Maturity. Not exactly a word one associates with blasting death metal. But twenty years into their career, SUFFOCATION have once again taken their bludgeoning sonic force and compressed it into a 41-minute eardrum assault in Blood Oath.

From the get-go, the band displays a much more methodical approach. The opening track, “Blood Oath,” gradually building layers of thick, bottom-heavy riffage, as oppossed to hammering the listener head-on. Instead creating an atmosphere of dread before the eventual pummeling. “Dismal Dream,” on the other hand, commences with the aural beatdown, almost immediately delivering a torrent of blasting speed. This is offset by the anchor-heavy “Cataclysmic Purification,” which features some absurdly crushing riffs during the song’s mid-section as well as it’s ending. “Mental Hemorrhage” meanwhile executes a complex maze of riffing that shifts from blinding speed to dense layers of powerful, epic peaks with a series of tempo and dynamic changes.

Lyrically the band covers a variety of upbeat material such as gang violence, religious corruption, and apocalyptic showdowns, etc. But perhaps the most revealing, heart-felt lyrics come from divorcee Frank Mullen, whose graphic description of disemboweling his ex-wife in “Marital Decimation,” is sure to become a classic for all those who may have had a bad break up, SUFFO-style.

All in all, Blood Oath is the SUFFOCATION their fans know and love, yet delivering a much more mature piece that may require repeat listenings to pick up all the details. A bit of a challenge for those unable to tolerate the hammering on top of the subtleties, but ultimately resulting in a longevity that most of this generations “metal by MySpace” bands will fail to attain. (Nuclear Blast)

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