(We present Andy Synn‘s review of the second album by Minnesota-based Suffering Hour, which will be released by Profound Lore on February 19th.)
It remains a true pleasure, pure and unsullied, to watch a band grow and ascend from humble beginnings towards true greatness.
Such is the case with Colorado terror-trio Suffering Hour, whose second album, The Cyclic Reckoning, may quite possibly be the first truly “great” record of 2021.
Whereas the group’s earlier works – especially their voracious debut album, In Passing Ascension – represented a seamless fusion of metallic elements that could, in general terms, be described as “Blackened Death Metal”, it should quickly become clear, even after just a single listen, that The Cyclic Reckoning finds them shifting their sound and focus towards the outer fringes of the Black Metal spectrum, a place where they can explore and experiment with their newfound love of strange, psychoactive melody to their heart’s content.
And while there are certainly echoes of other artists and influences here and there… from the dream-like lucidity of Weakling and the demented drive of Death Fortress to the abstract alchemy of Dødsengel and the seductive dissonance of the Icelandic scene… the truth is that this is very much new and uncharted territory for Suffering Hour, whose previous release (the unpredictable, single-track Dwell EP) only hinted at the gigantic leaps they’ve have taken here.
That being said, while the band may have shifted out towards the more unorthodox edges of the Black Metal sphere, there’s still a powerful Death Metal engine throbbing and growling under the hood, which helps mitigate the initial psychic shock of opener “Strongholds of Awakening” a little by counterbalancing the song’s unsettling passages of off-kilter anti-melody with a grim and gruesome undercurrent of gut-roiling heaviness.
Similarly, there’s a sense of focussed power and ferocious forward momentum to songs like “Transcending Antecedent Visions” and “Obscuration” – the latter of which may well be the album’s most striking and immediate track, marrying the atmospheric density of Teitanblood to the esoteric intensity of Oranssi Pazuzu – which only serves to reinforce the trippy, trance-inducing, nature of the music while also keeping you constantly on edge.
And it’s in these moments, when the band fully give in and allow themselves to overdose on hallucinogenic heaviness – as they do during the acid-laced blend of Black Metal and The Beatles that is “The Abrasive Black Dust, Part II” (which could just as easily have been titled “Lucy in the Sky With Demons”) – that this album truly achieves its final form and becomes something really special.
Saving the very best for last, the humongous, helter-skelter final track, “The Foundations of Servitude”, moves from sombre to sinister, chaotic to contemplative, abrasive to atmospheric, over the course of sixteen-and-a-half minutes, while touching on everything from psychotropic dissonance to hypnotic ambience to epic Black Metal majesty along the way, in a manner that seems purposefully designed to leave the listener immediately craving another fix of the band’s unique sonic narcotic.
So be careful before you push that play button… because The Cyclic Reckoning is so disgustingly good, and so disturbingly addictive, that once you start listening to it you may never be able to stop.