Hymns From The Apocrypha

Nuclear Blast
rating icon 8.5 / 10

Track listing:

01. Hymns From The Apocrypha
02. Perpetual Deception
03. Dim Veil Of Obscurity
04. Immortal Execration
05. Seraphim Enslavement
06. Descendants
07. Embrace The Suffering
08. Delusions Of Mortality
09. Ignorant Deprivation

If you don't know what to expect from a SUFFOCATION album at this point, you probably haven't been paying attention. Nonetheless, "Hymns From The Apocrypha" is not just another imperious demonstration of brutal death metal supremacy. After eight albums with the talismanic Frank Mullen on vocal duties, the New York legends have made their first studio effort with his replacement. Formerly known as drummer with ultra-savage San Diego crew DISGORGE, Ricky Myers is also an admirably terrifying vocalist, and his assured presence has plainly helped to steady the SUFFOCATION ship in the wake of Mullen's departure. His authoritative growls and screams are similar enough to his predecessor's to fit, and distinctive enough to add a zing of freshness.

In every other respect, "Hymns From The Apocrypha" is an undiluted SUFFOCATION album in tooth and claw. Guitarist Terrance Hobbs is one of the great extreme metal pioneers, and his unmistakably perverse and vicious style is still growing, still mutating, and still as lethal as an avalanche of bloody paving slabs. As the title track erupts at full speed, it remains hard not to think of Mullen gleefully chopping the air with his hand, but within a few riffs, Myers has established himself as a worthy replacement. There are little flashes of warped melody lurking in amongst some crucifyingly heavy slower riffs, but when SUFFOCATION floor the accelerator, the purity of their death metal attack is still enough to make an ageing tape-trader giddy.

Noticeably darker and heavier than 2017's "…Of The Dark Light", their ninth full-length record is joyously unrelenting. SUFFOCATION have always had a feral, spontaneous side to their sound that few have been to emulate, let alone surpass. Here, on the volatile likes of "Perpetual Deception" and "Seraphim Enslavement", their refusal to repeat themselves is self-evident, as they casually conjure new ways to make the same, brutal point. Whether it's the frostbitten discord that is woven through the blast-driven "Dim Veil Of Obscurity", or the thuggish slam riffs that make "Immortal Execration" so grotesque and compelling, SUFFOCATION still have much more imagination than most bands operating at this level of extremity. They also appear to be growing darker as the years pass. "Descendants" is all obtuse rhythmic shifts and pitiless blasting, but with a core of purest, abyssal black; while "Delusions Of Mortality" mashes putrid, atonal sludge into a bravura ensemble performance that feels like a potted history of classic SUFFOCATION tropes welded together and polished to a state-of-the-art sheen.

Avid and observant SUFFOCATION fans will note that they have now re-recorded seven out of eight tracks from 1993's sonically impoverished "Breeding The Spawn". This time, a re-captured "Ignorant Deprivation" is the bonus track in question, and it gives "Hymns From The Apocrypha" an entirely fitting, raw and rabid finale. Only one more ("Ornaments Of Discrepancy", since you ask) to complete the set, boys. As ever, magnificent work.

Author: Dom Lawson
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