Introduces new blood and recognises the past

2017 sees Suffocation unleash their eighth full-length opus, …of the Dark Light, with founding members Terrance Hobbs and Frank Mullen and long-serving bassist Derek Boyer joined by new blood, guitarist Charlie Errigo and drummer Eric Morotti. Would the new members act as cause for Suffocation to change their style significantly?

Not at all. On …of the Dark Light, Suffocation continue expanding upon the sound they’ve honed since the self-titled opus that served as their comeback in 2006. This is apparent as early as the opening salvo ‘Clarity Through Deprivation’, which sees energetic drums propelling wide, angular guitar riffs amid Frank Mullen’s characteristic roars. ‘The Warmth Within the Dark’ carries on in much the same manner, changing tempo in its last moments, a clever technique that made me feel as if the track ran by too quickly. A small price to pay, given the brevity of ‘Your Last Breaths’ which follows. Technical riffs coupled with solid bass lines, and some welcome soloing make this track a stand out. One noteworthy point about the soloing. Errigo has a style unlike that of preceding guitarist Guy Marchais. He’s his own player, with riffs and lines as unique as they are obscure. His addition really provides the band with some new energy, and perhaps pushed Hobbs to deliver an immense set of riffs.

‘Return to the Abyss’ begins with Mullen’s signature vocals. One small variation to them throughout this album is that (for the most part) they’re easily intelligible while still retaining that intense delivery that he’s always been known for. Backing vocals from current touring vocalist Kevin Muller add to the variety here, and complement Mullen’s immense roar. It’s easy to see why he was chosen. Brief yet blazing solos make their presence known at the tail end of the track, followed by some haunting lines.

‘The Violation’ kicks off with Mullen intoning the lyrics as only he can. Brutality is the order here, until another of those immense solos takes over and weaves in and out, leaving a scorch mark among the aural battery. ‘The Violation’ too features a typical NYDM breakdown and tempo change, akin to ‘The Warmth Within the Dark’ that serves to highlight Mullen’s vocals in the closing seconds.

‘Of the Dark Light’ is next up; I can see why it was perhaps chosen as the title track. This track is an exercise in unrelenting brutality. There’s a brief shift in tempo but it loses none of its atmosphere, becoming even more menacing as it goes along, and another well-placed solo makes its appearance. Another breakdown follows before it slows to a glacial pace, propelled by the (it must be said) wonderfully miked drums. There’s a great sound to this album. Not too digital or over-compressed. Dynamic. Human. The album benefits because of it.

‘Some Things Should be Left Alone’ opens  with rapid drumming and solid riffs before Mullen comes in and the tempo   varies wildly in the classic Suffocation manner, before another immense solo follows the technical riffing to the end. ‘Caught Between Two Worlds’ features more of that obscure style, providing guitarist Errigo a chance to shine. The foundation of this one is based around that technical, cold atmosphere. It provides the perfect backdrop for Boyer’s morbid lyrics, ably complemented by his bass lines. That cold, angular technicality soon provides the breadth for another well thought out solo. Album closer ‘Epitaph of the Credulous’ doesn’t waste any time in ramping the energy,taking the listener through a myriad of twists and turns, inclusive of a ripping solo and tempo changes as Mullen spits the lyrics out with his typical venom.

…of the Dark Light is an album that feels shorter than its running time, an album that both introduces new blood in the form of personnel changes but also recognises the past. It’s in many ways a classic Suffocation album, and the band should be commended for possessing such consistency through their career.

1. Clarity Through Deprivation
2. The Warmth Within the Dark
3. Your Last Breaths
4. Return to the Abyss
5. The Violation
6. Of the Dark Light
7. Some Things Should be Left Alone
8. Caught Between Two Worlds
9. Epitaph of the Credulous