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Album Review: Suffocation’s …Of the Dark Light

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Time will tell on this one, but I would not be the least bit surprised if we someday look back at …Of the Dark Light, Suffocation’s eighth album, as a perfect metaphor for their 21st century output*: it starts promisingly, gets really fucking good in the middle, and ends weakly by comparison, but still very well overall.

In this metaphor, album openers “Clarity Through Deprivation” and “The Warmth Within the Dark” are 2004’s reunion album, Souls to Deny; “Your Last Breaths,” “Return to the Abyss,” (both released as singles for a good reason) and “The Violation” are 2006’s Suffocation and 2009’s Blood Oath; and three of the remaining four songs are 2013’s Pinnacle of Bedlam and the album currently under review — the exception being the record’s penultimate track, “Caught Between Two Worlds.” (More on that song momentarily.)

This is not to say that …Of the Dark Light is ever weak. If you were concerned/hopeful that Suffocation’s latest bout of line-up changes would alter their sound, prepare yourself to be relieved/disappointed: the name of the band’s game remains garrote wire leads over churning, brobdingnagian riffs and fulminating percussions. At its best, …Of the Dark Light proves that Suffocation remain vastly superior to their imitators; at its worst, it’s still a highly entertaining excuse to headbang ’til your neck breaks. The album’s only real crime — both in the scheme of Suffocation’s post-reunion discography and its own material — is that there are a few songs which never quite grab the listener the way they ought to. I’ve been jamming this album on a regular basis for the past few weeks, and while the first half of the record only gets better with each successive listen, I still can’t remember much about the back end besides thinking it’s generally pretty good.

The exception, again, being “Caught Between Two Worlds,” which may actually be the single strongest song on the album. It’s a slower track, kind of in the vein of the title track from Blood Oath, but Suffocation have always been expert lumberers. “Worlds” is heavy as fuck and nauseating in its dizziness, music’s answer to trying to climb a very, very long spiral staircase on broken legs. It’s gonna be a fucking BEAST live.

Ultimately, …Of the Dark Light is two-thirds of a great Suffocation album, one-third of a good one. If only every band this deep into their career were still this good.

*I’m not gonna compare it to their early classics because… well… c’mon.

Suffocation’s …Of the Dark Light comes out June 9 on Nuclear Blast. Pre-order it here.

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