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Review: Suffocation – Pinnacle of Bedlam

Pinnacle of Bedlam (2013)

United States, Nuclear Blast, Brutal Technical Death Metal

Pinnacle of Bedlam is the seventh full-length for these long time innovators of the brutal, and marks a slightly refined focus on increased precision and cleaner production. Perhaps a real life comparison would be a high-tech jackhammer. No – more like a spiked bulldozer from the 22nd century. Driven by a demon!

Riffs from guitarists/primary writer Terrence Hobbs and Guy Marchais fluctuate in a malevolent and baffling manner, with a razor-sharp tightness that calls to mind labyrinth architects such as Necrophagist and Decrepit Birth, built atop an old school foundation of hefty crunch. As Suffocation crushes through full-speed gallops (the title track), Anata-style clean picking (“Sullen Days”), and trudging discordance (“My Demise”), it becomes clear that diversity abounds, even on a record demonstrating a stylistic change.

The leads similarly embody this variety. See “Purgatorial Punishment,” wherein an abrupt stop begins a solo-lead tangent that takes off like a demonic cyborg piloting a rocketship (similar to Decapitated’s Nihility); or, the soaring lead from the title track, reminiscent of the menacing towers of gore from Resurrection Through Carnage by Bloodbath.

Drummer Dave Culross showcases a variety beyond the blast & snare combination found on many brutal death metal releases. Suffocation has always been heralded as innovators for their rhythm section, and Culross (who only played with the band on their 1998 EP Despise the Sun) makes for a noteworthy replacement for long-timer drummer Mike Smith.

Frank Mullen’s vocals dwell in a mid-ranged dry cough, seemingly from smoking cowboy killers with the filters torn off and drinkin’ grain whisky. This fits the new production and precise focus, even if the lack of low gurgles may alienate some brutal junkies.

Pinnacle of Bedlam, overall, is much more modern and diverse than many may remember Suffocation. This is a citadel of dehumanization, shining luminously in an already brilliant catalog, and it may win over numerous young’uns unaware of Suffocation’s greatness. Just ignore the complaints of the xenophobes who want a rehash of Effigy of the Forgotten.

Death is / Only / Everlasting!

Rating: 10/10

Reviewer: Witness to the Void


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