NYDM juggernaut SUFFOCATION has kicked off its union with Nuclear Blast in style, albeit in a meat-grinding and grotesque style; but in style nonetheless. "Blood Oath", the third album released since the band's reformation, continues a legacy of eminent brutality that sees the band sticking largely to bruising mid-tempo rhythms and all the textured guitar work from Guy Marchais and Terrance Hobbs that you've come to expect from a SUFFOCATION album, not to mention an even more gargantuan sound.
And by "gargantuan," I mean, "big," as in "behemoth" or "gigantic." You dig? It is the fattest, most crushing sound they've gotten to date, thanks to the band's engineering collaboration once again with Joe Cincotta and a mixing/mastering effort from Zack Ohren (ALL SHALL PERISH, DECREPIT BIRTH). My god, bassist Derek Boyer and drummer Mike Smith make for one booming bottom end, sometimes at the expense of guitar clarity, which in that respect would be my only — very minor — complaint. As always (maybe even more so now), Smith steers the ship with his angular fills and uniquely blasting ways. You'd be advised to assess the strength of your woofers before making a purchase decision.
Once you adjust to the unsettling earth-shake of it all, you are treated to a strong collection of 10 songs clocking in at around 41 minutes. While the band has never been about pretty melodies, the quintet has definitely upped their songwriting chops. Much like some of the tracks on the self-titled album, "Blood Oath" features a handful of standouts that are quite memorable, particularly "Dismal Dream". In the years since Frank Mullen has gotten away from gorging on microphones, he has managed to become not only more intelligible (though still…uh…vomitous), but the words that fall out of his mouth like goop from one of those "Alien" movies combine to form some snarl-worthy sentences. And the deeper your dig, the more disturbing it gets.
Most notable is that "Blood Oath" is a grand exemplification of what it means to be heavy without being fast; hell, slowing down has made them even heavier! The album also demonstrates the act's knack for layering those intricate riff patterns and squealing leads over top the precision thunder of Smith's kit, and multiple listens really start to bring out the colors and shapes. Songs like "Mental Hemorrhage" and "Provoking the Disturbed" feature plenty of arrangement mangling moments and disgustingly glorious changeups. SUFFOCATION has always brought a recognizable identity to death metal and that hasn't changed on "Blood Oath". The goods have been delivered. Bless you, boys.