Suffocation’s ‘Pinnacle of Bedlam’ shows death metal still lives

Before I heard their 2013 album, Pinnacle of Bedlam, I was only familiar with Suffocation through magazine articles and a Rock Hard death metal compilation I heard back in high school. At the time, they didn’t strike me as particularly memorable. I’m not sure why that was, because after hearing Pinnacle of Bedlam, I have to say they are one of the best all-around death metal bands I think I’ve ever heard.

A lot of this may be in part to guitarist Terrance Hobbs. The songs are largely built around his solos and his shredding rhythms, which seems to in turn, get the other musicians on the album to put that little extra “umph” into their performances.

Hobbs may be one of the best guitarists in death metal, but thankfully, he doesn’t use the rest of the band as just a backup, which many skilled, but often narcissistic, guitarists do. Instead, the band members build upon each other’s strengths and seek to compliment one another, which creates an all-around better listening experience.

That is what makes Suffocation probably one of the easiest, in a manner of speaking, technical death metal bands to listen to. It’s got nothing to do with being catchy, instead, they just sound really damn good.

The lineup of Suffocation for Pinnacle of Bedlam is Hobbs, vocalist Frank Mullen, rhythm guitarist Guy Marchais, bassist Derek Boyer and drummer Dave Culross.

So, with all that aside, let’s look at the music of Pinnacle of Bedlam.

The album

Pinnacle of Bedlam is Suffocation’s seventh album and their forth after they reunited in 2003. In what would be their 23rd overall year of existence (if you don’t count their breakup from 1998-2003) you’d think they’d start to run out of ideas and go stale, which is what many bands do, but you’d be wrong.

Suffocation doesn’t waste any time. They rip into the listener and shred them apart with “Cycles of Suffering.” This song is furious. Hobbs shows why he’s one of the best guitarists in death metal with his shredding melodies that are like a fine silver blade spilling blood all over the ground. Culross, meanwhile, bludgeons the listener with his double bass.

If the listener survives “Cycle of Suffering” things slow down “Purgatorial Punishment,” though that’s like saying you’re going from getting sliced apart with a knife to being chopped with an axe. “Purgatorial Punishment” is goes back and forth from its steady bludgeon to blast beats without missing, or sounding like it’s, missing a step.

Eminent Wrath” kicks off with an awesome solo before switching into blast beats and some more great shredding.

From here on out, you have some MFDM (mighty fine death metal) that is both technical and bludgeoning.

Standouts include include “Sullen Days” which starts out with a little breather between the bloody assault that Suffocation brings the listener. It’s a nice melody, showing that Hobbes has more than death metal in him. The rest of the song isn’t bad either.

The title song, “Pinnacle of Bedlam” is another good one, though I can say the same thing about it that I did earlier songs which is it shreds, bludgeons and drops in haunting melodies.

Mullen drops his voice a little bit deeper for monstrous effect on “My Demise.” It’s a moderate paced grinder through much of it with another rather awesome guitar solo.

Things come to a merciless end with “Beginning of Sorrow” a blast beat fest. Here, bass player Boyer gets a few seconds to shine, leaving you wanting to hear more from him. It gets heavy and slow, like a muscular zombie beating you with a gigantic sledgehammer.

The verdict

Would I suggest a Pinnacle of Bedlam?

Well, if  you’re a death metal fan starving for something good in the morass of sceamo-emo and commercial “death metal,” then this will fill you up for a while. It’s probably the best death metal album I’ve heard that’s been released in the past decade.

Of course, death metal isn’t for everybody. Pinnacle for Bedlam isn’t for casual fans who like their music served on an easy to digest plate. This is for people who love the genre, especially the technical end of it.

Definitely recommended for lovers of death metal and those who want to push their metal boundaries.

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