Album Title: Suffer & Become
Label: Century Media Records
Date of Release: 26 January 2024
There’s a time and a place to have your face, ears, and every other appendage ripped off by some extreme music and, for me, that time is now, courtesy of this beast of an album, ‘Suffer & Become’ by Vitriol. This review comes later than it’s release for two reasons. Firstly, it happened to be released on the most insanely busy day of the year so far. And secondly, I have needed a little bit of time with it in order to make sense of my feelings towards it. To say that it’s no shrinking violet is to put it mildly and then some.
Indeed, the title of this sophomore release from the Portland, Oregon-based death metal wrecking ball says it all. To listen to ‘Suffer & Become’ is to suffer. Your ears will bleed, your head will spin, and you’ll probably need a lie down in a darkened room after every run-through. According to the press release, however, the reference to suffering was meant more in terms of the band rather than the poor, unsuspecting listener. Apparently, this wasn’t an easy record to bring to fruition but suffer they did, and this is the result of their not inconsiderable efforts.
I can’t comment upon the 2019 debut full-length, ‘To Bathe From The Throat Of Cowardice’, as I completely missed it. Apparently, though, it was well-received and having lived with ‘Suffer & Become’ over the past week or two, I have no doubt the same will be said of this album, too. I mean, how couldn’t it be received favourably? This is a behemoth of an extreme metal record that pushes everything to a point where it genuinely tests my levels of endurance. At times, it is just plain nasty, as the quartet go all out to make this as uncomfortable a listening experience as it is possible to be without fully descending into indecipherable noise territory. At these points, ‘Suffer & Become’ is a really difficult listen.
But then, just as I’m thinking I ought to give up and leave it to the braver souls amongst us, the sadists go and pull me back in with a hint of melody, a sickeningly wicked groove, or a moment of sheer brilliance that cannot simply be overlooked. And so I stick around, and have done so enough to enable me to bring you this review.
The first hint of melody comes from the opening track, ‘Shame And It’s Afterbirth’ but not until Virriol have thrown you through the ringer. After a quiet but disturbing, almost discordant opening, all hell, fire and brimstone is unleashed. Thunderous drumming, thick riffs, wailing lead embellishments, and a swirling vortex of incredible brutality from all corners of the band, comprised of guiratist/vocalist Kyle Rasmussen, bassist/vocalist Adam Roethlisberger, drummer Matt Kilner, and guitarist Stephen Ellis. The whole thing is just so intense; there’s no let-up, no space to gather your thoughts, or to take anything approaching a breather. There’s more than a hint of the likes of Hate Eternal to the tumult, as well as Anaal Nathrakh and a touch of Zyklon perhaps. And then, out of nowhere, the song changes as sweep picking ushers in a really melodic section, full of atmosphere but still heavy as a really heavy thing. It’s this section that really thrills me and convinces me to continue with this album.
It’s worth saying at this point, that I’m not overly sold on the production. I appreciate that it’s always going to be a difficult task to hear everything that’s going on when the music is just this overblown, complex, and heavy, but I can’t help feeling that the production lets my enjoyment down just a touch, with an audible hiss and sense of clutter in evidence. I’m not saying that the mix is awful because I’ve heard much worse over the years. But it does cast a slight shadow over proceedings if I’m being totally honest.
The quasi-symphonic and dystopian sounds that emerge within ‘The Flowers Of Sadism’ are really nicely done, adding a dark, foreboding edge alongside the almost relentless bludgeoning, led by slower, more lurching riffs at the heart of the track. The introductory churning, groovy riff of ‘The Isolating Lie Of Learning Another’ is easily one of my other high points on ‘Suffer & Become’, a welcome moment of variety within the otherwise suffocating listening experience that hints at a bit of early Nile within some of the guitar work unless I’m hideously mistaken. As the some progresses, there’s another few moments of melody that poke through, too, culminating in a great lead guitar solo.
And then there’s ‘Survival’s Careening Inertia’ which deserves a little mention because, for the better part of two minutes, we get a break from the relentless, face-melting death metal onslaught that so typifies this album. Naturally the second-half of the song sees a return to the ‘norm’, but for a while, we’re treated to some acoustic guitar melody, all on it’s lonesome, before the drums enter alongside the bass, some atmospheric synths sounds and greater guitar layering. I really like it, not least because you can really focus on the drumming of Matt Kilner and his incredible technical abilities. I mean, the guy is like a machine on hyperdrive at times.
As I reach the all-important conclusion bit, it hits me that I have listened to ‘Suffer & Become’ a ridiculous number of times by now, but I still cannot say, hand on heart, that I have fully fallen for its charms. The technical abilities of all four members of the band are without question unfathomably brilliant, whilst their unrelenting desire and ambition to push at the boundaries of extremity is to be admired. But that’s just it. I admire this album. I admire what the quartet are trying to do, I admire their abilities, and I admire the total commitment to the cause. But for all the effort I have put into listening and dissecting the music, I simply don’t love it. That said, ‘Suffer & Become’ is an utter brute and will be loved and revered by many, of that I’m sure. I just wish the production was slightly better, and that there was a touch more in terms of melody or groove to keep me fully engaged throughout.
The Score of Much Metal: 85%