To Escape is to Suffer
With all the fanfare of a tree falling in the forest, this record hit the shelves a couple months ago. What the hell kind of world do we live in when a killer slab of Florida death metal, one with honest-to-christ songs and a sense of tempo almost unknown today, gets released, and no one notices? It's enough to make you just give up sometimes and go sit in the basement listening to "The Ten Commandments" all week.Drummer and apparent band mastermind Gus Rios has co-written with MALEVOLENT CREATION's Phil Fasciana, and has been active in the Florida scene for a good while. His age shows in the old-school influence prevalent on "To Escape Is To Suffer" — not enough death metal bands use the one-two, one-two thrash beat any more. But UPON INFLICTION draw inspiration from an era when equal influence could be drawn from MORBID ANGEL and SLAYER, when thrash wasn't a dirty word to a death metal freak, and when memorable songs meant more than the endless race to be faster or more ludicrously guttural. While their thrashy, catchy, urgent take on death metal has a strong and proud history in Florida's scene (see: RESURRECTION, BRUTALITY, MONSTROSITY), UPON INFLICTION would be more at home in the collection of a VADER, HATE ETERNAL or KRISIUN fan these days. Don't get the idea that they rely on speed as much as those bands, however — "Abducted" is a churning, double-kick-heavy midtempo crusher (at least until it builds into thrashed-out insanity after the solo). And even the short, blistering "Surgical Murder", with its blast beats and divebombing whammy bar solos, leaves in a few seconds' respite from the speed assault.There's some serious guitarwork going on here as well, courtesy of Seth Ringler — check out the Schuldiner-inspired melodic parts in the otherwise crushing "Rage", or the speed soloing in "American Way". While none of the riffing is overtly technical, it's still a lot of quick picking and stop-on-a-dime changes, a nonstop assault that gives the album its heart-attack intensity. The worst thing you could say about UPON INFLICTION is that the band doesn't have an original bone in its body. But dammit, no one is doing death metal quite like this these days, and there are damn few of any stripe who are putting out this much energy or attacking with this much hungry fervor. "To Escape Is To Suffer" is the kind of record that should be getting you excited about American death metal again. Will someone please go buy the damn thing? If nothing else, do it for the band's excellent cover of DEATH classic "Mutilation", which closes the album. - Keith Bergman 7.5
Dive bombs, semi-melodic tapping, dark shredding trade off solos, off kilter harmonic lines, pummeling triplets, thick palm mutes, fluid tremolo picking, aggressive riffing that is always one second away from ripping your fucking head off and tossing it to the dogs of war…yep that’s Floridan death. Luckily though, this isn’t just another throwback album put out there to give you nostalgic memories of the good ol’ days: camo shorts, sleeveless Altars of Madness shirts, and denim jackets dappled with patches. To Escape is to Suffer stands as a damn fine executed debut that offers a solidly genuine and well convicted interpretation of a classic genre. Generally speaking, how you feel about the Floridan death sound will determine how well To Escape is to Suffer is received, either insipid and generic or completely fucking devastating. Either way, there’s very little offered in the form of genuine originality despite the effective adaptation. The inclusion of Gus Rios (touring drummer and co-writer of four Malevolent Creation albums) would account for why the hell this reminds me so much of Malevolent Creation and Divine Empire with the inclusion of a stopping aggression that reminded me of Obituary in some ways. Upon Infliction have a straight up old school aesthetic, no frills or extravagant trappings, just pure fucking straightforward, unmerciful death metal, which in effect, is a modernization of the traditional sound despite the strong Death influences (hell they offer a decent cover of “Mutilation” as the album closer) and various thrash trappings along the lines of Kreator. No samples, no suspense, opener “Order” explodes from the speakers emanating Upon Infliction’s no fucking around/go for the jugular approach, which luckily is one I’ve always appreciated. The song is by far the most apocalyptic moment on To Escape is to Suffer while songs like “You will Suffer”, “State Sanctioned Execution”, and “Surgical Murder” carry the Floridan death metal torch with a stripped down, direct, never overdone approach. Tracks like “American Way” and “Lifeless and Abused” display perfectly Upon Infliction’s ability to combine whirlwind riffing and machine gun blasts with mid tempo death metal while avoiding the usual pitfalls of sounding reserved or letting up on the level of intensity. However, some moments tend to drag by with a lackluster demeanor, despite impressive soloing and superb musicianship. “Abducted”, and “No Options Left” offer displays of less imagination and ferocity rather than the usual impressive lacerating guitar riffs dealt out one by one courtesy of Seth Ringler on tracks like “Rage” with its semblance to Morbid Angel or the excellent drumming of Gus Rios and crunchy head bobbing gait of “Lifeless and Abused”. I love the thick tone of the vocals; it’s like a less powerful version of Frank Mullen (Suffocation) but still with that maniacal bash your skull in approach. One of my big issues is that the vocal delivery isn’t exactly an exemplary offer of ingenuity or variety as opposed to the technical proficiency of the guitars, drums, and bass. Albeit you get used to it, in a lot of ways due to the effect Brian Mygrant has on his vocals he literally sounds like he has phoned in his performance, the effect was cool at first, but it’s a bit over killed. My other main problem, is though there’s relativity no bad songs per se and the musicians always offer an extremely varied approach to the riffing within the songs themselves, there’s very little in the way of stand out songs. There only seems to be the various awe inspiring moments scattered here and there throughout the album. Granted this isn’t a one trick album and Upon Infliction avoid being too one dimensional, To Escape is to Suffer lacks and adequate level of advanced or exceptional songwriting prowess for individual songs to really shine distinctively on their own. Even as enjoyable of a blur as this might be, they offer little in the way of surprise. However, Upon Infliction is a damn fine band with more than competent intelligent musicianship worth taking note of; I have high expectations of a bright future.
