In unbridled nascent forms and eagerly captured ambition far beyond their capabilities the stargazing progressive death/thrash metal of Minneapolis, Minnesota band Compassion Dies would soon shape into the brutally sophisticated blackened death of Suffering Hour we know today. To look upon their latest EP ‘Dwell’ in 2019 and consider where the leap occurred you’d have to point to the three year void between their ‘Forseeing Exemptions to a Dismal Beyond’ (2014) EP and the unanimously well-received full-length debut ‘In Passing Ascension’ (2017). They appeared to be a young band pulling influences from The Chasm, and the (then peaking) second wave trend of technical thrash metal, in equal parts yet little beyond hard work and development of modern compositional techniques could account for such a divergent leap. What appeared to be a riff monster created with the silence beyond ‘Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm’ (and a few Vektor chords) would soon transmogrify into ultra-serious beast heavily compared to Inquisition and Deathspell Omega. Hailed as trendless, though their influences were worn in obviation, a stupendous mastery of slippery blackened death metal forms found Suffering Hour a critical darling, an underground ‘somebody’ and eternally with a modern gem under their belt. We’ve waited two years for a second taste of the black bloods flame, how does it hit?
As an 18+ minute single composition seemingly intent on achieving the sum of ‘In Passing Ascension’ while pushing those norms forward to create a singular mountainous form the entirety of ‘Dwell’ is initially daunting. Deeper growls and tangled lead guitar tones achieve a blackened death balance that is one part Serpent Column for its urgent and dramatic holistic statement and a second part The Chasm for its genre spanning progressive death metal rhythms that jog and flit between movements as if ranting until out of breath in a brutally dissonant harangue. The tightly wound motions of ‘In Passing Ascension’ are given a flowing freedom, a ringing atmospheric set of rising movements that jog forward beneath guttural bellows. An entirely new Suffering Hour is built and then destroyed within this song and the result is a certain positive result for the rabid fan of their first album but, it may not lend itself to repetition as much as the full-length had.
There is some discomfort in the nearly four minute introduction to “Dwell” that is both throwaway and adept at the same time with any negative aspect being vacuumed up into the sheer force of the untamed precision of the sky-blurring death metal that follows. At the ten minute mark the comparisons to ‘Farseeing the Paranormal Abysm’ should be inescapable for the established fan and beyond that section I felt they’d lost control of the arc of the entirety. I wouldn’t say a less ‘serious’ tone lies in the scrambling theatrics of the last several minutes of the piece but it did feel like dramatic filler meant to pad the length of the release. Once familiar with the full song and in the middle of a 2-3 hour session on repeat I found myself yearning to move on primarily because I felt a good nine minutes of the EP is either build or release without any great compositional meaning attached beyond literal introduction and disintegrating outro. The spectacle of the ‘one big piece’ wore off remarkably fast.
As my mind pared down “Dwell” into its finest eight or so minutes it did absolutely reveal itself as a worthy step in the development of Suffering Hour. It won’t appear meant to surprise but instead to delight the listener with an acrobatic display of transitional fluidity where the rhythmic flow of the piece is perhaps its only reasonable point of interest. There is a looseness, a sort of freeing of the ‘id’ that had been felt, again, with the transcendental vision of ‘Invicta’ last year that I feel in ‘Dwell’ today. Whatever parallel you’ll draw the result is a fine piece of music that combines the unorthodox black metal histrionics of today with the brutally avant-garde atmospherics that death metal has been forever changed by. To say that Suffering Hour is approaching a terminally ‘modern’ state might suggest your interest in certain guitar techniques and their persistent application in todays storm of occult and unorthodox releases, in this sense ‘Dwell’ won’t stand out on your black metal shelf outside of its interesting balance of pace, which feels introspective more than it does brutal or rapacious.
Though I am somewhat hesitant to suggest that ‘Dwell’ is a lasting statement and not a merely solid stone in a shallow river, there is something thrilling about returning to the world of Suffering Hour and finding a darker extremity, an unearthly miasma cloud surrounding their atmospheric values. Much of my recommendation comes from the narrative feeling of the piece which may be predictable in some sense but, at no point is the actual guitar content lacking and the listening experience remains above average. Moderately high recommendation. Though a preview is hardly possible with this type of release, I will suggest that my favorite point of the composition comes around ten minutes in and this part best represents the golden core of the experience.
Devoid terra firma. 4.0/5.0
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