Originally written by Ramar Pittance
2004 has certainly been the year of the comeback album. Once revered acts are reuniting and releasing material with varying levels of success. Why? What is forcing these musicians well past their prime back into the unforgiving maelstrom that is the modern metal scene? Could it be the money, the groupies, or perhaps the slim chance of reviving the glory of days gone by? Or maybe it is simply because the band has too much killer material left running through their veins to peacefully call it a day. In the case of Suffocation and their latest release, Souls to Deny, it sounds like the latter. Souls to Deny is a resounding success, which despite minor blemishes proves itself a worthy addition to the band’s classic discography.
Souls to Deny is in many ways similar to the band’s landmark releases, Effigy of the Forgotten and Pierced from Within. The jazz influenced time signatures and soul crushing rhythm section remain, as does the ingenious guitar playing of Terrance Hobbs. And, it is in Hobbs’ guitar work that this album truly finds its stride. Hobbs’ distinctive playing style is most evident in the dissonant chord riffing on “To Weep Once More” and in dark subversive melodies on the album’s closer “Tomes of Acrimony.” Listeners will have the opportunity to really appreciate Hobbs’ contribution to Souls becuase the band seems content to remain in one place for a while, This allows the riffs to build upon themselves and lure the listener into a semi hypnotic state. But, don’t fool yourself. Even though Suffocation does offer the listener some leash, it’s a rather short one, and their not afraid to snap it back if they catch you off your guard. “Surgery of Impalement” is a prime example of this calculated assault. The track unassumingly commences with some mid paced guitar synchronization. Just when I thought it was safe to gingerly nod my head, the riff I had become so accustomed to died gloriously at the hands of expertly executed blast beat.
Despite this album’s success in most areas relevant to the creation of competitive death metal, it is not without it’s flaws. Certain key elements that took this band from very good, to downright masterful are missing — the first being the absence of Scott Burns behind the board. Don’t get me wrong, the boys did a serviceable job self-producing this one, but the homogenous and almost organic sounding mix found on Pierced From Within is sadly absent. Instead of sounding like five musicians jamming with deadly precision, the performances sound slightly compressed. It detracts from the presentation slightly, but I doubt it will prevent anyone from truly enjoying the album. Secondly, and most regrettably, is the absence of a Chris Richards-caliber bass performance. Derek Boyer does a fine job keeping the time on Souls to Deny and there’s certainly nothing wrong with his playing, but Richards was a force who found ways to make his presence felt in every track. It’s a presence that Boyer does consistently bring to the table.
When all is said and done, there is no doubt in my mind that Suffocation have released an album that may not surpass their two widely accepted classics, but can at least be counted proudly amongst them. They have also proven that after all these years they still deserve a spot amongst the upper echelon of the current metal scene. And that, after five years away from the game, is a remarkable feat.