Suicide Silence – ‘The Black Crown’ Album Review

Suicide Silence aren’t exactly shrinking violets. Of late they seem to have appeared everywhere from awards ceremonies (the Golden Gods love the band) to magazine covers, their heavily tattooed frames almost as well-known now as their music is. With the stated aim of becoming as instantly recognisable from their recordings as bands such as Slipknot, korn or the Deftones, the band have set themselves no easy task and on this, their third album, they have responded to the challenge by making themselves as inordinately heavy as possible, offering not a shred of quarter for those unable to take the pace and the result is an album of maxed-out, rumbling brutality that still manages to capture a significant amount of atmosphere and subtlety amidst it’s bowel-loosening grooves.

The first track tells you all you need to know about the band’s ferocious attack – the guitars are stunningly heavy and set to a mid-paced groove that is all the heavier for its slow-motion attack while the bass rumbles up at you from the earth’s core (all the more if you’re listening on a system with a sub-woofer) all of which is tied together by the hate-filled screams of Mitch Lucker whose sanity you can only fear for after being exposed to this record. What makes this work so well though is not so much the consistent in-your-face extremity, but the subtle nuances the band weave into their songs – a brief, sweet lead or a growing sense of unease via a subtle clean guitar part buried in the mix – which mark them out as exceptional song-writers as well as musicians.

Servants of the riff will be thrilled by the second track, the cunningly titled ‘O.C.D’ which hammers out of the speakers with considerable force and recalls the finest moments of acts such as Lamb of God with its mighty, rumbling groove. It is music to head bang to; music to unleash one’s frustrations to in the mosh pit and it’s a stunning example of the genre that does everything Suicide Silence claimed it would in their cocky, but entirely justifiable, press statements. Equally bold is the rough-edged ‘Human violence’ which sees a tightly coiled death-metal riff unleashed form a welter of feedback with the drums pounding away in pursuit for the duration of the relatively brief track with guitarist Mark Heylmun even finding time to drop in a nod to Slayer via the wailing solo.

Taking a moment to slow, if not stop, the pace, ‘you only live once’ is a nimble fingered beast that recalls the more experimental aspects of Dillinger Escape Plan (think ‘phone home’ rather than ‘Panasonic Youth’ and you’re in the right ballpark although this is heavier… much heavier) allied to a blistering, straight-up-death-metal frame and when the band unleash the crushing riffs of the second half it’s not unlike being caught in a stampede. The unstoppable ‘fuck everything’ is next, and it transpires to be a slow-boiling cauldron of hatred that is near suffocating thanks to the density of the riffs and the frighteningly intense vocal performance that drips malice. Mercifully shorter, ‘March to the black crown’ is a claustrophobic nightmare filled with whispered voices and half-threats before ‘witness the addiction’ appears atop a chrome-plated riff that marks the track out as something special indeed. Like watching a David Lynch film, there’s searing blackness and unsettling touches in every corner, but it is also unbearably fascinating, drawing you ever deeper into the band’s twisted web. Korn’s Jonathan Davis even rears his head on the track and in point of fact it seems that guesting with a band of such ferocity brings out the best in the front-man as he delivers a fine performance against Mitch’s abrasive attack. It’s distressingly heavy, undeniably inventive and it is clear that not only have Suicide Silence developed a sound that is all their own, but that they deserve every plaudit that’s been thrown their way of late.

Offering a touch of melody, albeit buried deep in the mix, ‘cross-eye catastrophe’ adds a touch of light to the band’s overwhelming shade, via  a gentle backing vocal that augments the overwhelming brutality perfectly. ‘Smashed’, on the other hand, offers no such relief being a full-tilt aggressive rant of monumental proportions. ‘The only thing that sets us apart’ does indeed set the band apart with a briefly psychedelic introduction giving way to the band’s familiar barrage of metal. It’s a brief glimpse of the tightly practiced unit that exist behind the jaw-dropping displays of ferocity and it highlights clearly why Suicide Silence are considered the inventive kings of the new-death-metal movement. Final track ‘cancerous skies’ brings the album to a fist-pumping close, more likely than not leaving the listener utterly drained and in awe of a band who have so comprehensively torn them to shreds over the duration of the record.

As the press release is at pains to remind us, the metal scene contains both leaders and followers. Suicide Silence, in one sense, do follow in that they reference a variety of metal behemoths from over the years with touches of Meshuggah, Korn, DEP, Opeth Slayer, Pantera and Lamb of God all rearing their bloody heads, but ultimately the band is far greater than the sum of these parts and they have clearly carved their own identity out of the music they grew up battering their brains to. Consummate musicians all, there is no musical weak-spot on the album and the production is crystal clear and utterly solid. For fans of intense, crushing death metal, ‘the black crown’ is a stand-out achievement in the band’s already impressive catalogue. Quite stunning.

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