Five days ago, a new track from Suffocation’s latest release leaked onto Youtube. Having just become aware of this (I know, shame on me) I’ve listened to the track at least thirty times at this point and I must say I’m somewhat puzzled. With the addition of Dave Culross, ‘As Grace Descends’ is unsurprisingly similar to ‘Despise The Sun’ with a rather healthy helping of ‘Breeding The Spawn’ and even a small bit of Hate Eternal’s ‘Spiritual Holocaust’. If I didn’t know any better, I would think Guy Marchais had been all out replaced by Doug Cerrito. Unlike a lot of the band’s recent material, this is easily the most reminiscent of Suffocation’s earliest (i.e. best) LP’s…and while Terrence, Derek, Guy and Dave are at their trademark best, I can’t help but wonder what the hell’s going on with Frank; his growls have been mixed so low in this song, everything else drowns him out. If the whole album has this problem, that’s not only a HUGE misstep but it’s also very concerning for the band as a whole. Frank is the ONLY vocalist for Suffocation (Bill Robinson is a great vocalist but he belongs in Decrepit Birth NOT Suffocation) and from what I can make out on most of ‘As Grace Descends’ he still sounds as great as he always has, with the growl at the very end being the song’s best.
There’s also the very distinct possibility that Youtube’s screwed with the quality of the track as the video uploading system is apt to do. I choose to remain as optimistic as I possibly can given that Suffocation’s never let me down in the past. As I mentioned before, Guy Marchais seems to have adopted Doug Cerrito’s signature ‘brutally labyrinthine’ riff writing which comes as both a shock and a pleasant surprise. I think most die hard Suffocation fans would agree that Guy has never been as good of a secondary guitarist as Doug but he’s been a valuable and hard working member of the band since rejoining it’s current incarnation in 2003. For me at least, the sudden shift in riff style is a welcome but very unexpected change. I have no complaints with Guy’s work but I’m also a much bigger Doug Cerrito fan, so…thanks Guy. Makes me wonder (and hope) if he contributes any ‘Sermon Of Mockery’ style slams on ‘Pinnacle Of Bedlam’. That would make my day even more.
Dave Culross more than proves himself as a replacement for Mike Smith on this track alone. I used to really like Mike Smith until his smug, self entitled diss on Suffocation and Dave. Apparently the band is just ‘living off of his drumming’ and Suffocation is ‘his brand’ or some other bullshit like that. Well Mike, Suffocation’s still going strong (stronger than they were on their last few albums musically) and you’re doing what exactly these days? Oh yeah, fronting a lackluster rap project. Oops. How’s that mortgage on your glass house coming? Besides, Mike Smith wasn’t a part of Suffocation’s magnum opus and his replacement back then did just fine too. Starting to notice a pattern?
Terrance is easily the highlight of this track with his solo at 1:41 actually being one of the best he’s written in years. Some thing’s never change and Terrance being one of the greatest Death Metal guitarists who ever lived is going as strong as it was back in the 90’s. Through thick and thin, Terrance has always consistently astounded on every Suffocation release, old and new, underrated and established classic alike. You’ll never hear a complaint about Terrance Hobbs from this critic.
Derek Boyer’s bass work surprisingly doesn’t bring much to the song’s dynamic, which is uncharacteristic given that Derek has always been a force to be reckoned with. He’s probably the best bassist Suffocation’s ever had (although that’s strictly opinion of course) so I do hope the rest of the album demonstrates his absurd amount of talent. Personally, I would have mixed his bass as loud as it was on Deprecated’s ‘Deriding His Creation’ but ultimately I have no say on the development of ‘Pinnacle Of Bedlam’. That isn’t upsetting of course since I have complete confidence in Suffocation to deliver another masterpiece. I also seriously doubt the entire album is like ‘As Grace Descends’. My hunch is ‘Pinnacle Of Bedlam’ takes the very best elements of every era in Suffocation history and puts them all into a single album, which would therefore explain Frank’s vocals being mixed lower in this song (if that’s not just Youtube) given that it’s a throwback to Despise The Sun and earlier Doug Cerrito-centric material, so the focus would naturally be on the instrumental prowess.
I’ve had my share of spot on predictions (Dying Fetus) and overestimations (Psycroptic) but what do you think? Is ‘As Grace Descends’ the first taste of yet another indomitable masterpiece from Suffocation or is this the beginning of the end for Death Metal’s greatest pioneers?