Oh baby, I’ve been waiting for this one.
Ever since Portland, Oregon’s Vitriol came crashing onto the scene with their 2017 EP Pain Will Define Their Death, they have set the standard for capturing raw, unbridled fury in sonic form, quickly rising through the ranks and establishing themselves as one of the top must-see acts in American death metal.
During their relatively short tenure as a band they have already captivated audiences the world over with their ferocious live performance, touring with legendary acts such as Morbid Angel, Nile, Dying Fetus, Defeated Sanity, and Exhumed, and are set to embark on the 2024 edition of the Chaos & Carnage Tour alongside Cattle Decapitation and many more this coming spring. They truly are a force to be reckoned with, and now with the arrival of their latest offering Suffer & Become, their rightful place amongst the greats may very well have just been officially secured.
Vitriol’s music has always been bombastic, lightning fast, and positively frothing at the mouth with rage, and that is certainly the case here as well, but this time around it feels … different. It’s focused, more well-rounded than ever before, and highly personal in the sense that there is a consistent theme of newfound purpose. The band’s previous material is phenomenal, make no mistake, but up until now everything’s been about death, malice, and a white-hot disdain for the world around them, whereas Suffer & Become feels more like an entity that has finally learned its place in the world and now has a clear path laid out before it.
It’s not necessarily a culmination, per se, but more like a crucial next step on a journey of self discovery, one soaked in blood and filled with lessons taught through pain. It could not be further from a happy ending, but it does seem to carry an air of “I know what I must do now.”
After a delightfully creepy intro which evokes images of something that used to be beautiful but has now fallen into disrepair, the band launch into a frenzy of semi-dissonant but still decisively cohesive riffs that answer the question “What if an F3 tornado was also on fire?” I could sit here and wax philosophical to come up with all different kinds of metaphors for how insanely heavy the music is ’til the cows come home, but at the end of the day that’s just what it is- ridiculously heavy, even by today’s standards.
A delicate, precarious balance is struck between the frenetic guitars and a truly balls-to-the-wall performance by drummer Matt Kilner, also of Gorgasm and Nithing fame, who leaves everything on the table and nothing to the imagination as far as his technical prowess is concerned.
Despite being uncompromising, unyielding walls of sound, each song still finds a way to offer some unique morsel of nuance to make it all worth the slog. Whether it be the unnerving slides in the opening of “Nursing from the Mother Wound,” the extremely emotional guitar solo in “The Isolating Lie of Learning Another,” or the sudden and unexpected 90-degree turn in songwriting on the positively sublime instrumental track “Survival’s Careening Inertia” (my personal favorite from this album), you are guaranteed find something somewhere that makes you shake your head and whisper, “Holy shit.” “I Am Every Enemy” is a particularly strong offering as well, providing the meagerest iota of relief from the maelstrom by adding some straightforward brutal death metal chugging grooves into the mix as well. It’s laughable that something like this could be considered a “relief,” I know, but after getting your head kicked in for well over half an hour by this point, it’s nice to be able to turn your brain off for a second and just enjoy a little DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN-DUN.
When the closing track “He Will Fight Savagely” finally comes to a screeching halt, it’s practically a mercy. Suffer & Become is a fantastic album, one which is going to be in my regular rotation for quite some time, but at the same time, listening to it is a thoroughly exhausting ordeal, as I’m certain it was designed to be. It’s also a satisfying one though, not unlike a particularly strenuous workout session. It’s daunting, and at some point you might catch yourself thinking “Jesus, is this ever going to end? Am I in over my head here? Do I have it in me to finish this?”
But just like that last set, if you dig in and commit yourself to seeing it through, you’ll come out on the other side that much better for it. You might be utterly worn out, but there is also that undeniable sense of accomplishment and inspiration. That’s what I’ve always taken away from listening to Vitriol’s music or watching them play live: inspiration. They are one of the hardest working bands in extreme metal today, and their sheer dedication to their craft has paid off in spades as their stature within the industry only continues to grow. If they can keep this pace up, then within a decade they’ll be the next household name in death metal who everyone and their brother clamors to hop on the bill with whenever they come to town. And when that day comes, we’ll get to be the old heads that say, “Yeah dude I saw them open for Exhumed right after COVID, it was sick, you should’ve been there.” Because, yeah, it was sick, and you should’ve been there.
Suffer & Become is available Friday, January 26th via Century Media Records. Preorder your copy here if you think you’re ready. Trust me, you’re not.
Photo courtesy of Vitriol