For the past 25 years, Suffocation has constantly raised the bar in the world of extreme death metal. Thus it should be no surprise that once again the band has found new ways to push their own evolution even further with their 7th studio album Pinnacle of Bedlam.
Within the first second of hitting play on Bedlam, the listener is greeted by the trademark guttural vocals of Frank Mullen via the track Cycles of Suffering. As Decibel Magazine has pointed out in the past, Suffocation essentially invented the deathcore subgenre of metal, and the ferocious nature of Cycles will further distance the band from the countless others who have emerged over the past decade following in their footsteps.
The brutality continues right into the second track, Purgatorial Punishment. While it may not be filled with shockingly spastic breakdowns, it does feature the tastiest guitar solo found on the album courtesy of lead guitarist Terrance Hobbs.
The lead licks continue from Hobbs straight into Eminent Wrath. Another element that sets Suffocation apart from their peers is the random quirks snuck into songs by one of the first African Americans to be widely recognized in extreme music. The few bars of clean cool jazz licks thrown in just before the three minute mark is much like an unsuspecting pinch upon your butt from a total stranger. Totally inappropriate, yet deep down you know you love it.
The lone moment to catch your breath on Pinnacle of Bedlam comes at the halfway point with Sullen Days. Similar to Metallica’s Fade to Black, the into features big open notes thick with a chorus effect before giving away to another powerful metal anthem. What sets Sullen Days apart from the rest of the record is how the band focuses more on melody rather than ripping your face off, a trick embraced by the band since reforming in 2003.
Using the lull of Sullen Days, the second half of the album feels like the band marching back up the mountain after crossing the valley floor. The highlight of that journey comes in the form of the song My Demise. In addition to some very creative guitar effects from Hobbs, the track features another unexpected breakdown. This time it is courtesy of bassist Derek Boyer.
After an overwhelming 1-2 punch of Inversion and Rapture of Revocation, the band closes the album with the unforgiving pummeling Beginning of Sorrow. Saving the fastest song for last, the track blasts out the gate lead by the insane rhythm blasts of skin pounder Dave Curloss. By the time the track has finished your left wondering if anyone got the license plate of the 18 wheeler that just sideswiped you right off the sidewalk and into the neighbors’ yard.
With Pinnacle of Bedlam, Suffocation has once again delivered a concise and well executed exercise in gut-blasting assault. Always ahead of their time, this latest offering from the Long Island Music Hall of Fame inductees is the first great metal record of 2013 and will no doubt please both old and new fans alike.
Reviews published prior to February 23, 2015 used a 1-5 star rating system.