Album Review: Suffer – Grand Canvas of the Aesthete


Album Review: Suffer - Grand Canvas of the Aesthete
Reviewed by Sam Jones

Suffer are one of those bands who have been longtime underdogs, now making their climb in the modern age. Formed originally in 1989, from South Dakota, United States, as Pukus, they only released the one Demo, Vile Ceremonies, before altering their name to Suffer, where they’d release more Demos and a Compilation prior to their 1998 breakup. The band reformed in 2013 and saw an EP, Instruments Of Grace, and their long-awaited debut full length: 2015’s KonQbine. However, drummer Josh Ferrie would leave the band resulting in Suffer’s dissolution. Reformed once more in 2022, the band unveiled a new EP a year later, Gristile, Bruised Spots & Trimmed Fat and, now, poised for a March 29th release date via independent means digitally, and an April 1st date through Wise Blood Records physically, Suffer are ready to make their triumphant return truly with their first album in nine years. Artistically, Grand Canvas Of The Aesthete captured me instantly and thus I was more than excited to see what they could do musically too.

The first thing I had to do was lower the volume a touch. If you’ve got your settings thrown to the max, you’ll need to lessen them somewhat since this record strikes with a clenched first and refuses to relax its assault for a moment. It’s not the most intense death metal performance you’ll hear this year but the sheer bold outline that seemingly accompanies this record means that even the steadiest, most methodical riff sequence is bound to capture you completely. There’s a deeply encroaching essence to Suffer’s songwriting whereby their power isn’t encapsulated in blistering tempo but the strength they can imbue their performance with; there’s a particular atmosphere they drown you in, so while they aren’t playing the fastest material going they’re still guaranteed to engage you from the first track onwards. The vocal delivery is composed of a dual performance wherein the primary style is this snarling, biting piece and the secondary delivery is more guttural, yet within either delivery the band aren’t looking to devastate your senses. It’s honestly refreshing to absorb a death metal record without having to brace my ears for some nightmare onslaught.

It’s curious that Suffer play a keenly powerful form of death metal and yet have seemingly forgone any implementation of blast beats. Much like the bulk of their songwriting, Suffer opt for a drumming style that’s much more rooted to their persona and thus keep their patterns more simplistic. Yet, simple doesn’t equal dull and as the band showcase, writing drumming tracks of a straightforward calibre keeps our attention on what is occurring overall with fewer destructive elements distracting us. The drums aid the band in streamlining their soundscape into a funnelled approach whereby all possible fat has been removed from the death metal aesthetic. It’s nice to sit back and fully enjoy an extreme metal album knowing I don’t need to put in the sensory work overtime to take in absolutely everything. As we’ll see soon, the applied production helps give bass drums and even the simplest drum strike firm resonance, so even the most minute pattern feels to have purpose and strength behind it.

Album Review: Suffer - Grand Canvas of the Aesthete

That leads us right into the choice of production applied to this record; we’ve covered how Suffer aren’t looking to submerge within some cavernous catacomb nor do they play the fastest or most intense riffs, but what grabbed me from the start was just how clean it all is. There’s barely a speck of dirt or grime, obvious not hidden, anywhere throughout the runtime to give any allusions to a dirtier aesthetic. I think the atmosphere intoxicates us with such a dark, decrepit sense because there’s nothing to interfere with the band’s direct implementation of songwriting and instrumentation. There’s nothing overpowering another element nor are the band throwing in anything they deem unnecessary for the album to work its magic; all that concerns Suffer herein is what the audience manages to take away from their experience and, therefore, by rendering this record with a polish and shine, it ensures repeat listens since we comprehend the purity of the malice their macabre sound invokes. It’s exceedingly tidy and organised.

It’s worth mentioning that every track on record here is around the same length too. Now, this would be a risky move on most records since it can make for a repetitive-sounding album where every song risks become homogenous and thus losing impact since there’s little built into the record to break up its flow. But because Suffer’s songwriting is firstly less intense than most death metal works you’ll hear this year, and secondly they aren’t playing anywhere near as fast or recklessly, it oddly enough makes for an easier listening experience because the band, effectively, aren’t always putting you to the test to see whether you last until the end. As a result, you could, if you wished, to stop anytime you like, to drop in and out of this album, yet why would you when the songwriting and overall experience is as great as Suffer provide? By the time you’ve reached the halfway mark, and then continue into the latter section of the record, your confidence in the band is more than resolute and so you only proceed to put your faith in them to make every track as fulfilling and engaging as the preceding piece.

In conclusion, Suffer’s second full length album is a fantastically easy listen that’s bound to gravitate a good many new fans to their legions. Grand Canvas Of The Aesthete is a surprising thing because it chooses not to go for the expected, blistering intensity that death metal is so renowned for, and instead rely on retro power and quality songwriting to see them through. It’s precisely because they didn’t muddle their songwriting with an overabundance of elements that gives this record such a pleasing yet prominent impact; though the production is much cleaner and its surface far more polished, Suffer still hit us with the weight of cinderblocks since they’ve slowed down their tempo and thus riffs, usually played with frenetic pace, are given space and time to breathe, allowing the audience to feel the full punch they’ve been given. Due to this, I absolutely adored this album and its stuns me to know this is their first album in almost a decade. I need more of this because Suffer harness an old school, decrepit style of death metal that few today have replicated.

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