Thursday, May 23, 2013

Suffocation - Pinnacle Of Bedlam

It's Suffocation. We know exactly what we're getting from them since the band hasn't strayed from the brutal/technical death metal formula since their inception. However it's the little things that always tend to irk the longtime fans. After seeing the cover art for Pinnacle Of Bedlam, many people decried Suffocation as falling into the generic, computerized brutal death metal rut that similar acts like California's Deeds Of Flesh have in the past. Though it's not like elements of that sound haven't existed on Suffocation's past releases, here Raymond Swanland's concept art only made that fear seem much more real. Not to mention the abysmal title font...

Pinnacle Of Bedlam is a mixed bag. While the fears based on the album art were brushed aside shortly after people began listening to the album, Pinnacle Of Bedlam is far from perfect. There's chromatic rhythms, melodic solos, and the rare d-beat hidden amongst the more pervasive blasting ferocity. In essence, Pinnacle Of Bedlam is pretty archetypal post-Despise The Sun Suffocation material. Teasers "Cycles Of Suffering" and "As Grace Descends" were nice blows for the naysayers and the morons who claimed that "Suffocation has gone deathcore."

The problem isn't in the predictable songwriting though. That's by far the best aspect of Pinnacle Of Bedlam, despite Suffocation not being as focused on the 'brutal' element as they were in the past. Frank's vocals have become more subdued with age and Terrence's riffing style has gravitated towards melodious technical death metal. This comes as common knowledge for myself since I've given their recent output a listen, but I know some brutal death metal aficionados complained about the lack of 'brutal' elements on the last few albums. I just wondered why they were expecting such in the first place. The clean guitar moments on "Sullen Days" did still manage to surprise me though, and I can't tell whether that's a good thing or a bad thing.

I may have made a mistake myself in hoping that a Suffocation album would have solid production values for once. The focal point moving away from 'brutal' death metal isn't wholly to blame either. They've always had issues - Breeding The Spawn, their self-titled, Blood Oath, and now Pinnacle. I can overlook a bad production on a personal level as I did with their previous releases, and usually in the end I find elements I like about the album. However this is a review and no matter how much I try to sugarcoat it, the production is still shitty. The drums click like the sound of a mechanical keyboard and the guitars are all treble. At least they have gain and their tones make them distinctly audible while casual listening even if the mix is muddy. Overall it sounds ugly and unappealing though - not something I want to hear out of any album let alone a Suffocation one. Ironically fitting, this album features a rerecorded track from the aforementioned Breeding The Spawn too.

Essentially Pinnacle Of Bedlam looks and sounds like a typical Nuclear Blast release with an undercurrent of Suffocation greatness to it. While the songwriting is standard fare, the production and presentation is subpar. A predictable shame.

6.0 out of 10

1. Cycles of Suffering
2. Purgatorial Punishment
3. Eminent Wrath
4. As Grace Descends
5. Sullen Days
6. Pinnacle of Bedlam
7. My Demise
8. Inversion
9. Rapture of Revocation

Listen // Buy

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