Monday, June 18, 2012

Suffer The Silence - Good Mourning (2012)

Ah, Texas. The home of the death penalty, oil tycoons, and larger than life attitude. Then there's Suffer The Silence, a death/doom band from Laredo, who are struggling to find their voice in the ever-improving American metal scene. Formed in 2005 by brothers Rafael and Marcus Guerra, this two (and sometimes three) piece band haven't quite got their collective finger on the pulse of the genre. What they possess in desire, they lack in core production values and mid level writing skill. On their new album, "Good Mourning," they ramble and meander through five tracks that just don't seem to have any point.

A sweetly played acoustic guitar opens "Somewhere," joined soon by a painfully slow drum beat, and the cry of an electric guitar. With each passing tom and snare, the track builds an atmospheric quality, a light haze that coats everything. But as the vocals enter, the mix comes into question, with the music itself overpowering the screams of Marcus Guerra. The softly spoken vocals don't suffer the same fate, as they create an eerie tone to the measures that follow. But as the music explodes again, the harsh vocals are pushed to the back of the line. The individual pieces have a hard time shining through with any power, as the mix drains the emotion and energy from the instrumental. If you look past the glaring technical errors to the core of the song itself, you find an explosive piece of work, from the punch of the drums, down to the airy guitar work. With each passing second, you begin to lose track of the production, and hone in on each separate string, each singular drum hit.

Lightly entwined guitar parts form the opening for "Elsewhere," with small additions coming over the course of the four minute duration. As an interlude of sorts, this is a success, albeit one of massive length. It would have been just as effective as a two minute piece, if not moreso. It leads directly into"Not Here," which itself begins with an acoustic intro. The understated beginning now make the previous track feel wholly unnecessary, as it were. What builds from that beginning is a piece of music that could be classified as "post doom" at times, before the main chunk begins. Unfortunately, the hoarse vocals get buried in a sea of guitars and drums, as you struggled to feel their impact. The uneven nature of the production creates so many sound issues, especially in the more dense moments here, with only the guitars managing to come through with any sort of clarity. While the drums peak through time and again, they are left feeling jumbled and random. And for a track that stretches over that magical ten minute mark, it becomes very hard to sort it all out by tracks end.

Following the previous formula, "Nowhere" takes the interlude notion to the extreme. While this particular installment does contain a rather harsh and aggressive portion towards the end, it really serves as a drawn out break between epic tracks, building on the same clean acoustics, step by step. Each addition to the mix seems to turn the volume and intensity up by one notch, but never enough to feel it in your chest. And the aptly titled "Never" closes things out, while simultaneously living up to its name. It never quite gets the momentum going again, with sparse waves of guitars and rolling drums leaving too many gaps in the early going to recover from. Repeated chords and drum pattern are about all you are left with, cover in the slimy ooze of poorly mixed harsh vocals. This is not to say there aren't bright spots to be found. Small doses of heavy, yet melodic guitar work do shine through the clouds here and there, giving you something to hang your hat on. But in the scale of a thirteen minute track, there simply isn't enough to make a lasting impression.

It is difficult to call the concept of this album "ambitious," mainly because I am not totally sure if there was a concept at all. Over the course of five tracks and over fifty minutes of music, Suffer The Silence never seem to hit a stride, with sporadic bits of fully fleshed out writing struggling to find a home. And while a bad recording can certainly ruin an album, this one was lacking before anyone ever hit the record button. What is even more troubling is that you never get a clear idea of what comes next. How the band evolves and refines their sound will be key in making the follow up to "Good Mourning" worth the listen. But if anyone can direct them to a good engineer, it couldn't hurt.


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