VITRIOL - Suffer & Become
Album: Suffer & Become
Genre: Death Metal
Release Date: January 26th, 2024
Label: Century Media
Many have eagerly awaited this one. What can I say about VITRIOL that hasn’t already been said? Well, I am probably in the minority here: I want to like this band more than I do.
They have all the things going for them that I look for in a top tier Tech Death outfit. Each member is near, or at, the pinnacle of the genre’s performance maximum. I don’t think anyone can argue with this. However, with every release prior – and, indeed, with this release, as well – major sticking points abound.
To their credit, on "Suffer & Become", VITRIOL cleared out a lot of the cobwebs. My biggest issue with their widely acclaimed debut regards the production: it is utter trash. The musicality was high, but I could barely HEAR any of the music, because it was buried under so much audio mush. For music this complex, detailed, and dense, if it doesn’t have at least PASSABLE production values, “it’s a NO, Dawg.”
Fortunately, with the production on "Suffer & Become", VITRIOL pull all the necessary stops to polish the mix, and many more things shine in the audibility category. The band still keep it rough and gritty, though – so, hat’s off there.
The drums and Kyle Rasmussen’s lead guitars – both higher-fret-harmonized and “melody” driven – are the stars of the show here. The bass is virtually non-existent in the mix, except for a couple of spots, but I’ve seen that boy rip, so I know he has the goods. As such, it’s ashame the bass didn’t rear its ugly head as more of a feature here. The rhythm guitars are present, but essentially just serve as a layer of constant brown noise, which – though distinct – is so distortion-crushed that makes it difficult to discern most of the notes and chord-voicings. I would owe the bass’s audible loss to this mixing choice.
"Suffer & Become" also has some novel components, previously not prioritized on past Vitriol releases: the use of clean guitars in an unexpected “interlude,” about midway through the album. In addition to that, the band or producer has included what sounds like a synth pad layer throughout the album, though this could also be FX-modded guitar tracks. The tracklisting placement of the “interlude” was wise – given how dense the music is here – as it allowed a short breath (sort of) between the unremitting waves of compact dissonance.
That really brings me to the core issue of this album: how dense it is. It is very, VERY dense. There is – to put it summarily – a fuckton of shit happening here. Riffs? Oh yes. Many, many riffs. Perhaps, too many. "Suffer & Become" offers little to grab onto in the way of audio recall. I listened to the album twice back to back, and I cannot say I remember a single moment. Nothing stands out in any particular way, because everything stands out all the time. Perhaps the clean guitar interlude and intro to the album are the only things of real note, because these moments showcase the only aspects one can immediately grasp as inherently distinct, over the course of the album’s 47 minute and 20 second runtime (consquently, in my opinion, far too long of a piece for this level of musical density).
Many riffs, lead lines, and “melodies” are offered up in a continuous, fast, and biting sequence – one after the other. As soon as they appear, they immediately melt back into the disorder-morass-dissonance the band has constructed. As far as the songwriting goes, the developments often happen with almost no rhyme or reason, moving in and out of phrases far less than seemlessly. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. As such, the only cohesive factor is this dissonance, itself. All fairness to them, if that’s what they were shooting for: they accomplished it.
What really irks me about a dense presentation like this, is that the individual riff-work is really, REALLY good. It often offers scowl-inducing, grinding earworm-mania and soaring transcendent strumming chord progressions – but, then: POOF, it’s gone immediately, with no attentiveness to the development of an idea for longer than 3 to 7 seconds. Despite, the lack of recall, VITRIOL stepped it up the riff-writing in every other aspect, compared to any of their previous efforts.
Regardless of these downturns, this is the first album where VITRIOL has finally, FINALLY found THEIR unique, musical voice. In the past, they grasped at straws to break free of their very obvious musical lineage to Hate Eternal, Origin, and Nile: so obvious, in fact, that some of the riff-work was several notes shy of virtual rip-offs from the above – and other – bands.
No more! I have high hopes for the development of this nascent originality VITRIOL has uncovered for themselves. I think it’s still early days, though – mostly because of the present songwriting downfalls. The band has all the goods and all the moving parts to potentially write a masterpiece. Perhaps, VITRIOL may even write something era-defining, the likes of which could very well be in competition with “Annhilation of the Wicked” for a genre masterwork. Only time will tell.
Finally, I would like to address my favorite thing on offer: the solo leads. Everybody who’s already in the know, knows that Kyle Rasmussen is a virtual guitar wizard. On this release, he upped his game even more. The solos are both beautiful and soaring, driving and narrative, and they function with A PURPOSE. They are not wandering and inspidly technical for no reason; they have musical VALUE. Mostly, I find solos obnoxious. At best – solos often just demarcate a section of a song, even if performed well; and – at worst – they objectively don’t fit the music, winding in some chromatic mish-mash of finger flurries. Rasmussen has tactically placed each solo, and tailored it to the will and need of the song. This is how a solo should be played. It shouldn’t be a wankfest. It should have a true musical worth.
So, in all, I am pleased to see the progression. I think I am willingly a fan, but am not swayed by the total product. "Suffer & Become" is first album where I could say that I actually see potential for VITRIOL. I like the band’s presence and contribution to the scene much more than I like their music – at least, thus far, anyway – and that is the ultimate problem. Their image, their attitude, the lyrics (though, virtually impossible to discern through the vocal delivery, most of the time), their video performances, their live performances – all of it presents a VERY attractive and well-thought-out total package. Century Media has obviously helped curate some of this for VITRIOL, but I think it is mostly the band’s raw grind, bootstrapping, and idiosyncratic vision that has pushed them to this stage. That’s why I really, really want to like them more than I do, but you just can’t force that shit.
1. Shame And Its Afterbirth
2. The Flowers Of Sadism
3. Nursing From The Mother Wound
4. The Isolating Lie Of Learning Another
5. Survival’s Careening Inertia
6. Weaponized Loss
7. Flood Of Predation
8. Locked In Thine Frothing Wisdom
9. I Am Every Enemy
10. He Will Fight Savagely
Kyle Rasmussen - Guitar, Vocals
Adam Roethlisberger - Bass, Vocals
Scott Walker - Drums