Suffocation – Pinnacle of Bedlam


Review by Paul Castles

Nuclear Blast

It’s become the done thing within death metal circles to open an album with an inviting gentle intro before pulling the trigger. Suffocation have never been one for such courtesies and Pinnacle of Bedlam opens with ‘Cycle of Suffering’ a cataclysmic bone-crushing concoction of the type that has become their hallmark over the past 25 years. The New York icons have come to define everything that death metal should be, raging aggression, outright hostility to everything and everyone, and holding aloft a battered dictionary with the word “compromise” ripped out.

Second track ‘Purgatorial Punishment’ is heavier than a Weightwatchers’ class the week after Christmas with formidable frontman Frank Mullen throwing trademark growls at anything that moves. What we also get with Suffocation are some frenzied guitar breaks from Terrance Hobbs and Guy Marchais, notably on ‘As Grace Descends’ that gives the band’s seventh studio album a slightly thrashier edge than that which diehard fans have generally been accustomed to in the past. Bassist Derek Boyer is not to be outdone, breaking through with barbaric breakdowns, notably on ‘My Demise’ which ranges from steadier black metal spins through to speedier meaner moments. Final track ‘Beginning of Sorrow’ sees them at their manic best with flaying guitar licks bouncing off mesmerizingly manic drum blasts with Mullen’s stomach-lining vocals adding a thick green blanket.

Not surprisingly for a band with a back catalogue astoundingly now stretching back around a quarter of a century, the Suffocation faces have changed a bit down the years. What Pinnacle of Bedlam also enjoys is the return to the drum stool of Dave Culross whose fevered, perfectly executed rhythm blasts of fire, shine through on every track.  Culross last performed this role on the band’s acclaimed 1998 EP ‘Despise The Sun’. Mike Smith has kept the flag flying during the many intervening years, but the return of Culross is sure to go down well with many older fans.

There are no shortage of Suffocation imitators in the death metal ballpit but the Big Apple veterans still set the bar at a height most would need a pole vault to reach. Unfortunately when they perform live in the future live the mighty Mullen won’t necessarily be behind the mic, having taken the decision not to tour as often in the future. His boots are big ones to fill but they are currently being worn by John Gallagher from Dying Fetus and Bill Robinson of Decrepit Birth. While both men are magnificent death metal vocalists Mullen has the edge in terms of stage presence and his larger than life personality will be missed when he’s not taking centre stage with his bandmates.

Suffocation – Pinnacle of Bedlam8 out of 10

Track listing:

  1. Cycles of Suffering
  2. Purgatorial Punishment
  3. Eminent Wrath
  4. As Grace Descends
  5. Sullen Days
  6. Pinnacle of Bedlam
  7. My Demise
  8. Inversion
  9. Rapture of Revocation
  10. Beginning of Sorrow