Lord of War
Unique Leader Records
Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
Just as there are labels out there like Flenser Records and Blood Music that I tend to be drawn to because of the kind of material they specialise in, there are also labels out there that I shy away from for the very same reason, and Unique Leader is one of those labels for me. This is a label that is well known for championing brutal and/or technical death metal and, for the most part, those genres do very little for me these days.
With that being said, though, when the promo for Lord of War’s second album, Suffer, arrived in my inbox with the description that it was “atmospheric death metal” where “elements of science fiction, horror and sheer unbridled brutality collide”, I have to admit that I was intrigued. Would this be one of those rare Unique Leader albums that breaks out of the mould enough to wow me or would it be more of the same? It turns out that neither of these things were the case and there was a third possibility that I hadn’t considered: that the promotional material would be completely misleading. Labelling Suffer as being atmospheric death metal is a stretch. There is definitely death metal here that you may be able to call “atmospheric” (though melodic death metal is probably closer to the mark), but there’s also a hell of a lot of deathcore here as well which pokes a bit of a hole in the original contention.
Now, look, I’d be lying if I were to say that I was a fan of deathcore, but I’m also not puritanically opposed to it and will give any album or artist the time of day if it’s warranted, in much the same way that I’m not a fan of country music but I’ll happily listen to Townes Van Zandt. So is Suffer worthy of the investment in time from a deathcore perspective? Not really, no, because the interpretation here is about as meat and potatoes as the genre gets.
Thankfully, however, there's a strange split personality at work on Suffer. One half of this personality is made up by the aforementioned uninspired deathcore influence while the other side is the previously noted melodic death metal influence, which is still pretty paint by numbers, sure, but it also well played and throws some surprises into the mix as well.
It isn't really until the fifth track, “Behold the Harvest”, that Suffer starts doing anything remotely interesting for me, with the four previous cuts following closely enough to the chugging riff/breakdown/bass drop deathcore template to render themselves utterly forgettable. It's at this point that Lord of War actually start to introduce some real variety into their compositions and things take an upward swing.
As welcome as it is, though, this variety isn't exactly breaking any new ground either. An intro or outro here and there, the occasional sample, a solid lead line, or a bit of mid-period Meshuggah-esque rhythm and melody are about the extent of the band's offerings in that respect and despite them being well played, they're also tinkering at the edges of what is otherwise pretty generic death metal. It's definitely heavy, the musicians are more than up to the task technically, and, hell, the album might even induce you to tap along, but I don't think anyone could argue that Suffer is offering anything up that hasn't been done countless times before.
The obvious question to come from all of this is why should you care about or listen to Suffer and, truthfully, I can't offer any compelling reason to do either of these things. Simply saying that you could do worse than Suffer is hardly an endorsement, but it's about as much of a concession I can offer.