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ALBUM REVIEW: Suffocation - Hymns From The Apocrypha
Legendary death metal act Suffocation return after a six-year gap with their new album Hymns From The Apocrypha on Nuclear Blast. Original vocalist Frank Mullen stepped down in 2018 after a final farewell tour with the band, along with his last studio album with the band, 2017's ...Of The Dark Light. That release would feature backing vocals from touring member and Disgorge front man Ricky Myers, sharing vocal duties both on the album and live with the band. This is officially Myers debut studio album with the band as front man after Mullen's departure. After a six year gap in releases, and a new vocalist, have these death metal legends returned with a vengeance? Will this release stack up to "The Year of Death Metal" with releases from fellow death metal icons like Cannibal Corpse, Obituary, Kataklysm, Incantation, Dying Fetus, and Cryptopsy?
The album starts with the title track, with a chugging slamming death metal riff into start/stop palm muting, the song starts off heavy and fast. Myers' vocals match the trademark Suffocation guttural sound perfectly. With the slow down and speed up nature of the track, the song is trademark Suffocation. I love the intricate drumming of Eric Morotti, with the unique drum fills and ride cymbal hits at the right moments accenting the main riff. A great guitar solo at the halfway mark with d-beat drumming and cymbal chokes, into blast beats on the verses, transition so well and just hit so hard. I love the bridge of the song, almost mimicking a breakdown, but chugging and heavy and slow with Myers' gutturals piercing through with chorus and reverb. A strong opening song to signify the return of these death metal legends.
"Perpetual Deception" kicks off with fast-paced drumming by Morotti, with the same tempo changing and chugging guitars from Charlie Errigo & Terrance Hobbs. The song almost gives a fake out with a long pause before the song kicks back in and speeds up with Myers' vocals and Morotti's drums driving the pace. A slow, chugging and slamming riff into a thrash metal style guitar riff, into blast and gutturals halfway through, is so good and is something the band knows how to do well on this album.
"Dim Veil of Obscurity" is another relentless song with the band continuing the blast beat drumming and chugging guitars throughout. With some intricate guitar patterns at the halfway mark, almost progressive metal in its playing, the song is just foot on the gas intensity from the band. Another great guitar solo with Morotti's blasting drums behind it makes it a definitely great song to be in the pit during. I also love the bass from Derek Boyer peaking through on the bridge near the end of the track, reminiscent of that classic death metal sound with bass pops coming in, accenting the riff or creating that gritty, gurgle-like bass sound of the genre. On "Immortal Execration", with a booming double bass and slow, chugging and ringing guitar sound, the song starts with that slow headbang feel to the song, before the band brings it and speeds the tempo of the song up. Returning at the halfway mark to the slowed down, thundering riff and drums, it's almost Nile sounding, but with the addition of slam death metal to the atmosphere of the track and the playing. Then transitioning into a thrashy, relentless and intense guitar riff and drum section, the song is just going for the throat and holding on for dear life.
The album's standout track, and the band's studio debut of Myers as front man, is "Seraphim Enslavement". Drums and guitars punch you in the face hard in the opening, with Myers' gutturals chiming in hard and coming at you deep and low. The riff sounds like classic Suffocation from their earlier albums, and Myers makes a strong debut with the song. The band loves the tempo pace changes on this song, almost coming in waves. Slowing down to give that chuggy pace, before speeding the riff back up and then back down again. Another great guitar solo, which is becoming a standout on the album from both Hobbs & Errigo. A great song, and I can picture the fans digging this song live.
"Descendants" has a great opening musical section from the band. With the guitars ringing and fast-paced, matched by Morotti's drums. The song sets the stage for a great build and heavy track. With the machine gun like blasting and double kick drums, Morotti is the standout on the song. Unmatched drumming and intricate drum sections throughout while the guitars play just let him shine more on the song. "Embrace The Suffering" and "Delusions of Mortality" are punishing and heavy songs that just hit strong. Showing the band's emphasis on the slow, brooding and chugging riff throughout both tracks and Morotti shining through on the drums.
The album's closer is "Ignorant Deprivation" a song originally appearing on the band's second album, 1993's Breeding The Spawn. Due to the poor production quality on that album, the band has been re-recording the songs from that album on later releases. The song features Mullen appearing on main vocals, almost acting as a swansong to him and his long history with the band. It is a fitting closer to the album, almost a passing of the torch from Mullen to Myers.
Suffocation have returned with a strong release. Many die-hard fans of the band will like Myers as vocalist, as he is very similar to Mullen and is not too much of a change, so I think die-hards will be happy with this release. The band took their time with this release to make sure to get it right, showing off their impressive musicianship, knowledge of the genre and knowing how to integrate Myers' vocals in the right points and how to accentuate his gutturals. In a stacked year of other veterans of the genre releasing studio albums, this one is a strong contender for me as one of the top tiers of that list. The album is heavy, chugging and I can't wait to hear some of these songs live. Suffocation is back, and with Myers at the helm, and the band firing on all cylinders, I want to hear more and I want to see what Myers brings to the band as their front man and where the band goes from here in their already thirty five year career.
SCORE: 10 / 10
- Hymns From The Apocrypha
- Perpetual Deception
- Dim Veil of Obscurity
- Immortal Execration
- Seraphim Enslavement
- Embrace The Suffering
- Delusions of Mortality
- Ignorant Deprivation (feat. Frank Mullen)
FFO: Cannibal Corpse, Cryptopsy and Dying Fetus
Suffocation is currently on a North American tour with Incantation, Skeletal Remains and Stabbing. They will start a European tour in 2024 with supporting acts Organectomy, Enterprise Earth and Sanguisugabogg. To see if they are coming to your city and want to get tickets, head to https://www.suffocationofficial.com/tour for more info and tickets.