Released: 2009, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
Nobody does old school technical death metal better than Suffocation, period. Since 1990, the New York quintet has progressively perfected the art of crafting horrifically punishing straight ahead death metal. The band’s sixth full length studio album, BLOOD OATH, continues that tradition in exuberantly vicious fashion. After a brief hiatus at the end of the ‘90’s, Suffocation’s enjoyed a renewed sense of purpose and inspiration, as demonstrated on 2004’s SOULS TO DENY and 2006’s self-titled opus. BLOOD OATH completes a trifecta of mature and unquestionably heavy releases from a band that’s been a part of the death metal scene since its (funeral) inception.
The title BLOOD OATH is a commentary on the band’s original commitment 20 years ago to write the most brutal and uncompromising death metal that they could muster. They took an oath to stay true to the music that they love and this album certainly fulfills that commitment. BLOOD OATH captures the traditional Suffocation formula and pushes the boundaries juuuust enough to keep things fresh. Each tune is chock full off complex, decimating riffs played at maniacally alternating tempos, with plenty of sweep picking and the occasional whammy bar dive bomb courtesy of guitarists Terrence Hobbs and Guy Marchais. The rhythm section of bassist Derek Moyer and drummer Mike Smith is precision synced for brutality, and just when I think that Frank Mullen’s instantly recognizable growl can’t get any sicker, BLOOD OATH proves me wrong. Production wise, the disc isn’t as polished as its predecessor, which works in favor of the material captured here.
The songs run the usual fodder – social commentary, horrific imagery, religious hypocrisy, and Frank Mullen’s marital dissolution. The tunes themselves stand out individually with well written arrangements that get your head banging in all the right places. Whether it’s the slower, controlled fury of the title track or soon to be video “Cataclysmic Purification,” the infectious riffage of “Dismal Dreams,” the percussive volley of “Pray For Forgiveness” or the all out frenzy of “Marital Decimation,” there’s plenty to like here. Performance wise, the band is in prime form and has honed their chops to a point of perfection.
Watching the fads come and go for 20 years, BLOOAD OATH is ten tracks of death metal sincerity, performed with an honesty that only a band that’s been around the block and back could. With no shortage of up and coming death metal bands currently in the scene, BLOOD OATH could have been subtitled “Okay kids, let the grown ups show you how it’s done…” There are several different versions of the album currently available, each featuring different bonus tracks with different mixes and such as an incentive to pick up a copy. Any self respecting death metal fan should already have a copy of BLOOD OATH or at least have it on their wish list; you won’t be disappointed.