It’s worth remembering that Suicide Silence are going into this new album amidst a divided crowd that’s simply waiting for them to slip up. Upon its release in 2017, their self-titled album had the scorn and derision piled onto it by fans who felt that the direction of out-of-sync nu-metalcore was a direct betrayal of the deathcore that they’d previously been so good at, and while it still stands that it was way overhated considering how much worse it could’ve been, it felt at the time that Suicide Silence would struggle to recover from it. That felt condensed by how much of the blame was shouldered by Eddie Hermida, a vocalist for whom many believed was responsible for railroading the band in an unworkable direction and out of the steady flow they’d established in their Mitch Lucker-fronted era. In truth though, the move away from deathcore was probably the healthiest thing for Suicide Silence to do; in a scene that’s become so stale and monotonous, maintaining the level of dominance that they had was always going to take some effort to move away from the norm. In hindsight, perhaps the self-titled album was a bit of a harsh pivot to throw out straight away, but the necessary mindset was there, and honing that experience into Become The Hunter could be the necessary push needed to put them back on that higher footing.
Then again, that level of vocalised hate is something that no one wants to lean into, so while it’s slightly disappointing to see Suicide Silence curtail their greater ambitions for a return to more traditional deathcore, it’s not all that surprising. The main source of solace comes in how they’re definitely a lot better at it than most, and staying away from the more defined tropes in order to do more with straight-up heaviness isn’t too bad of an approach. And really, it’s not worth complaining too much about this; a lot of the flab has been strongly pared back, and for this sort of deathcore album that gets in and gets out and knows exactly what it’s doing while it’s there, Become The Hunter fits the bill almost exactly. There’s enough here to avoid falling into a slump, and for where Suicide Silence have been in the last few years, that sort of course correction is worth taking.
Of course, it also means that Become The Hunter has less to really talk about overall, as the return to a more standard Suicide Silence formula brings with it a rather defined skillset that’s always had its own recognisable traits. They’ve made a return here, particularly in writing that weaves between nihilism and self-immolation with pretty noticeable regularity, but that can also at least foster the foreboding, crushing atmosphere needed to make that seem effective. Throwing Hermida back in his comfort zone with the piercing shrieks of a track like Love Me To Death feels much more natural for what Suicide Silence ultimately want to achieve, and while the spoken-word portion of Serene Obscene might come across as a bit hokey for some, it’s at least pulling an idea that had legs last time and feeding it into a context that does it justice. Alongside the roaring, clean guitar work that stabs through at just the precise moments pretty much every time, Become The Hunter makes admirable decisions when it comes to using the elements that worked last time around, and moulding the deathcore basis around them integrates them within the sound so much more effectively.
After all, it’s no secret that Suicide Silence are excellent at deathcore, and just the right amount of creativity injected into what isn’t all that different from the norm does see improvements. For one, the ‘-core’ stigma feels less pronounced, as the sharp, crucially heavy production and veering away from stock breakdowns gives it the feel of a modern, straight-up metal album that feels a lot more appealing on the whole. On top of that, an emphasis on groove with tracks like Feel Alive and Skin Tight allow that heft to breathe more and give the band ample opportunities to dig down into the lower range they’ve always been great at embracing, far more so than the overbearing and frankly messy flurries of Disaster Valley. It’s a real boost to Become The Hunter to bring together so many of Suicide Silence’s well-documented strengths, and even if it’s not quite a revelation sonically, it’s an attempt to get back on track that feels unequivocally successful.
On top of that, there’s more to Become The Hunter than just pandering to a disenfranchised audience; it mightn’t be a step away of the same magnitude that the self-titled album was, but it’s certainly refreshing Suicide Silence’s sound just a bit, and that sense of advancement is definitely noticeable in how much tighter and more focused this sounds. The real test will be if Suicide Silence can continue moving forward and breaking free of the deathcore doldrums while retaining this regained momentum, but the fact they’ve gotten to this point is impressive on its own. For a band on the brink of totally alienating their audience and severing every tie they’d earned, this is about as succinct as a rebound comes, getting back into place without it feeling forced, and executing that with a freshness that has a lot of potential moving forward.
For fans of: Whitechapel, Carnifex, All Shall Perish
Words by Luke Nuttall
‘Become The Hunter’ by Suicide Silence is released on 14th February on Nuclear Blast Records.