Country : United States Label : Nuclear Blast Genres and styles : Death Metal / Technical Death Metal Year : 2023

Suffocation – Hymns of the Apocrypha

· by Laurent Bellemare

Can a metal band as iconic as Suffocation change its voice and survive? On Hymns from the Apocrypha, their first album without Frank Mullen on vocals, the American quintet takes up the challenge with eight tracks as brutal and complex as ever.

From the very first notes of the title track, an onslaught of blast beats confirms that Suffocation never tires. Each of the eight tracks is angularly structured, with a succession of dense, fast-picking guitar riffs. The famous abrupt stops give way to guitarist Terrence Hobbs’ tremolo licks, while chromatic palm-muted breakdowns frequently energize the album. The discerning listener will also hear the heavy, subtly melodic waltzes that the band has been developing since Souls to Deny (2004). Suffocation is a perfect balance between speed and slowness. The new opus is no exception, with all elements judiciously reinvested. Ricky Myers’ voice, deeper than Mullen’s, nonetheless carries an energy just as compatible with the aesthetic the band has been honing for 35 years.

The powerful mix, with drums and vocals to the fore, leaves little room for the string sections to shine. It’s this drawback that prevents full enjoyment of the few experimental touches scattered here and there throughout the album, such as the dissonant solo in “Descendants” and the Gorguts-style atonal pointillism in “Embrace the Suffering.”

Having practically invented the wheel of the most extreme forms of death metal, Suffocation carries the burden of heavy expectations with every new record announcement. Here, the feverishness has been exacerbated by a context in which the band has a greater ratio of fresh blood than founding members in its ranks. With a new chapter that’s both fresh and expertly crafted, there’s every reason to believe that the American band still deserves its place in the living pantheon of extreme metal.

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