"Pinnacle of Bedlam" is the 7th full-length studio album by US, New York based death metal act Suffocation. The album was released through Nuclear Blast Records in February 2013. There´s been a lineup change since "Blood Oath (2009)" as drummer Mike Smith has left to be replaced by Dave Culross (mostly known for his long stint with Malevolent Creation). It´s the second time the latter is involved with Suffocation as he also layed down the drum tracks on the "Despise the Sun (1998)" EP. The rest of the lineup who recorded "Blood Oath (2009)" are intact.
From the first notes of the opening track "Cycles Of Suffering", it´s abundantly clear that Suffocation have not slowed down or become less brutal, nor have they any intention of taking any prisoners this time around. It´s not like it´s a surprise, but I´m still greatly impressed by these guys every time they release a new album. While "Sullen Days" (which is also one of the highlight of the album) is the only track on the album that I consider slightly innovative in terms of sounding different from the band´s trademark sound, and lack of innovation is usually considered a negative trade, Suffocation have over the years proven to be an exception to that rule. They are proof that no matter how "retro" sounding music you play, it´s all about how you deliver the music and how skilled you are as a composer. And that´s where Suffocation excel. The music on "Pinnacle of Bedlam" does sound slightly more contemporary/current than most of the band´s output, but that is probably mostly due to the sound production (some of the breakdowns also have a deathcore touch).
The playing is as always on a high technical level. Precision breaks, multible tempo changes (including blast beats, über heavy breakdowns and everything in between), blistering solo work and those sub woofer deep growls courtesy of Frank Mullen. Tracks like the above mentioned "Sullen Days", "Cycles Of Suffering" and the title track are killer death metal, and while not all tracks on the album stand out equally much, they are all on a high compositional level and delivered with a rawness and brutality that few can rival. As usual Suffocation have opted to re-record a track from "Breeding the Spawn (1993)" in "Beginning of Sorrow" (they´ve re-recorded tracks off that album several times throughout the years). Mike Smith makes a guest appearance on "Beginning of Sorrow".
"Pinnacle of Bedlam" is yet another great death metal album by Suffocation. While there have been a few tiny bumps in the band´s discography, this is a band that cannot fail. If you in any way enjoy brutal technical death metal, "Pinnacle of Bedlam" is an album of the highest caliber in that style. While I personally feel the more clear sounding contemporary production doesn´t fit Suffocation´s music as well as the more raw productions of earlier releases by the band, it´s arguably a powerful and professional sound, which I´m sure many others will praise greatly, so my minor issue with the production values is pretty surely an aquired taste. A 4 star (80%) rating is deserved.