Suffocation, with the help of one of YouTube’s original classics, was my key to understanding death metal. Watching a balding poindexter have the time of his life mock playing along to “Infecting the Crypts” helped me realize that death metal is just fucking fun, its vulgarity and brutality much more tongue and cheek than a layman would perceive at surface level. Long Island’s br00tal death pioneers have been having the time of their life for nearly three decades now, specializing in cutting-edge instrumentation and dramatic, crushing tempo changes to build one of the most impressively consistent discographies in all of death metal. But AMG’s Law of Diminishing Recordings™ was far overdue to rear its ugly mug, and I had a feeling that a half finished album title might be prophetic of a similarly underdeveloped record. Unfortunately, I was correct; …of the Dark Light is the band’s first major stumble in their storied career.

Though flawed, this album isn’t a betrayal of Suffocation‘s modern sound in any sense. The lurching tempos, stop-start riffing, and dynamic drum performances are all very much intact, an immediately identifiable style indicative of a band that’s spent decades honing their approach. All of the instrumentation on …of the Dark Light is as impressive as ever, and even with a couple of lineup changes since Pinnacle of Bedlam, the band’s ability to work in exact tandem is consistently impressive. This is especially true because the record showcases Suffocation at their most technical, with galloping double bass patterns fused to rapidly plucked riffs with mechanical precision. As a pure showcase of instrumental skill, …of the Dark Light is a decently enjoyable listen, delivering the goods as you’d expect from a band that tours heavily on the shoulders of technically demanding material.

Yet for all of its complex performances, OtDL’s songwriting is dishearteningly one-dimensional. The record lacks drama and brutality, especially when contrasted against past Suffocation releases. Aside from one decently bludgeoning breakdown in the title track, all of the tempo changes on this thing have no identifiable lead-ins; it took me several listens before I even registered that the instrumental breaks in “The Warmth Within the Dark” and “The Violation”1 were tempo changes and not transitions to new songs altogether. This confusion stems from a lack of track variety, as each arrangement suffers from a dearth of power chords and an overabundance of plinky, palm muted gallops devoid of personality and hooks. The lack of open-hand riffing gives the record a claustrophobic feel in the worst possible way, and I’m baffled that a group as influential as Suffocation would creatively box themselves in like this.

OtDL‘s production is hit or miss. The mix is well balanced despite the loud master; I’m thrilled that enough room was granted to allow for a perfectly audible bass guitar. The tones, however, are just as lacking in weight as the compositions. It’s as if the guitar sound was engineered to emphasize the sharpness of the palm muted riffs, so when the occasional power chord does crop up (see the grindcore influence on “Return to the Abyss,” which weakly emulates similar passages from Pinnacle of Bedlam), it sounds strangely anemic. The drum presence feels thin, with the kicks sounding like a fucking typewriter just like on every other modern death metal album. I suppose one could make the argument that the mechanical production is a good match for the staccato performances, but it just doesn’t deliver the pummeling peaks that help define my favorite death metal records. As for long-time vocalist Frank Mullens, he sounds particularly bored this go ’round, but at least his performance provides lyrical clarity.

I’ve always viewed Suffocation as death metal’s equivalent to Kreator; a hugely influential band with an extremely solid modern sound indicative of decades of experience. While …of the Dark Light isn’t an outright bad record, it’s an utterly boring one, and none of the generous number of spins I granted it revealed any hint at an inspired approach to these ears. At the time of this writing, I still have some hope that this record is merely a lone speed bump in an otherwise remarkably consistent career. As Suffocation fans typically have to wait at least four years between LPs, however, I’m not holding my breath.


Rating: 2.0/5.0
DR: 5| Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast
Websites: facebook.com/suffocation
Releases Worldwide: June 9th, 2017

Show 1 footnote

  1. Shouldn’t someone at Nuclear Blast have told the band that’s the title of Fleshgod Apocalypse‘s most well known song?

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  • Long Island will be avenged.

    • Reese Burns

      …Sevenfold?

      • Juan Manuel Pinto Guerra

        It had to be you, Reese!

        • Reese Burns

          I couldn’t just not say it!

  • ARBrasch

    “I’m not holding my breath.”

    Well played. I knew there would be a good pun somewhere in this review.

