Suffer the Silence - A Welcoming to Departure Review
by Mark Hensch
Laredo, Texas death metal trio Suffer The Silence is a hungry young band who are making the best of their second chance. Formed from the ashes of a straightforward death metal act named Triton, Suffer the Silence started as an accident of sorts and grew to be something more.
Guitarist Marcus Guerra had toiled in Triton alongside bassist Evan Cox to little success. Triton focused on simplistic, brutal groove, and unfortunately little else. Wanting more technicality and generally lacking musical direction, the band disbanded in March 2005. Guerra describes the period following this necessary split as one of "total dismay" and marked a time in which the driven musician "ceased to play music of any sort for many months before finally giving music another try." Marcus had found love for a "simpler form of death metal, unlike the technical American death metal of Triton." Meeting up with Evan at a Triton one-off show in October 2005, the two decided to pursue these new thoughts in a refurbished band together. Rounding things out was Marcus' brother and percussion maestro Raphel Guerra, and with this last piece of puzzle Suffer the Silence was formed.
All of the above was summarized more or less from the band's lengthy biography and is intended to give adequate background to what makes the Suffer the Silence template work. As stated previously in the above text, Marcus took the loss of Triton very hard and went through a state of mourning wholly devoid of musical composition. Finding himself drawn to progressive doom/death metal, and simpler heavy music in general, these early ideas swelled to create A Welcoming to Departure.
Recorded in January 2006, A Welcoming to Departure earns its title rightly. Throughout the six (well technically five, as one is a bonus track) tracks here one senses a group of anxious artists frantically trying to depart from their past. Technical, complex, and organic, the music here floats in and out of bludgeoning massacres to delicate sing-alongs and back again. Though each cut is an individual piece of its own, overall a pervading theme of regret and overcoming it hangs over the disc.
Just like most periods of adversity, there is plenty of good and bad on A Welcoming to Departure. In terms of mixing, the disc is a bit muffled at times, and in terms of song composition, a little bit more focus would be great. At times a little messy, Welcoming manages to clean up well on repeated listens. Yes, there are many random sections and even a few haphazard ends that can never be tied together; regardless, the passion and energy here will make one forgive such shortcomings.
Good song placement also helps. Opener "Subtle Consumption (Of Oneself)" is perfect as the first track, as it showcases the fact that this band is firmly rooted in the Floridian death metal tradition of brutal, grooving riffs. Some absolutely wicked bassnotes flicker like maddened sparks of electricity beneath crushing guitars and manic percussion, and the song later surprises with a jarring jaunt through uptempo tremlo picking and eventually an organic spasm of lush riffing. Rounding things out here is an enthralling clean passage which soon blossoms into a deep frenzy of death metal. "Transverse in Regret" keeps the momentum flowing but soon falters near its end. At first propelled by excellent growling and driving grooves, a lapse into awkward, quasi-emotive guitar tones and terrible clean vocals drags things down a bit. Thankfully, skinsman Raphael Guerra is a very capable drummer and helps a surprisingly memorable guitar lead out of the quagmire. From here, the band goes into a largely instrumental chopsfest that vaguely recalls Mastodon but is decent on its own. My only complaint is that the drumming (while grand) could have been a bit lower to make the guitars sound better, but I am nitpicking and this song is alright.
The next portion features "Better Off Dead" and "A Life Unlived." "Better Off Dead" is a blitzkrieg of wicked, Cannibal Corpse-esque guitars and brutal drumming. This song is probably my favorite off the whole demo, mainly because it wavers so easily between simplistic, murderous intent and more complex violence. Plenty of tempo-shifts, breakdowns, and guitar wankings exist to please the tech-death fans, and elegant transitions into Opeth-worshipping hallways of crystalline sound are surprisingly slick. Meanwhile, "A Life Unlived" starts off with some slow start-stop techniques and later seesaws with a swaying groove. I can imagine this song being a lot better if the guitars had been mixed deeper...a lot more weight would have made this puppy a killer indeed! Fast and furious, this is a great fist-pumper, and fun stuff to boot.
"What Words Will Never Convey" starts off with some bland clean notes bolstered a tad by wicked, epic drums. When the song eventually kicks into its blazing overdrive, it ends up being pretty good....pretty good until those shallow clean vocals return, killing the atmosphere the band had been working so hard to build. Though they excel at morphing from heavy death to quiet, mature progressive doom/death, Suffer The Silence has trouble crafting clean passages and leads that really stick out from each other. By itself this probably would have been a underwhelming close to the demo, but for funsies a cover of Mozart's "Turkish March" has been added on. Completely outside the emotions and realms of the disc as a whole, it is still pretty cool hearing this played so flawlessly, and will undoubtedly entertain and amuse with its lightehearted close to the demo.
A Welcoming to Departure has many pros and cons---pros in its integrity, bursts of technical prowess, and catchy hooks, cons in production, songcraft, and brutality. This is never going to be the heaviest, clearest, or most streamlined of starts, but Suffer the Silence at least believe in what they play and know how to do so with a fair amount of entertaining ability. There are plenty of bad releases and this isn't one of them folks. With a little practice and further exploration of their sound Suffer the Silence will be a damned good band.
1. Subtle Consumption (Of Oneself)
2. Transverse in Regret
3. Better Off Dead
4. A Life Unlived
5. What Words Will Never Convey
6. Turking March (Mozart Cover)
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