While most of their contemporaries either split up, lost the plot or went completely bonkers at some stage in their careers, Suffocation have never deviated from the path of righteous brutality. Always the most destructive and reliable of death metal bands in the live arena, the New Yorkers have seemed to gain creative momentum in recent years, and the aptly titled Pinnacle Of Bedlam arrives as their influence on younger generations of underground extremity reaches a new peak.
Fittingly, then, this is quite simply the most astonishing show of pulverising strength the band have ever released. The key to Suffocation’s supremacy remains their mastery of all aspects of death metal’s sonic essence.
It certainly helps that this album boasts the most unfathomably crushing and crystal clear production imaginable – no Breeding The Spawn-style sonic malnutrition here, thankfully – but the decisive factor is that these songs are all exercises in dextrous but focused perfection. The churning riffs and spin-on-a-dime tempo shifts that have long been a part of their armoury are present in abundance, as are the unearthly solos and that oppressive atmosphere that again proves how guitars, bass, drums and vocals are really all you need to smash open the gates of Hell.
But there’s catchiness here too, in the deranged attack of the opening Cycles Of Suffering, the grandiose chaos and eerie dynamics of Sullen Days and the grinding doom grotesquery of My Demise. Frank Mullen, still the king of the guttural growl, is on peerless form throughout too, his delivery electrified by conviction. An insanely exciting demonstration of skill, power and unerring self-belief, this is death metal at its monstrous, overwhelming best: timeless, terrifying and unlikely to be topped any time soon.