Review: Suffocation “Live in North America” [Nuclear Blast]

Review: Suffocation “Live in North America” [Nuclear Blast]

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The last record of Suffocation Live in North America is the live version of one of their concerts from Death Chopping North America tour in 2018, released by Nuclear Blast on November 12th. Three years have passed after this iconic tour, which was the last for their almighty singer Frank Mullen, and now the fans from the entire world can listen to it with a good quality and official permission from the band.

Suffocation is one of the bands, who shaped the USA death metal scene; they are the classical veterans with godlike reputation, no one can diminish their input into creation of the genre. They are too smart to be compared to straightforward masters of the genre Cannibal Corpse, too sophisticated for absolute anti-melodic mood of Incantation and not so devoted to oriental roots as Nile, and too brutal/grindcore attitude of Dying Fetus or Deeds of Flesh is also not their point of view. Suffocation is incomparable, and they have proved it with thirty years of solid and remorseless death metal without playful tricks or mad glorification of death topics. They created something special and held it unsullied, developing their own style with aristocratic precision, as well as assertive vigor.

Frank Mullen was associated with Suffocation for thirty fucking years, and his energy seeped into the band’s core with unbelievably deep roots, he was a real hero and innovator, his well-known guttural manner of singing inspired so many death metal bands of the future. No one doubts the professional abilities of their new singer Ricky Myers, who is known mainly as Disgorge drummer and his understanding and devotion of Suffocations goals, but singers like Frank Mullen are unique and incomparable, no one can truly replace them. So this tour was sad event for fans of Suffocation and death metal genre, so emotional and intense, but still with a tinge of farewell notes. And despite all the maddening aggression and brutal attitude, Live in North America is filled with nostalgic overtones; the importance of this record is almost palpable, mighty swansong and the ending of an old era.

Live in North America isn’t meant to be an introduction album for the newbies, who never heard the music of Suffocation, so, it’s doubtful, that many of the listeners will have trouble to recognize one or two favorite songs from the thirty-year long career of Suffocation. Most of the songs are the old hits from the 1990s, and four of them belong to their first full-length album Effigy of the Forgotten, iconic milestone in death metal history. After their hiatus in 1998 (lasted for four years), there are only four songs, and not a single one from the last album from 2017. So this is a classical material, beloved by the thousands of deathsters for decades, something enjoyable and catchy when performed live, and that was the perfect gift for the audience, to give it what they want. And if they are still mad for “Infecting the Crypts” or “Liege of Inveracity”, then let them give this passion and drive of old school death metal into those modern times. After all, it’s the last show with Frank; it must be perfect in every possible way.

The spirit of the album is so festive despite the heaviness and aggression of the music, but with their talent to balance between technicality and brutality, you really can melt into direct simplicity and progressive chaos at the same time. There are plenty of slam riffs with complex structure, bordering on messiness, but still the technical delicacy can’t allow them turn into chaotic frenzy. Very low sound of guitars is so well-coordinated with low-pitched growls of Frank. All is performed so excellently that sometimes it feels like there is some kind of theatricality in this music, like no surprises, but expect the unexpected. Suffocation loves playing with the rhythm, sliding through rapid craziness to almost doomy passages, still in time (like on “Pierced from within” or “Breeding the Spawn”). These Americans also can allow themselves some kind of melodic reprieves, but only for brief moments (“Dismal Dream” or “Catatonia”). Experience has shown, that during their eight studio albums Suffocation aren’t big lovers of intros, they prefer to blast all their death metal right away, and during the song the bridges emphasize the musical transitions. So, you never find mercy in the music of Suffocation, it is created like an impregnable wall of heaviness, penetrating with its unstoppable force into the hearts of the listeners.

The artwork from famous Jon Zig isn’t just beautifully done cover art for typical death metal record, it emanates symbolic aura – the cemetery, death and ruins everywhere is an apparent allusion to the ending of the chapter, but the distant light looks hopeful. There will be new victories with a new line-up and no matter how hard it will be, Suffocation is still Suffocation, they just simply can’t play poorly or without a glinting fire of passion. So, all we need to do is just patiently wait for the new material.

Release date: November 12th, 2021

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