Hard to believe that New York's very own Suffocation have been around for so long, yet Blood Oath is only their sixth studio effort. Since their extended hiatus and eventual reformation back in 2004, the band has actually been very busy, releasing two strong comeback albums and numerous tours, proving that their 'legendary' death metal status is indeed quite valid. So, how does their latest Blood Oath stack up?
Well, from the opening riffs of the title track, it's clearly a Suffocation album. Nothing much has changed here, which for many will be a good thing. Though some may say that if you've heard one Suffocation album, you've heard them all, that's not entirely fair to the band. Yes, they stick to a successful formula, but then again AC/DC have been making the same album for close to 3 decades, and you don't hear too many people complaining about that, now do you? Suffocation's loyal fans want crushing songs littered with massive, often times technical guitar riffs, insane drum blasts, and Frank Mullen's one-dimensional, yet highly effective growls & bellows. Add in some lurid & evil lyrical content, and you have the basic Suffocation system. Blood Oath delivers all of these ingredients and then some; the musicianship is as always top notch, especially the drum work of Mike Smith and the blistering guitar playing of Terrance Hobbs & Guy Marchais. There's an 'epic-ness' to certain tracks, such as "Cataclysmic Purification", "Undeserving", and "Provoking The Disturbed", where the band mixes their trademark complex death metal with a deep, somewhat doomy vibe, and this combination works really well together. The main problem is, there are too many tracks here that are just plain unmemorable and quite frankly a tad unremarkable, and even the impressive tsunami of technical riffage and manic drum work isn't quite enough to save it. In an age where a band like Nile can make brutal & technical songs quite memorable, Suffocation seems to be falling behind a little in that department.
Even though Blood Oath is not quite up to par with releases like Pierced From Within, Effigy of the Forgotten, Despise the Sun, or Suffocation, it's still a solid death metal album and leagues better than a lot of what we see released these days. It's just that with a band like Suffocation, who are looked at as one of the leaders of the genre, we perhaps expect a little more.
Oh, and special mention needs to be made for the excellent cover art from death metal artist Jonzig-really good job on that!
01. Blood Oath
02. Dismal Dream
03. Pray For Forgiveness
04. Images Of Purgatory
05. Cataclysmic Purification
06. Mental Hemorrhage
07. Come Hell Or High Priest
09. Provoking The Disturbed
10. Martial Decimation
11. Pray For Forgiveness [instrumental version] [N. America bonus]
12. Dismal Dream [rough mix un-mastered version] [N. America bonus]