  • I preordered it cause it was cheap. I’m sure I’ll still get into it, but damn, second bad review I read in back to back days, poor Suffocation dudes.

  • Ferrous Beuller

    This upsets me deeply. You might even say I’m Pierced From Within…

    I’m not sorry.

    • herrschobel

      ho ho

  • Artander

    Boring? This is way more enjoyable than other recent recordings such as Pinnacle. This sounds fresh and vital, it sounds cutting and energetic. What else do you want from a death metal recording? Is this review even fair ? After a paragraph which decently describes the contents of the album, follows another paragraph full of gratuitous judgments, “flawed album”, “one dimensional song writing”, “lack of track variety” which seems to be saying, in a nutshell, although this may sound like a great Suffo album, don’t be fooled by it. Sorry mate, I disagree and I find your style of writing unappealing and unhelpful.
    Finally, the Kreator comparison makes no sense. Suffo is a clear leader and still delivers the goods despite the hardships. Let’s stand up and fight for metal that sounds and feels like metal.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      Not sure if you’re new to AMG (I can’t recall ever seeing a comment from you), but all AMG writers follow a similar style in the name of consistency; second paragraph lists positives, third paragraph delves into negatives. I didn’t create this format, but I assume that reviews are structured this way so that an album’s positive qualities are always given a fair shake, even for bad records.

      As for everything else, we’ll have to agree to disagree. I think it’s a sterile sounding album, and Suffocation can do way better.

      • AndySynn

        I also find your writing unnappealing and unhelpful. But, then, I find you unnappealing and unhelpful as a person.

        Do love the opening track on this though. However, overall it really doesn’t scratch either the new DF or Immolation albums.

      • herrschobel

        i find you very appealing and helpful…also very pretty, clever and so much more….WTF ? good and spot on review ! boring record. very much so actually. i was listening to the embedded track and for a few seconds i felt like i was looking in a really empty black nothing…not in a Sunn O))) way … which would be great… it was the Pinnacle of RIff boredom i believe…accompanied by flat barks of an old dog …and yeah i usually really appreciate what Suffocation do … the dullness becomes even more apparent when compared to the latest Immolation who have always been brothers in spirit to Suffocation IMO.

      • Artander

        There are some comments by me…
        Since you mention the structure of the reviews, it can actually get annoying and feeling quite mechanical. Many reviews read like a huge “YES BUT…” and you know how THAT feels. Many reviews have a list of positives, and then it reads “the album is not perfect”. That’s a good one. Who expects a “perfect” album? Based on what criteria? This is insane. A reviewer can subjectively feel he is in the presence of perfection, and yet change his mind some time later. Sorry for being so obvious. The list of negatives gets especially tedious when it feels like a release of tension, and one gets the impression that the writer is at last saying what’s on his heart. I hope you realize that this way of going through the motions does not necessarily make for an engaging read. I repeat, its mechanical and feels like some university paper rather than coming from the heart and brain of a metalhead.
        Now I still disagree with you on this album, and for the sake of our mutual understanding, I could indeed try to explain why I do enjoy it so much more than I thought I would, having been not so impressed by the band’s recent efforts. But I have nor your skills nor your talent…

    • First day at AMG International I’m guessing.

      • Artander

        Thanks for the kind welcome.

    • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

      You realize “gratuitous judgement” is a key ingredient to criticism, no? Reviewing involves more than just listing tracks and describing the sound.

      • Artander

        No gratuitous judgement is not a key ingredient to helpful criticism, the key word here being gratuitous as in unjustified, provided without reason. Your opinion is your opinion, allow me to care or not, usually not. Especiallly if said opinion is not properly substantiated. Now, if you enlighten me, engage me with your passion or provide me with a proper frame of reference to better gauge the effort of an artist, in other words, if you make me more intelligent or more knowledgeable or if you sharpen my taste and make my judgment more accurate, I will thank you for it. One critic once said that a proper review should thrive to be as descriptive as possible, avoiding judgment. This helps sharpen perception, because perception is inherently biased. Suffocation lovers cannot realistically expect another Pierced. This will never happen. So why keep complaining that the band can do better? How about trying to actually listen to what these guys have crafted, and give them the credit of having done their best. No, this is not effigy, so what is it? A flawed album? Why? Simply because it does not replicate patterns we got used to and love? This creativity, not rocket science. This has to be put into context of the band’s trajectory and the evolution of music in the meantime. Are they pandering to the lowest common denominator? No. Selling out? you must be kidding.
        I enjoyed this album depite agreeing that it is no masterpiece and I am quite happy about that.

