Is this a return to form? It’s tempting to say so, because to these battered old ears Suffocation‘s new album, Hymns From The Apocrypha, is probably the best thing they’ve come up with since 2009’s Blood Oath; But in many ways, the arrival of new vocalist Ricky Myers, arriving after the retirement of that doyen of death metal vocalisation, Frank Mullen, gives this album a feeling of rebirth.

It’s hard to think in terms of freshness when dealing with something so rancid, so rotten to the core as a new Suffocation album, but that’s where we are. There is a real freshness imbued upon tracks like the quite superb Seraphim Enslavement that really slaps the listener upside the head with a resounding, down-tuned thwack announcing the band’s glorious return in no uncertain terms.

It’s one of those albums where everything is just MORE; the slower parts grind harder, the fast parts bang with more intensity, the axes , tortured to within an inch of their pitiful lives sting longer. Terrance Hobbs and Charlie Errigo wrench the absolute bejesus out of their guitars on Delusions of Mortality, to the point where you find yourself looking through the Yellow Pages to see if there’s some sort of safety body you can report the two perpetrators of the abuse to. Similarly Derek Boyer’s bottom end takes no prisoners, setting up a cordon insanitaire of mayhem with drummer Eric Morotti that at times simply defies belief.

It is wondrous, when you stop and think about it, to hear a band thirty five years into it’s career going about it’s business with such verve; The inclusion here of old chestnut Ignorant Deprivation from 1993’s Breeding The Spawn, shows at once how far the band has come without essentially changing the ingredients of what they do at all. Mullen, returning just for this one track, delivers with all the old bile, and, save for improved production values, what you are listening to could have come straight from the vault. And yet it sits comfortably with what the band are creating in 2023. That’s a tough trick to be able to pull off so seamlessly, and it makes this album all the more remarkable.

Hymns From The Apocrypha is out now.