There’s already enough long winded discussion going on about this list we’re still in the process of revealing, so let this review be one from the Corey Mitchell school of telling it like it is. No hustle.

Blood Oath is the best death metal record released this year and barring something out-left-field and totally unexpected, it’s going to rank up there among the years best.

Maybe I should have expected this. Souls to Deny and their self-titled album were both good death metal records, but as it turns out, those records were just the sound of Suffocation building up momentum. Blood Oath is the sound of them throwing their weight to crush every expectation I had of them. I am pleasantly surprised and engrossed by this record.

Yeah, I one of those “metal” words: “crushing,” “brutal,” “violent.” Sure it sounds like that, but I think a more appropriate phrase might be “dramatic.” What puts Suffocation above any of the hundreds of bands that ape them is their mastery of being able to build up tension. You’ll get sucked into the blasting only to have everything break for a second to introduce a new riff or a half-time dirge. Moshing to these new songs is going to be exhausting, because there’s hardly a moment in there you’re likely to stop at. Every song is relentlessly exciting.

What the band is putting on display is not growth or development, but utter mastery. Endless bands lose the plot and forget how to sound like themselves. Suffocation never skipped a beat. Every deathcore band wishes they could emulate their rhythmic diversity and their seemingly-loose-but-technically-tight song structures. But while 18-year-old drummers are tapping lightly with their triggers, Mike Smith is pounding holes through his toms. I contest that there isn’t a man that can put more personality in death grunts than Frank Mullen. I wouldn’t even know where to start talking about individual songs because every one makes me want to throw myself into a crowd of people.

Don’t take my word for it. When you see Suffocation play the new material on the Summer Slaughter tour, they are going to make every other band look like whiny, little girls.

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(4 1/2 horns out of 5)


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