sounds weak

and I guess you can say instrumentally is similar to Pierced From Within, it's just that every fucking riff on Pierced was better than the best riff on this album, the drums were heavier and much more interesting, and the vocals were like 10x better



Voivod
Staff Reviewer
February 17th 2013



5611 Comments

Album Rating: 3.7

One correction on by behalf:

When I said that this is Pierced From Within, I didn't mean it like a 4-5/5 rating (where PFW lies by default), but like a 3.5.

I too wish the sound was more cavernous, but it is fine as it is now, I enjoy it.

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
February 17th 2013



11388 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

Detractors, detractors everywhere.

DirtBagDan
February 18th 2013



582 Comments


its a 2 or a 2.5 agreed

atokad432
February 19th 2013



105 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

gotta check this out. I'm guessing a 3.5

Morningrise767
February 14th 2014



5 Comments

Album Rating: 3.5

In my opinion, the mix of this album isn't that great. Sounds boring, but not musically.



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