        • It’s a metal album review site. Judgment is the name of the game. And using a band’s prior output as a frame of reference is a common means by which to judge an album. If you disagree with the reviewer’s opinions, fine. But the things you are taking from it are not what was actually written or expressed. Also, explaining to us how you think we should review things is pretty much a waste of your time.

        • El_Cuervo

          Dear Mr. Artander,

          Thanks for your complaint. As you know, customer satisfaction lies at the heart of what we do here at Angry Metal Guy. We treat any criticisms or recommendations with the utmost sincerity and shall certainly consider your comments. Your issue shall be assigned to one of our specially trained customer satisfaction team who will get back to in 7-10 working days.

          Our deepest apologies and best regards,
          El Cuervo, Customer Satisfaction Line Manager

        • GardensTale

          A descriptive review without judgement is not a review, it’s a summary.

          • Artander

            I agree, and you also can agree that judgement should stem from critical analysis otherwise it is merely opinion.

          • All reviews are opinions and subjective in nature.

    • William Baker

      Its ok. But in terms of their more recent albums, “blood oath” was their last GREAT album(and the best since “pierced…”). But OtDL Is still good.

  • Bryan Barkman

    I’ve greatly enjoyed Suffocation when they come up on my Pandora radio, but don’t have any in my library yet. I thought the two songs I heard from this album were very good, but I’ll start with buying something else based on this review.
    So, I’m looking for recommendations, keeping in mind that I really like the technical stuff and a good clean recording is very important..

    • Ferrous Beuller

      Pierced From Within and Effigy of the Forgotten. Stone cold classics.

      • Brent Johnson

        They are but aren’t as technical as this one. Those albums almost sound like a different band.

        • Ferrous Beuller

          Oh, I though he meant Suffocation recommendations. In that case, drop everything and buy The Sceptre of The Ancients by Psycroptic.

          • Brent Johnson

            I think he meant Suffoction too but more in the technical vein and I find PFW EotF to be more straightforward DM. Eh, he should check them all out and see what he likes.

          • Bryan Barkman

            Yeah, I meant Suffocation albums, sorry for the confusion. Turns out Emusic doesn’t have those two 90’s albums and they have all my money right now. So I’ll give Blood Oath a spin. Thanks for all the feedback! .. and that Psycroptic album is on my wish list already, sounded amazing.

          • Bryan Barkman

            Yeah, I listened to the first three songs from PFW and they were great, but it did sound like a different band, more akin to Entombed ‘Left Hand Path’ which I picked up recently.

    • Brent Johnson

      Start with Blood Oath.

    • Eldritch Elitist

      If you liked the promotional songs, then support the album! Don’t let me decide your opinion for you – I really hope that someone gets more enjoyment out of this record than I did.

      As for technical death metal recs, I really enjoyed last year’s Vale of Pnath album, so long as melodeath is your thing.

      • Bryan Barkman

        I’m trying to get a feel for what gets labelled as melodeath. The last review I personally recall with that tag sounded like power metal with growls. Is that pretty much the case or would that be an anomaly of sorts?

        • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

          Lots of it does, yeah. “Iron Maiden with death growls” is the reductive way to describe the genre.

          • ssorg

            I think this only applies to Carcass (who Do It Right). More often it’s emo with growls and double bass pedal.

          • DIMENSIONAL BLEEDTHROUGH

            True, there’s plenty of that stuff too.

        • Try New World Shadows by Omnium Gatherum and any semi-recent Dark Tranquillity album like Atoma or Fiction.

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            Atoma is one of the most well written melodeath albums ever imo.

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            Winter’s Gate from Insomnium is pretty stellar too.

          • And Crimson by Edge of Sanity.

          • HeavyMetalHamster

            Anything Swano touches is gold

          • AndySynn

            Seconded on NWS. NWS FTW, as it were.

            Though I, personally, would recommend one of the interesting DT albums instead of… those.

