Well folks, here we are. 2016. The New Year’s hangovers have subsided, the Christmas turkey has been completely devoured, and we’ve all finished asserting that our own lists are better than everyone else’s [we’ve even finished running statistical models which show how my taste is better than yours – AMG]. Metal reliably soldiers on, and getting back into writing about it is like coming back home after a vacation. Everything’s just where it was left, and the sobering realization that it’s time to get back to work, school, and/or parenting again has fully dawned. As I drain the last of the holiday rum into my cup, metal (in this case Suppressive Fire’s first full-length Bedlam) blares through my headphones and a blank document stares me in the face in its blinding white majesty, just like the beginning of last year. It feels good to be home.
The Raleigh-based power trio of Suppressive Fire plays a brand of fun and slightly blackened thrash that skips the pizza entirely. Culling mainly from the “devil metal” of Nunslaughter, Nocturnal Breed’s Fields of Rot, and producer Joel Grind’s main outfit Toxic Holocaust, this is a modern take on thrash, infused with more extreme elements but still being rooted in the ethos of the harsher end of the classics spectrum. In different terms, Bedlam has a great deal in common with Pleasure to Kill but not so much with Ride the Lightning or Among the Living. The vocals of bassist Aaron Schmidt are good and harsh, sounding a lot like Grind’s work on Conjure and Command, itself in particular a large inspiration for the music here overall.
Suppressive Fire fares best when playing quick, taut, and riffy thrashers. “Ironsights” is one such tune, and merges Aura Noir with Toxic Holocaust to create a hooky track that’s a lot of fun without veering into pizza territory. “Nazi Face Melter” sounds like it was an outtake from Conjure and Command that really should’ve made the cut, and the crassly entertaining lyrics detail over the top vigilante violence. “Coup D’état” evokes Exodus and Slayer via Suicidal Angels in riffs and adds in a nifty bass lead before an effective Hammett-inspired solo. There’s enough intensity to get the blood pumping, and the measured use of blast beats makes them effective when they pop up. Opener “Ceasefire” is simple, catchy, and energetic fun that reminded me of later Goatwhore‘s better tunes, and while it would likely sound better in a live setting it’s good on record too. I could go on, but it should suffice to say that there’s at least an EP’s worth of quality stuff on Bedlam.
Unfortunately, Suppressive Fire don’t always put their best foot forward. When they move well past the four minute mark as on “Thy Flesh Consumed” and “Pyrophoric Blood” things get a little dicey. There aren’t enough interesting developments within the extended songs like Blood Tsunami did on Grand Feast for Vultures, making them come across as gratuitous in length and lessening their impact significantly. The title track’s verse riff is good but the clean intro is anticlimactic and fails to build any dramatic tension, and it doesn’t do enough with its five and a half minutes to really keep your attention for that long. On the bright side, Grind’s production is good and sounds like Erik Rutan produced Nunslaughter with a particularly snappy snare drum.
The inescapable feeling of Suppressive Fire not spending enough time redlining their speedometers keeps coming back, and I can’t seem to shake it off. While even black metal frequently gets away with it slowing it down for extended periods of time, Bedlam doesn’t have “Freezing Moon” or “Inno A Satana” type breaks. Instead, it opts to spend chunks of time between midpaced and almost fast; a notably lively jog, if you will. While blast beats pepper the record, something like Reign in Blood still sounds faster. Unlike that record, we don’t see red and get a nice punch to the gut again and again. Instead, we get a decent amount of quality headbanging fodder that’s tailor made for a fun time with friends and beers when Municipal Waste is just too obnoxiously tryhard to cut it. It’s good, but not top-shelf stuff; the “guests we kinda like” whiskey in audio form.
All told, Bedlam isn’t a bad way to start 2016’s reviewing. It isn’t a great way either. Given the generally low quality of releases in January though, Suppressive Fire might stand out more this month. With that in mind, I don’t think I’ll be coming back to Bedlam all too often throughout 2016. The album is professional, shows great potential, and has a few gnarly rippers. Not bad for their first rodeo, but the sultry calling of their influences and better contemporaries will drown out the voice which tells you to keep this in constant rotation.