Suffocation @ O2 Bar Academy, London

There’s nothing better to flush away those Monday blues than an evening of death metal and if it doesn’t wake you up for the week, you must be dead. What’s more, the fact that the gig has been moved from Islington’s Academy to its smaller brother upstairs cause s further aural devastation and without any explanation as to why this has changed.

Either way, the masses bustle in and are warmed up with a slightly more gentle approach to death metal through openers Fallujah. By using the word gentle, many will cringe in disgust but we use the term lightly as they approach brutality with a progressive approach fuelled with melodies. At times it feels as though the US based metallers have to force the technicality in a hope to be further accepted but regardless the sound is tight despite such a small proximity to play in.

Thrashers Havok have no issue with a tiny space, as they’re used to ripping open intimate shows with their speedy onslaught. Despite being slightly out of place on this line-up the quartet are bursting with an energy that slowly disperses into the crowd. Their sing-along anthems such as ‘D.O.A’ and ‘Covering Fire’ are met with the usual enjoyment as the band thrash through a couple of new tracks from upcoming album ‘Unnatural Selection’. From what is heard, it sounds as though Havok are continuing on with what they know best and neo-thrash shall return.

As expected, if one goes within certain proximity of the Cephalic Carnage dressing room, the stench of weed will seep into your nostrils and it’s pretty much the same story as they walk out of stage. Well known for their love of the dope, the band are full of jokes to try and keep the crowd giggling but their music itself doesn’t seem to get the response desired. Their technical deathgrind is the bizarre brutality experienced on record but the pits aren’t as frequent as predicted and frantic, tinnitus-inducing bass is played alongside ridiculous blastbeats. The setlist is pretty standard, with favourites such as ‘Kill For Weed’ and ‘Raped By an Orb’ with frontman Lenzig’s vocal vomit spewing out for all to embrace. Their usual closer of ‘Black Metal Sabbath’ sees further comedy with black metal piss takes and ensues their final pit for the evening, leaving the band worthy of skulking off for another joint.

When news spread of Frank Mullen being unable to make all Suffocation live shows from now on around the same time of new album ‘Pinnacle of Bedlam’ was unleashed, it left many in the scene baffled. As promised, the band continued to tour and this visit sees Dying Fetus’ John Gallagher taking the mike responsibilities and being a lot more dynamic on stage than with his usual comrades, perhaps due to the lack of guitar weighing him down. Starting from the “classics” pile, Suffocation relentlessly rip into ‘Thrones of Blood’. They may have been in the game for a quarter of a century now, but the American death metal A-team prove they’re still as brutal as ever with guitarist Terrance Hobbs’ slamming riffs still as relevant as back when they were spawned.

This year’s full length ‘Pinnacle of Bedlam’ has been hailed as one of their best in recent years and so the band exhibit why with tracks like ‘Purgatorial Punishment’ and ‘My Demise’ causing bodies to flail. At times, the absence of Mullen can be sensed and the hand chop is sorely missed and although Gallagher’s vocals are much deeper, it still does justice to the show and as the Fetus man says himself, ‘Infecting the Crypts’ is likely to have created the whole slam death metal genre. So, what better way to end the show than with an anthem of brutality, loved by many and proving that Suffocation are still the dads of death metal, deserving a larger venue in future.


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