          • You come over here after listening to too much Adrenaline Mob, run yer mouth and look for trouble. I don’t like it. Not. One. Bit.

          • AndySynn

            Get me my camels, and maybe I’ll stop…

          • Get your own damn camels, you Atoma hater.

          • AndySynn

            I will have my camels. One way or another.

        • Dr. Wvrm

          Take two spins of Be’lakor – Stone’s Reach and call me in the morning.

        • Tales From the Thousand Lakes by Amorphis might also do you some good.

      • Bryan Barkman

        Also I agree with you, the vocals seem very flat on the new songs, at least compared to what he is (or used to be) capable of.
        Apologies for spamming the shit out of the comments here. I’ll back off and enjoy some tunes now ;)

        • This is why we have a comment section. Spam away.

          • AlphaBetaFoxface

            Attack of the blue trees: teal guhm

          • Brent Johnson

            Forgot your meds again?

          • AlphaBetaFoxface

            A young wizard’s house experiment goes wrong: “heal muhm!”

          • AlphaBetaFoxface

            The black market never ceases to impress with its large assortment of wildlife beverages: seal ruhm

          • AlphaBetaFoxface

            I can’t believe it’s not fruit: real pluhm

          • AlphaBetaFoxface

            Honey, I think our cat is anorexic: meal cruhmbs

          • AlphaBetaFoxface

            Fifty bucks a weird, proggy dad rock album from a band I’ve never heard of will make steel’s list this year: deal suhms

          • AlphaBetaFoxface

            A hobo with integrity: steel buhm

          • Point made. Cease and desist the spammery.

          • AlphaBetaFoxface

            America has a problem: real tuhm

          • AlphaBetaFoxface

            “Where two or three tedious, clean-sung doom records gather, Druhm is there among them.” – Matthew 18:20

          • Bryan Barkman

            Sweet baby jesus, what have we duhn

      • Smart US

        Elitist you are! since you have such a sophisticated pallet – what better is out there that would not be boring? Suffocation is great and never less than 4.9 in any record – apart of that one that suffer from sound.

    • Name’s Dalton

      Beyond Creation

      • Bryan Barkman

        Absolutely, Earthborn is a great album. Also, I’m sure I wouldn’t be the first to say that it’s a damn shame that Necrophagist only made two albums. So good…

  • Sean Sky

    The title track seems decent. I don’t have a lot of experience with Suffocation so I don’t have a lot to go on in terms of expectations.

  • Reese Burns

    I’m happy to disagree here. I’ll admit that it’s hardly a standout album, but it’s kept me very entertained throughout my time with it. There hasn’t been too much death metal that’s wowed me this year, and this one is probably one of the most enjoyable death metal releases I’ve heard all year. Still, Dying Fetus is set to take the death metal crown for 2017.

    • Diego Molero

      I’m sorry, but Venenum disagrees.

    • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

      Totally agree. The Dying Fetus album will be the album of the year.

    • Martin Duhaime

      Immolation has the AOTY IMHO.

      • Reese Burns

        Just wait till Dying Fetus is out, it’ll be a close race for sure.

    • Martin Duhaime

      So, after many listens to newest DF platter, what do you think?

      • Reese Burns

        It’s excellent! It’ll be battling it out with Immolation for death metal record of the year!

  • Gage

    I never really “got” Suffocation. Their classic albums are good but they never resonated with me for whatever reason.

  • It’s just me

    I’ve been a fan since 93 (even saw them on the “Breeding The Spawn” tour) and I gotta say, I think this album is killer!! To each his own. m/

  • lagerbottoms

    While your arguments are all very valid, I do enjoy the album a little more than that rating. Definitely not their best record, but I love a few songs and like most.

  • If one of the band members craps his pants during the photo shoot, why not just redo it?

    • The Unicorn

      Frank is looking away like he wants to run!

  • Bortman Begins

    Maybe it’s just me, but I really don’t hear much difference in quality between this album and Pinnacle of Bedlam (although I didn’t really have time of day for that album back in ’13).

    Ah well, Immolation was a hit and the Dying Fetus tracks sound good so far too.

    • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

      The DF album is going to fucking crush!

  • The Forever People

    New album is absolutely killer! Much better than the last one.

