8/12/2009 - Review by: Raising Iron
Since their reformation in 2003, New York's Suffocation has been pleasing fans of the first incarnation of the band without missing a (blast!)beat. Keeping the lineup from 2006's S/T effort intact, the band have just released their latest foray into soul-destroying sonics with the appropriately monikered Blood Oath.
The frequent use of slightly more mid-paced tempos continues, but the most noticeable shift has got to be Frank Mullen's vocals, not only due to clarity of production unheard in any previous releases, but also to the fact that he's singing in a noticeably higher and more pronounced register. This already seems to have some death metal purists crying fowl, comparing this current growling to deathcore stylings, and to a certain extent they are right. There even seems to be a faint whiff of –core in the air (well, they are from NY after all!), but these points are marginal and negligible, as Suffocation continue with their varied, spiraling, riff-tastic self-absorption that made the band a mausoleum-hold name to begin with.
Each song scurries along, adhering to formulae set forth at the band's outset, but blast beats are a bit more scarce than in the past, as well as solos; and when founding guitarist Terrance Hobbs or current co-merchant in six-string slaying Guy Marchais rip into a lead, it's brief and to the point. The title track and "Come Hell or High Priest” are strong efforts consisting of the guys' predilection for technical flair, and "Dismal Dream” wells with all that old-school death metal has to offer. Departing for slower stomping grounds are "Undeserving”, which swells with a lumbering and plodding midsection, and "Provoking the Disturbed”, where things halt for an imposing bass line riff, followed by a more melodic and deliberate guitar solo effort before reenergizing at the outset. A reinterpretation of "Marital Decimation” from 1993's Breeding The Spawn closes out the disc proper, although there are different bonus tracks for different territories, the US version being basically throwaways ("Pray For Forgiveness sans the vox” and a rough mix of "Dismal Dream”).
Overall though, Blood Oath is a bit of an enigma. The band plies their usual trade of technical death, but there seems to be a lack of potency this time out; the usual intensity that arouses the metal synapses is just not there. Maybe it's due to the slicker production, or the guys are just going through the motions. Whatever the case, longtime fans will still find Blood Oath enjoyable, but I wouldn't expect many new converts with this.
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