Released: 2013, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
The departure last year of drummer Mike Smith and the semi-retirement of frontman Frank Mullen – who no longer will tour full-time with the band – left a couple of pretty big question marks about the future of Long Island death metal titans Suffocation. But the band answer any skeptics and shatter any doubts as to their viability, at least over the short term, on their seventh studio album.
Pinnacle of Bedlam shows a tauter, tidier, more punishing Suffocation than we've heard in a while, with the technical tendencies melding with a more snub-nosed, full-frontal approach that readily embraces elements of thrash and even traces of hardcore. The songs are generally shorter, more direct and positively vicious.
With former drummer David Culross once again providing the battery, the band cold-cock you at the outset with the abrupt start to “Cycles of Suffering” and keep raining hay-makers the rest of the way. Culross is a locomotive here, shifting gears from blast beat/double bass acceleration to a pile-driving forward march with ease as the songs demand.
The intricate guitar work that long has been a hallmark of Suffocation is a bit more subtle here as Terrance Hobbs and Guy Marchais weave it through one bruising riff after another. “As Grace Descends” has an almost Exodusy feel that is somewhat uncharacteristic but sounds pretty damn cool, ditto the classical intro and outro of “Sullen Days.” And when a band that's been around as long as Suffocation can surprise you, in a good way, kudos to them.
On top of it all is the aforementioned Mullen, whose commanding growl and signature cadence are as forceful and tenacious as ever. The punchier material here actually brings out more of the pitbull in Mullen, and Pinnacle of Bedlam will definitely tear a chunk or two out of your ass.