“…Of the Dark Light” 

by Thor

Long Island, New York’s founding fathers of death metal return with a new line-up and a new album of classic sounding Suffocation with some modern twists.

“…Of the Dark Light” is the band’s 12th album counting EPs, live albums, and best-of compilations and despite retaining only one and a half original members (I’ll explain the half later), Suffocation sounds remarkably familiar.  

Guitarist Terrance Hobbs is the last remaining fulltime member from the band’s debut full-length “Effigy of the Forgotten,” an album that objectively drew the blueprint for American-style brutal death metal back in 1991.  Vocalist Frank Mullen has retired from touring and is currently mentoring whom I assume will be his eventual replacement Kevin Muller.  Muller occasionally appears on “…Of the Dark Light,” though it’s truly impossible to discern where.

The first thing that will please Suffocation fans about this latest collection of tunes is how well produced it is.  Engineered by Joe Cincotta (Obituary) and mixed/mastered by Chris "Zeuss" Harris (Hatebreed, Arsis, Suicide Silence), the album’s over all aesthetic is a thicker, denser sound, yet remarkably clear as well.  The opening track “Clarity Through Deprivation” employs what the younglings refer to as a “breakdown” ala deathcore/hardcore, hence the modern twists I referred to earlier, but mostly it’s Suffocation 101.  Brutal riffs, suffo-blasts (what other type of blasts did you expect?), the unmistakable guttural rantings of Frank Mullen – even when it’s not Mullen – and some fantastic, brutal, dexterous guitar work.

The only thing about “…Of the Dark Light” that can possibly be perceived as a negative is that is lacks personality.  Coming on the heels of 2013’s “Pinnacle of Bedlam,” a remarkable album that featured exceptional song writing by which each song was bestowed a unique identity that culminated in an impossibly cohesive album, “…Of the Dark Light” feels like one long song.  It’s a well-produced, brutal song, to be sure, but for me it doesn’t compel multiple listenings.

Even so, if you’re a Suffocation fan or a fan of brutal yet accessible death metal in general, then you can’t go wrong with “…Of the Dark Light.”  There’s a lot to like here, if not much to distinguish it from the pack.