Treehouse of Death
Where the hell did these guys come from?Well, I have the bio sheet here, but you know what I mean. Some of you may recognize the multi-talented Gus Rios from his time spent with neighboring Floridians Malevolent Creation, and here he is joined by his brother Hector on bass, along with vocalist Brian Mygrant, and guitarist Seth Ringler in Upon Infliction. As can be expected, this is a feral death metal album bereft of overindulgence, relying on a turbulent rhythm section, sharp machine-gun/swarm of bees riffing, and an energetic yet customary vocal delivery all swathed in a nearly flawless production job. If there is one thing that definitely leaves an impression beyond all else, it’s that the final mix of ‘To Escape Is To Suffer’ is incredibly accommodating to the ear, soundwise, in virtually every capacity.It should be pointed out that this album is a bit of a creeper. Perhaps it’s the nondescript appearance of the CD that belies it’s vehement content, and in doing so, takes a bit of getting used to if you’re expecting anything other than death metal with a style straight out of the Sunshine State. Locked tight musically and taking armfuls of inspiration from the early masters of the genre, Upon Infliction brings more than mere speed and out-and-out pummeling, and distance themselves from Americanized Swedish grooves. The songwriting is fractionally off-kilter with the time changes and riffing patterns, infusing rough triplets with grinding tremolo, providing a stuttering technical arrhythmic counterbalance between the vocal arrangements, drums, and harsh melodies.There’s nothing on this album that can be called experimental, adventurous, or astoundingly original, but whatever it lacks in visionary ambitiousness is made up for with solid songwriting, and the previously mentioned stellar mix and production job. The guitars have a keen-edged finish, the bass rumbles along like a subterranean earth drill while retaining a cohesively clean sound. The drumming is quite impressive, shifting from oddly timed blastbeats, double-bass thundering along all the way through different abrupt time changes that might actually be a few steps to the left of what we’ve come to know from Floridian death metal. Nothing extravagant, but nothing too one-trick either.What strikes me as the only real weak spots can be attributed to the rather average but maniacally executed vocals, and the lack of truly standout individual tracks to bring things up to a major-league level. I suppose it’s best to have a solid album full of very well-written tunes that do what they set out to do, which is to smack you around for a little over a half-hour, than three or four astonishing songs rounded out with rote filler the rest of the time. So, in that regard, ‘To Escape…’ is definitely a satisfying album that exudes a similar atmosphere as ‘The Fine Art Of Murder’, ‘Gallery Of Suicide’, and ‘Formulas Fatal To The Flesh’, three albums I would say are rather unappreciated in the genre. It’s extremely aggressive but cautionary in the use of barbarity, doesn’t get too complex, but also isn’t dumbed down to appeal to a safe audience.With a little polishing of the vocals, I could see these guys being a major powerhouse on the new scene of American death metal. As bluntly as I can put it, this is a pretty impressive debut that does a really good job of being both technical, focused, and varied enough to keep things from getting too one-dimensional, yet still slightly lacking in any sort of highly notable originality, or exceptionally advanced songcraft to be considered one of the best of the year. I did thoroughly enjoy it though, and Upon Infliction have released a fine debut chock full of inspired death metal, without the excessive trimmings. You will be sore after this one.