Thursday, March 12, 2009

Suffocation- Despise the Sun

As good as Suffocation is, their entire sound is so close to being just a trick of production, that it's hard to think of their discography as other than a string of predictably great, monolithic works, with every deviation an "unwise" one. Unpredictable on the micro level, Suffocation is highly predictable on the macro level. Stick to what you know!

Even today Suffocation, playing basically in the same style as when they first started, seem impossibly futuristic and brutal--almost "high-tech" or bionic in their approach to blasting super-heavy death metal. Despise the Sun is their 1998 CD EP, after which the band went on hiatus until 2004's Souls To Deny, which picked up in exactly the same place. 

Ok, so the entire point of this blog is to distinguish between similar-sounding releases, and to find what is essential about Suffocation *aside from* their distinctive sound. Meaning, anyone can tell you what this band is all about after 45 seconds... and so that reaction is hardly worth writing. 

The great virtue of this band is the organicity of their countless part-changes. Whereas many bands pride themselves on the dizzying start-stop technicality of their riff salad songwriting, Suffocation go one better: they make the complicated arrangements seem natural rather than affected.

Despise the Sun presents a very stripped-down version of Suffocation: two songs under three minutes, no song longer than four minutes (whereas many of the songs on Pierced From Within are over five minutes, and *none* shorter than four). The songs are therefore easier to follow, and they have cut down on guitar solos. What a lot of people probably don't know about death metal is how boring and part-filled it can be. By "part" I mean "one part after another"--the feeling of, "when will this end?" Despise the Sun has absolutely zero of this--it's completely engaging for the whole 16 minutes. The band never tries to bring any "attitude" or "concept" to the proceedings, which is a great relief in 2009, when every band has to be into Egyptian or Babylonian or Gaelic mythologies... yawn. Suffocation just want to rock here, and by keeping it lean and unpretentious, they produce what in sports broadcasting is called 'a clinic'--they make it look easy, and everyone else looks like chumps. 

What makes death metal shitty is inevitably the following things:
  • ambient tracks
  • emo lyrics
  • imagery moved to the forefront
  • mixing of sub-genres ("blackened death," "deathrash," "deathcore," "deathgrind")
  • Cannibal Corpse syndrome: lyrical shock value a crutch
  • using the same musical devices too often
  • slow
Suffocation avoid every trap here, and it's a brief and enjoyable triumph. Start elsewhere with this band, but...y'know... cherish this one.

Score: 4/5 stars (****)
Best songs: Bloodchurn, Catatonia


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