Suffocation – Hymns from the Apocrypha (Nuclear Blast)Wednesday, 1st November 2023
There’s only one Suffocation, and it’s a legendary name that really needs no introduction at this point in the band’s career. But one of the last founding fathers of Suffocation did exit the band after 2017’s …Of the Dark Light, that being the frontman Frank Mullen, it does lead to some heavy questions about how the future of the band will be handled. The only founder left is that of guitarist Terrance Hobbs, with the next in line being bassist Derek Boyer (who has been around since 2004), so it does start to beg the question: when is enough, enough? Thankfully, as the case may be for Suffocation, Hymns from the Apocrypha proves there’s still plenty of gas left in their frantic death metal tank.
It only takes a few seconds for the title track to kick in for you to instantly recognize the frenzied riffing and drum battery that is Suffocation. Even with new vocalist Ricky Myer in tow, it’s clear the band has lost none of its thunderous energy, nor have Hobbs’ riffing tactics become stale. The band’s first studio effort with Myers on the mic (after fronting the band live for quite a few years at this point), you can tell it’s not Mullen, but his monstrous presence grabs your attention immediately, and anyone who has seen the band live in more recent years knows he’s an excellent fit. Those technical riff schemes, massive breakdowns and grooves, and blast-friendly drumming continue to hit in such a way that it’s hard for any other act to fully replicate it. Suffocation has always balanced the equations when it came to bonkers technicality and primitive barbarism in their sound, and cuts like ” Perpetual Deception” (which seems to have a Despise the Sun-esque slant in its intensity) and “Seraphim Enslavement” (a literal battering ram of a track) showcase the continued prowess of the band towards maintaining such distinctive features.
That said, it’s nice to see some slight expansions of the Suffocation sound at times. “Immortal Execration” is the most notable example of this, with an almost modern feel in its groovy nature, while keeping the uptempo Suffocation bludgeoning one might expect. The bounding mid-tempo riffing on “Descendants” also has a bit of newer flavor to it, done in such a way that it feels entirely natural to Suffocation’s template, and serves as another welcome addition. Of course, there is a long-standing tradition with Suffocation albums to keep, and this time, “Ignorant Deprivation,” from Breeding the Spawn, sees itself reborn in a more modern light (which does include former vocalist Mullen at the helm).
Seemingly immune to aging their sound, Suffocation sounds just as fresh in 2023 as they ever have. Sure, other bands swing more wildly in terms of technical flair or downright brutality, but Suffocation does hold the benchmark on being able to mesh the two together with uncompromising precision. Hymns from the Apocrypha is cause for celebration for fans of the long-running act, as the first release in 6 years as well as a fresh start with Myers completely at the vocal helm – that it holds up to the band’s storied discography makes for a compelling argument for their continued future.