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Suffering Hour: The Cyclic Reckoning

The other day I heard the original version of “Smokin’ in the Boys Room” and all I could think about was how much I hated the Mötley Crüe version. Sure, it was a hit for the Crüe, but for me it was a major step away from the raw power I heard in most of Shout at the Devil. I’m bringing this up mostly as a point of contrast. Mötley Crüe was playing to nostalgia and rebellion, but this deeper, more nihilistic, and far more interesting.

This album represents an important step forward for the band musically. They’ve always been chaotic and unpredictable, but this album puts aside some of the band’s technical ambitions in favor of more atmospheric material. This is a good thing. Music like this needs a bit more space and too much technical material tends to fill every silence. The band also wanted this album to sound as negative as possible.

If the lyrics are any indication, the major themes here have to do with obsession, perception, and mental illness. It’s hard to make perfect sense of them as quickly as you would with “Smokin’ in the Boys Room,” but I think most of us are OK with that. I enjoyed the playful quality of the lyrics, especially the way they developed short statements that set up one idea while dashing it with the next. One example of this is the line, “The beacon of hope degraded by burden,” but there are other good examples. In think the point is that nothing about life really delivers hope or freedom.

As for the music itself, it’s an effective (and really dark) take on blackened death metal. The vocals are always guttural growls �" the liner notes call them “Utterances of Verbal Anguish” and that’s exactly what they are. The guitars, or rather “Six String Phosphenes,” are simultaneously dark and shrieking. If you don’t listen to anything else on this album, listen to “Strongholds of Awakening” for its nifty high-pitched and shimmery lead playing. As for the drums, or “Astronomic War Detonations,” they know when to push things forward and when to lay back.

Some of my skeptical friends might say that all this renaming of instruments and vocals is a sign that extreme metal is becoming a parody of itself or that it is laying things on a bit too thick. While that is certainly true for some bands, Suffering Hour delivers the goods with enough seriousness and quality that I was with them for the whole album. The guitars are especially effective at capturing the dark mood of the whole thing. They somehow manage to be heavy and shrill in ways that stuck with me.

There are tons of dark and brooding bands putting out dark and brooding albums. But this one stands out for its strong songwriting, its effective performances, and its killer “Utterances of Verbal Anguish.” Be sure to check out “Strongholds of Awakening” and “The Abrasive Black Dust Part II.” If you have never heard Part I, don’t worry about it. You’ll catch up.

Track Listing:
1. Strongholds of Awakening
2. Transcending Antecedent Visions
3. The Abrasive Black Dust Part II
4. Obscuration
5. The Foundations of Servitude

Added: April 22nd 2021
Reviewer: Carl Sederholm
Related Link: Bandcamp Page
Hits: 589
Language: english

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