The Order of Things
Reviewed By Michael O'Brien
The Order of Things is an album I've been waiting for for a hell of a long time. Six years now, in fact.
Back in 2010 Sweden’s Suma released Ashes, which was and continues to be one of my all time favourite sludge/doom albums. Not only was it very strong in the riff department, it was its heavily percussive nature that really pushed it over the edge for me. Making the drums such an integral part of an album's makeup isn't the most common of things in the sludge space, and Suma really went to town with the idea on that release.
The Suma of 2016 retains all of the aspects that made Ashes so great, but it adds some new elements as well, which I would think is both because their sound has matured in the past six years and because of a slight shake-up in their composition as a group. Original vocalist, Jovan, is no longer with the band, with bassist, Johan, picking up the duties, and there's a new face, too, with Rick, who is on noise and samples duty.
I think the best way to compare The Order of Things to Suma's prior output is to say that things haven't dramatically changed so much as they have been tweaked and enhanced. As mentioned earlier, the drumming of Erik is still very front and centre, the shape of Peter's riffs fit within many of the same holes, and even Johan’s vocals take on the familiar yell of Jovan's with a similar placement slightly low in the mix; it's all very much within expectations and defined parameters. A deeper listen to the album's weighty 57-minutes, though, reveals that there is actually quite a bit more going on than may have been apparent at first blush.
Where Suma has grown first and foremost is in their ability to craft an atmosphere. Not that atmosphere has ever been much of an issue, mind, but with The Order of Things, the band has grown in leaps and bounds. Whereas Ashes was rich at a track level that also happened to work at an album level, The Order of Things works much more consistently as a whole, and it is helped along in achieving this goal by the samples of new recruit, Rick.
I’d wager that adding noise and/or samples into an established band’s sound wouldn’t be the easiest of feats to pull off without creating a jarring effect, but it’s a seamless blending here, mainly because their inclusion is actually rather subtle for the most part (barring the sample-heavy mid-album interlude “Being and/or Nothingness”, of course). The noisy, almost air raid siren introduction to “RPA”, the samples that bookend “Bait for Maggots”, and the samples that permeate “The Sick Present” are three such examples, but a keen ear will pick up many more, and it's this process of filling the sonic space with a light touch where his importance in the overall picture of The Order of Things is felt the most.
In addition to the noise and samples, Suma’s strong grasp of build and release and their ability to create tension through the withholding of payoffs is another real high point for the album, and is arguably the singularly defining quality of The Order of Things itself. “Education for Death” is perhaps the most extreme example with its slow pacing and its crafting of an anxiety-heavy atmosphere which is meticulously (and mercilessly) nurtured for nine minutes before the tension is finally broken and the unsettling mood subsides, but it is a theme that reoccurs throughout the album’s near hour long running time.
As I stated earlier, The Order of Things is an album that I’ve been anticipating for a very long time now, and with six years having passed, some doubt had crept into my mind about whether or not Suma would be able to pull it off. That doubt was completely unwarranted, though, with the band turning out an album that is at least the equal of if not greater than my favourite from their catalogue, Ashes.
Having kept a low profile for so long, it’s entirely possible that Suma are unknown to you. The Order of Things is your reason to rectify that.
More from Suma
- Ashes [review]