Pinnacle of Bedlam
Suffocation’s 2013 album was in many ways a direct reaction to its predecessor. Where 2009’s Blood Oath had been a dense, overpowering effort with vocalist Frank Mullen front and center, Pinnacle of Bedlam lowers him into the mix, giving the guitars and drums pride of place and making every sound a little bit sharper. The snare and kick ring out and stab at the ear, and the guitar riffs are full of squealing pinch harmonics; they scrape and spark like angle grinders rather than chugging like diesel engines. The Long Island band had always struck a delicate balance between punishing brutality (even taking tricks from New York hardcore of the Cro-Mags/Sick Of It All school) and complex technical riff-writing and composition. This album definitely tends toward the latter, with songs constantly shifting gears; tempo changes and guitar solos arrive seemingly out of nowhere, instruments drop out unexpectedly, then return at double strength. But then a song like “Sullen Days” pops up with a guitar intro that’s almost beautiful. This is peak Suffocation.