Suffocation – Hymns from the Apocrypha Review

Legend has it, if you say Frank Mullen’s name in the mirror three times after dark, the seminal vocalist appears behind you and unleashes an almighty roar into your bloody earholes. For the first time in the lengthy career of the New York brutal death pioneers, the immense, muffled growls of Mullen are absent, as a new era begins in the Suffocation camp. Another LP seemed unlikely after Mullen parted ways and the years ticked by after 2017’s solid, if slightly underwhelming …Of the Dark Light. Long-serving guitarist Terrance Hobbs is well equipped to steer the ship and maintain the band’s signature sound on ninth album, Hymns from the Apocrypha. Longtime bassist Derek Boyer, drummer Eric Morotti and guitarist Charlie Errigo round out the line-up. The significant change is in the vocal department, where the spotlight shines on scene veteran and long-term Disgorge drummer, Ricky Myers. With sizable shoes to fill, the expectations on Myers and the recharged Suffocation are at fever pitch.

Suffocation’s game-changing first act between 1991’s Human Waste and 1998’s Despise the Sun, remains a pinnacle era of technically advanced, brutal death metal, spawning an endless pile of imitators and quality bands emerging from the shadow of the highly respected innovators. Since breaking their hiatus on 2004’s Souls to Deny, it’s been an interesting, though slightly rockier trip. Early singles “Perpetual Deception” and “Seraphim Enslavement” set a promising tone for things to come, featuring signature, modern Suffo ingredients: relentless percussive battery, drop-on-a-dime time changes, intricate arrangements, and unforgiving brutality, all wrapped in a trademark swarm of Suffocation riffage, blasting fun, and ginormous grooves.

Right off the bat, Myers does a bang-up job on vox. Though slightly odd to hear a Mullen-less Suffocation, Myers performs admirably, sharing similarities to Mullen, however, bringing his own energy and character in deploying an immense, authoritative growl, featuring a more traditional brutal tone, rather than the overly guttural, gurgling styles prominent in modern brutal death and slam scenes. It helps that Myers has been part of their live line-up for several years. If Suffocation could be accused of going through the motions last go around, Hymns from the Apocrypha unleashes a fresher, inspired offering that holds its own in the post-millennium Suffocation canon. Suffocation keep it lean and mean across a filler-free 41 minutes, featuring a batch of cut-above gems alongside a few fairly solid modern Suffo songs. The opening title track sets the bar high, peeling off a highlight reel riff within the first minute, and cleverly tinkering with tempo variations as it weaves sinister melodies and thick, crushing grooves into fast, blasty and technical frameworks.

Combining classic vibes with modern sheen, it’s awesome to hear the Suffo boys pounding out such an energized and memorable collection of sick tunes, including some of their heaviest grooves/breakdowns in years. “Immortal Execration” delivers the heft, riffs and a colossal climax, “Dim Veil of Obscurity” and “Descendants” are straight-up Suffo brawlers, while “Delusions of Mortality” is a delightfully punchy, thrashy blast that segues into the solid closing re-recording of Breeding the Spawn’s “Ignorant Deprivation.” Hobbs and Errigo serve up the most inspired Suffo riffs in some time; brutal, beefy and technical, enriched by brooding atmospheric shifts, and occasional ripping solos or melodic lead. Morotti and Boyer form a tight, rumbling rhythmic foundation, with the former in particular throwing down a beastly performance behind the kit. Even discounting the infamous botched job on Breeding the Spawn, production choices have never been the band’s strong suit. Hymns from the Apocrypha is not without issues, despite improving on the overly clinical recordings on the past couple of albums. However, the drums would benefit from more organic-sounding tones, guitars more heft and character, and the material screams for a dynamic, less crushed mastering job.

Like many, I approached Hymns from the Apocrypha with caution. Frankly, after a lengthy recording break, the loss of Mullen, combined with the fact Suffocation are approaching the twilight years of a long and distinguished career, Hymns from the Apocrypha is far better than it has any right to be, easily outdoing its predecessor and residing in the upper tier of Suffocation’s post-hiatus career – a couple of non-essential tracks and production quibbles aside. While it cannot compete with the best of the band’s classic ’90s output, Hymns from the Apocrypha is an absolute blast that should appease old and newer devotees alike, hopefully signaling a later career creative burst.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: November 3rd, 2023

The post Suffocation – Hymns from the Apocrypha Review appeared first on Angry Metal Guy.

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