Suffocation - Souls to Deny
Relapse Records
Technical Death Metal
8 songs (38'20")
Release year: 2004
Suffocation, Relapse Records
Reviewed by Alex

2004, so far, has been a Year of the Comeback for me. Some of my favorite death metal artists, Edge of Sanity and Dismember, have improbably released new mega album or went back to the roots, respectively. It hasn’t been only limited to death metal either. Yearning did not disappoint and I can’t wait to get my hands on that new Lake of Tears. In such year when I got spoiled with good comebacks my expectations for new Suffocation simply soared. I was even thinking to label the review a Major Event, but thought better of it understanding that not everybody thinks of technical death metal that way. Regardless, who is Suffocation and why all the fuss?

Suffocation in death metal is what Dissection was for black metal. For a team with not so many releases both bands were surely influential. They have contributed mightily to creating A SOUND. Suffocation rhythmic blasts and chugs, on the surface so repetitive, were laden with hidden grooves and monstrous breakdowns. A large number of technical death metal bands do today what Suffocation started more than a decade ago. You can hear traces of their art in bands from Kataklysm to Meshuggah. Pierced from Within and Despise the Sun are two testaments of legacy the band left after its first not-too-long-lived incarnation. I hope I made my case why Souls to Deny was not just another death metal. Suffocation helped to define a genre, so when they put out a full album release in I can’t count how many years it feels like a major event.

Unfortunately, my case of high expectations and all those other above bands on the rebound producing memorable albums probably spoiled the fun with Suffocation. Once in high school we put together a play. We had tons of fun, acting to what essentially was a Perestroika era rock musical. For years I wanted to see how the top notch artists in Moscow did that play, but could not get tickets. Eventually, I caught that troupe on tour in St-Petersburg, but the building had horrible acoustics, the stars were replaced by understudies, the whole thing sucked and till this day I remember the letdown I had.

Well, it isn’t that bad with Souls to Deny, but I frankly expected more. The opener Deceit starts out just like I imagined it would. Subtle, almost mischievous grooves sweep over Mike Smith’s blasts. Frank Mullen hasn’t lost a beat, his somewhat monotonous guttural vocals are gruff, but decipherable. It is just when the tempo shifts down and you anticipate this monster breakdown to roll over you … nothing happens. For two more tracks I had the same feeling – the band wanted to show they have not lost their technical edge, oft-shifting rhythms, bizarre solos, superb drumming with tasteful cymbal use (title track), they are committed to brutal technical death metal – it all sounds good, but fails to grab me in one powerful motion. Wherever Terrance Hobbs and Co spent these years, they haven’t forgotten how to play the instruments (just check out the technicality of the intro to Demise of the Clone), but it is feeling of the complete empowerment by the song is what I seek from Suffocation. The first redeemer comes not until Surgery of Impalement, its guitar tone so devastating it leaves no prisoners in its wake. With a first breakdown worthy of Suffocation, rhythm guitar chugs while lead wails, only to be erased by the everblasting drums. Other strong moments do exist – purposeful propelling and haunting atmosphere of Demise of the Clone, thrash and groove of Immortally Condemned with its melodious chug towards the end. However, another “complete” song does not appear until the closer Tomes of Acrimony which is a masterpiece. Fast relentless guitars coming in waves, a hint of brighter melody, not as twisted but a standout solo nonetheless.

I need to settle down and go listen to this album for another 4-5 times (even though I am already on 5th listen). It could come to me better that way. But for now, I hope that Suffocation will not stop here. With Souls to Deny they announced they are back, now let’s hear a full album of tunes worthy of their name. ‘Cause at this point, if you never heard their music before I, in all honesty, can’t recommend you start with Souls to Deny. Go hear the other two albums (one of them EP) I mentioned, and then try this. While a solid effort, it would not become another death metal classic.

Killing Songs :
Surgery of Impalement, Tomes of Acrimony
Alex quoted 71 / 100
Other albums by Suffocation that we have reviewed:
Suffocation - ...of the Dark Light reviewed by Goat and quoted 65 / 100
Suffocation - Pinnacle Of Bedlam reviewed by Goat and quoted 81 / 100
Suffocation - Effigy Of The Forgotten reviewed by Kyle and quoted CLASSIC
Suffocation - Blood Oath reviewed by Goat and quoted 84 / 100
Suffocation - Suffocation reviewed by Dylan and quoted 82 / 100
To see all 7 reviews click here
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