No, Kronos hasn’t died. But yes, this is a Unique Leader record which he isn’t reviewing. Rather than his cold, dead hands, I obtained it via the surprisingly bureaucratic AMG promo distribution system instituted this year by our Weberian overlords. A quick glance at the Unique Leader roster will leave you entirely unsurprised by the record in question: Suffer by Lord of War, a US-based death metal troupe. It’s technical with a touch of melody and atmosphere, branching out just slightly from the norm. There is a veritable horde of cripplingly average Unique Leader bands to scurry away from, but have the Lords gone far enough?
In short, they’re close to the edge but don’t escape. Suffer is composed of entirely competent technical death metal designed to get the blood pumping and impress with superior instrumentation. The riffs never fall below average (but never raise above good) and it’s a snappy, fast album which feels quicker than its 45 minutes on account of the tracks’ brevity. Chuggy, core-ish breakdowns and rhythms are periodically used to diversify and transition between lead riffs. They effectively induce head-banging (or at least head-nodding) and do vary the tempo. Short ambient intros, outros or interludes serve a similar purpose in partitioning the music to highlight preceding or succeeding heavy parts. It’s largely solid if unremarkable.
Nonetheless, I find myself liking Suffer more when it’s being melodic. They describe themselves as “atmospheric death metal” and when this is fulfilled, they do more to stand out. Towards the end of “Nexus of Hate” a melodic top layer is draped over the standard aggression and it makes for a reasonably good composition. I wouldn’t go as far as to call it melodeath but perhaps atmospheric death is indeed suitable. This idea matures by “Behold the Harvest” and the subtler compositions rear their heads to underpin much of this track. It’s all the better for it. They reappear sporadically throughout but of note is also “Hamunaptra,” wherein the topping melody legitimately recalls the not-awful-if-you-switch-your-brain-off Mummy movies from 1999 and 2001 (I seem to recall that Hamunaptra is important in them). It offers something beyond the typical chug and shredding.
Rounding out the package, Suffer is very tightly put together. The musicianship is strong and each member rips through their material. While avoiding the sterility I’ve come to associate with Unique Leader production by retaining some rawness and rough feedback, it still feels somewhat artificial in its orderly precision. The deathcore-influenced breakdowns have that staccato feel and it’s far from organic-sounding. This is par for the course for Unique Leader but I wish they would experiment a little more with the way they make their roster sound. The limited dynamic range is also disappointingly typical.
Those who can’t get enough tech death may find enjoyable material here but the parts which stand out for me are quite few. It certainly isn’t bad and it engages reasonably well for its run-time but there’s no real reason to listen to this while I’ve still got Fallujah‘s The Flesh Prevails in my library.
Releases worldwide: July 8th, 2016