We often overlook this amazing little gem from Suffocation – but there’s no doubt it’s among the band’s most satisfying work.
To a generation of the underground, things are still all about ‘Effigy of The Forgotten’, ‘Pierced From Within’ and ‘Breeding The Spawn’, and to a lesser degree, ‘Human Waste’.
Rightly so. That classic four album run set a certain standard in the emergent technical death metal of the time.
But none of them, I’d argue, have quite the same condensed ferocity and thickness of tone as this.
It’s fast, somehow blunt and sharp at the same time, and absolutely unforgiving in a way that they’d never quite touched before.
As the last release before their temporary break up, it also surely distilled some of the sounds that made their ‘Souls To Deny’ return record a few years later so brilliant.
It goes without saying that the brutality and chunk of those first releases still stands even in this day and age. It’s just that there’s just a certain sterility about them; a crispness that doesn’t always let the mood through.
And that’s where ‘Despise The Sun’ is different. Listen as ‘Funeral Inception’ gathers pace, accelerating to hundreds of miles per hour on the snare – the effect is like a vacuum, sucking air into the the riff before spitting it out again at the breakdowns.
That surpassing speed, and much else that’s good about this EP is mostly down to Dave Culross on drums. Stepping in from Malevolent Creation to replace the departed Mike Smith, he’s a revelation across these tracks.
In fact I think his role in the faster ends of death metal drumming has been rather a forgotten one. In the highlight title track, his main riff blast beat is absolutely scorching.
And yet it’s excitingly detailed within that. Listen as the riff takes off – there’s a single strange but amazing snare stroke in the middle of it that comes from nowhere, out of the main drift of the beat, but creating a what’s the equivalent of a left-right hook blow taking you completely by surprise.
It’s the small things like this that make it.
There’s a bit more restraint in the abstruse technicality of the bands riffing as well that helped it all be just a midge more digestible than the albums that preceded it. Of course it’s impressively dextrous. More important, it’s got a job to do, and it does it.
You could argue that the version of ‘Catatonia’ is a bit better in its original form on ‘Human Waste’. I’m not sure ‘Despise The Sun’ actually needed it at all. But it’s hardly a complaint.
I often like to think this EP set a new kind of tonal standard that emerging bands on the likes of Willowtip would follow – bands that followed this EP’s mould of breathtaking speed and an absolutely violent determination to release the maximum kinetic energy inside a four minute song.
As I mentioned earlier, they returned a few years after this with ‘Souls To Deny’, the album that probably remains their highlight of the reformation era. This EP surely contained some of the seeds that would eventually germinate on that awesome slab.
In 1998 ‘Despise The Sun’ was just caught somewhere between two stools, at a time when Death Metal was becoming less and less interesting to all but the committed. Yet it was a great transitional time for bands pushing themselves just that bit harder as well, even if it wasn’t to be feted like the glory days.
If you’ve never heard this, you need to; and if you don’t own it, you should.
– Earl Grey ::: 04/06/17