Review Summary: On auto-pilot
I’ll be honest here. In the four years since Suffocation’s last album, I kind of forgot they existed. Their prime is two decades behind them and their once ground-breaking influence on contemporary tech-death has been well and truly usurped by that of post-reunion Gorguts. One token of solace is that this had the knock-on effect of quelling my expectations, so at least I couldn’t be disappointed with their latest offering, …Of The Dark Light
Things start off well enough with “Clarity of Deprivation”, the first half of which induces a steady nod of the head and a raised eyebrow or two. Though nothing out-of-this-world, it’s difficult not to be swept up by the tremolo-picked riff around the halfway mark, but the band decides to derail the song by finishing it off with a stilted breakdown. Even with Hobbs’ whammy-laden solo plastered on top, the whole sequence does little more than highlight just how obnoxious and artificial the drums sound, as if they weren’t already bordering on the intolerable. Sonic blights don’t just stop with the percussion, either. The guitar tone somehow manages to meld the worst aspects of under and over-production together, being dull and bereft of nuance or dynamics. Now, I’ll concede that production has been something of an Achilles’ heel for Suffocation post-comeback, but never has it broken the music to the extent that it does here.
Even in moments when I can put my complaints about the sound to one side, finding something to really like
is a struggle. The riff patterns are seldom anything to write about. Sure, “The Warmth Within the Dark” has a few sprightly motifs scattered between the mundane chuggery; “Some Things Should Be Left Alone” also adds a touch of melody to an otherwise dingy affair, but even that wears on your patience as Suffocation persist with the same idea for too long. For the most part, …Of The Dark Light
consists of the usual plateau of bland yet technically-sound rhythm work that dozens of metal bands – including Suffocation themselves – have done better a thousand times before. Were it not for Hobbs’ manic soloing on tracks like “Return to The Abyss”, “The Volition” and “Epitaph of The Credulous”, you could’ve told me I was listening to a second-rate imitator, and I’d have probably believed you.
Actually, wait. That’s a lie.
No doubt that’s Frank Mullen on the mic, because he sounds piss-weak as ever – at least since the turn of the century, I should say. It would seem that two-and-a-half decades of false chord abuse have really taken their toll. If anything, his strained and breathless show on here would explain his reluctance for touring these days, but I digress.
…Of The Dark Light
simply suffers from a lack of purpose, as if it was penned and recorded just to fulfil the band’s onus to Nuclear Blast. Entire cuts come and go without having done anything worth remembering, and the ones that stick in your mind often do for the wrong reasons. The bass drop in the title-track for example is laughable. Neither adding weight to the song nor catching you off-guard, it simply makes everything peak and distort for a fraction of a second, sounding more like a raspberry on a baby’s stomach than whatever else was intended. I’m not sure if that qualifies as a litmus test for whether or not a band should call it quits, but perhaps it would be best if Suffocation do just that before they slip any further behind.