Suffocation – Pinnacle of Bedlam

Suffocation
Pinnacle of Bedlam

Released 15th February
Death Metal
Released via Nuclear Blast

Hailing from Long Island, New York, Suffocation is a band that should be familiar to all death metal fans. If not then this album needs to be put into your CD player and cranked up! Formed in 1990, they have gone on to be one of the most recognised bands in Extreme Metal today, with their superior fire-power of brutal vocals, technical riffs, catchy hooks; psych’s, slams, bombs and blasts. A truly innovative band that takes you to the edge of reason, and then cuts you deeply with their infectious groove.

The band has had many line-up changes, whilst Terrence Hobbs has kept the ship afloat with Frank Mullen screaming orders to the ever growing audience. The line up for Pinnacle of Bedlam features the solid unit of the returning Dave Culross on drums, providing the intense blasts, stabs and beat-downs fans of Suffocation have come to expect. Derek Boyer holds down the intense bass playing, grinding with the best of them and finally Guy Marchais playing second but equal fiddle to Hobbs. There is no doubt about the bands insane tightness, and this album is a perfect accompaniment to their back-catalogue, but it also makes a damn good introduction to the band if you are just getting into Suffocation.

The opening track is a hammer blow to split you cranium, cause momentary loss of motor functions and give you un-ending pain. The aptly named Cycles of Suffering bursts into your ears and keeps punishing you throughout. The relentless riffs are the cycles to your suffering and complement the drums with inch perfect precision. Frank’s vocals rumble away, shattering your dreams and crushing your aspirations. The masterpiece to this song is the solo, which shrieks and wails, whilst sitting so comfortably over the fast rhythm. We are then put back in our place by the continuing barrage of riffs.

As Purgatorial Punishment opens, you could be mistaken for actually being in purgatory, especially with the way the songs sound to flow together even with the short reprieve. A well thought out groove of triplets from the guitars, and off-kilter drum beat keep you on your toes for the entire opening section. The odd rhythm to the accompanying section confuses but works to add a major contrast. Back in more familiar territory with the straight death metal feel is the only blessing you will receive before being subject to Terrence Hobbs’ shred chops.

Another small pause before Mr Hobbs scares the daylights out of you with a face melting lead, and then proceeds to show the Eminent Wrath. This song fires on all cylinders and showcases every element of Suffocation’s song-writing prowess. Dave Culross pounds his way through numerous blast beats and fast double bass work. The riffs are infectious, and every beat-down feels like it will break your bones. Certain elements have a distinctly punk feeling to them, which breaks up the full on death of the song and makes you want more.

As Grace Descends is the most well-known song on the album, as it was released as a video single. The video depicts the last party to end all parties before a giant asteroid wipes us all off the face of this wretched cesspit that we call our planet, with Suffocation providing the evening’s entertainment. It could well be a sign of things to come for all you conspiracy theorists out there. The songs unrepentant speed shows off incredible endurance from the band, even the slow section leading up to the solo feels fast thanks to Culross’ drumming. This track just screams end of the world as we know it.

We now come to a rare item on an extreme metal album, a veritable ballad if I may be so bold. I say ballad in term so loose, it makes a wizards sleeve look like a skinny fit jumper. Suffocation have taken their inspiration from the Tibetan Book of the Dead, and offer up a song soaked in melancholy, with frozen lyrics, and soul shuddering feeling. This song has a Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde moment, with its faster side making a break for it, only to be pulled back to its morbid centre clawing at the fabric of its lyrics.

The title track does what it says on the tin. Pinnacle of Bedlam features many chaotic rhythms, all fighting for supremacy, which reaches its focal point of the lead guitar trade-off between Marchais and Hobbs. It is an excellent outing for Marchais showing that he can hold his own on the shred stage. The lyrics reflect the idea of bedlam, that it is all over the shop and can tip the scales from crazy to psychotic at any time. It also weaves the ideas that we will all meet some catastrophic ending of life, and we are helpless to this purge.

My Demise comes in full force with a battering rhythm right from the off, and is quite possibly the most groove laden track on the album. From the half-time riffs running alongside the drum barrage. Again Marchais shows his chops, and plays one of the most brutally beautiful solos on the album, with a true sense of harmony to match the music. The half-time feel of the song is one of those nice rests within a fast album and takes the pace down a peg or two.

In contrast, Inversion is totally the opposite of My Demise. The first riff opens with Frank growling his way along with the guitars. The fast riffs contained within are uber technical and precise. Hobbs lead takes cues from Marchais’ playing but adding his own flavour to the mix and building on-top of an already strong format. The large, tormenting breakdown adds what i like to call bollocks to an already ballsey song.

Rapture of Revocation starts like a breakdown, and then takes you down a dark lyrical path that questions ones beliefs. The fast pace in later parts is accented with a heavy chug, and keeps drawing you in with harsh speed and pain in your ears. It also serves up a nice amount of religious questioning without being so straightforward. As with the rest of the album, the bass guitar and drums lock in, and harmonise with the guitars in perfect timing and note choice. The end fades on a well chosen breakdown with last lyrics being fed to you one last time before fading into oblivion.

Beginning of Sorrow closes the album with an unbridled brutality. The groove sections have a massive impact and add a good sense of space to the torture. The song acts as more than just an album closer, as it was written as a collaborative effort. It shows what each individual member can bring to the table. The sickening ending twists your innards into submission and should carry a health warning of its own. As a friend of mine once commented on a similar idea, it is a vomitous piece of work.

And so in closing, this album needs to be in your expanding collection of extreme metal. Whether it is your first look at Suffocation, or just one to add to the back catalogue, you need this album to rip out your soul, feed it to the demons in your psyche and give you nightmares of the end of the world. There will come a time where we all reach the Pinnacle of Bedlam.

4/5

Dan Eastwood

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