  • Death_Black_Metal_Fanatic

    Man, that’s disappointing to hear. I’m still looking forward to hearing it and seeing for myself though. I listened to all of their older albums over the weekend (except for “Breeding the Spawn”, and that’s only because the sound quality is so abysmal…the songs themselves are fantastic though), and I came away with a few thoughts. 1) “Pinnacle Of Bedlam” didn’t impress me as much as it did back in 2013. It’s a decent album, but I remember thinking it was “holy fuck!” worthy when I first heard it. Not this time. 2) Their 2006 self-titled album is a fucking BEAST and is much better than I had remembered. 3) “Blood Oath” is their weakest album overall. It just sort of plods along. 4) “Despise the Sun” is one of the best EP’s ever released, and is the epitome of why I love EP’s so much. Short, brutal, no filler. Having not heard the new album yet, I would rank their albums in the following order (I’m not including the “Human Waste” EP because all of those songs have been re-recorded for other albums, and I’m not including “Breeding the Spawn” due to the aforementioned horrible sound quality, and 6 of the 8 tracks have also been re-recorded for other albums).
    SELF-TITLED
    PIERCED FROM WITHIN
    DESPISE THE SUN
    EFFIGY OF THE FORGOTTEN
    PINNACLE OF BEDLAM
    SOULS TO DENY
    BLOOD OATH

  • Jeremy Freeman

    Not sure how you get your ratings..I actually like it better than Immolations newest album. May sound strange but true…also way better than Obitu(boring) ary’s new one too imo.

  • Brent Mathers

    Very very disappointing…Frank Mullen sounds waaaaay uninspired on this record as do the rest of the band for that matter……

  • The Unicorn

    2.0? Shameful. Disagree. NY represent! This record crushes balls.

  • Randall Robinson

    Not understanding the bad review. This album is awesome. The best since “Pierced.” I’m on the wrong side of 40 and have been a fan since “Human Waste,” and I’m telling you this album crushes.

  • Jaime VG

    I´m a long time fan of the band and I love this album. Sounds like Suffocation and has riffs and brutality for days. The more you listen to it the more variety you find. I don´t like the drum sound but it is not distracting, just mechanical. This album has some instant classics like ‘Return to the Abyss’. This is a solid 3.5 or 4 to me. A fast and to the point sick Suffocation album.

  • Me

    Solid 4.0 for me. This is my fave after Pierced.

  • Here’s Johnny

    Don’t understand the ‘confusion’ part of the review at all, for me this is a very straightforward fast, modern and brutal Suffocation record. It is a 3.5/5 all day long. Nothing new but really enjoyable.

  • Karl Funke

    Have to agree to disagree. This album is their best in years.

  • ben

    Really don’t get this review, like many others. This album absolutely rips to my ears. The tempo changes all make complete sense and don’t seem disconnected from the song imo. My one criticism would be that album has an abrupt start and end. The album as a whole doesn’t really flow or tell a story, but each individual song is killer. To each their own, but most people I’ve spoken with are loving this release!

  • Smart US

    well thats harsh review! and now comparing Of dark light with new Origin.. this is top conceptual work of Suffocation while Origin struggle between tech death metal and punk… Suffocation 4.9 (only Effigy is better) vs origin 2.5

  • PaulyW

    The more I listen, the more I like this one. One problem is the sameness of each track though.

  • Jonny 5

    What???? You blew it, your review sucks, this record is too metal for you, you’re not allowed to listen to suffocation anymore, it’s not for you, you don’t like shit this heavy, you listen to disturbed, this record is for us, I’m going to smoke drugs and stand in the window and headbang to the whole sad world while I play “The Warmth Within the Dark” on repeat….oh wait…I already did that, but you wouldn’t know anything about that……would you Carl…… that’s right…..I just called you carl, cause I don’t even know your stupid name.

  • Jonny 5

    What???? You blew it, your review sucks, this record is too metal for you, you’re not allowed to listen to suffocation anymore, it’s not for you, you don’t like shit this heavy, you listen to disturbed, this record is for us, I’m going to smoke drugs and stand in the window and headbang to the whole sad world while I play “The Warmth Within the Dark” on repeat….oh wait…I already did that, but you wouldn’t know anything about that……would you Carl…… that’s right…..I just called you carl, cause I don’t even know your stupid name.