It can be a bit of a risk for a young band to drastically change their sound when moving from their debut to their sophomore album, but in the case of Minnesota’s Suffering Hour, this evolution (or perhaps mutation is a better word), saw them become truly developed as a band. The proggy, thrash metal roots that sprung forth on their first album grew into chaotic blackened death metal that only further matured on Dwell, their newly released EP and third effort to date. It’s one 18-minute long piece that sounds like wading through the dense atmosphere on some uninhabitable planet.
Such a profound change has profound reasons, besides a change in taste and simple musical evolution it didn’t seem like their first incarnation was really conveying what they wanted it to. “Practically everything we do in regards to Suffering Hour comes from the fact that in different ways the three of us are tortured people,” says lead guitarist and vocalist YhA. “One way or another our pasts and our presents are scarred by trauma and/or mental illness, it’s a lot of what brought us together even as friends. A lot of what drives us forward in life and in our music career is that we were all burdened with the empty weight of the universe at early ages. It’s something we need to get off our chests for the sake of survival, and there’s really no good way to push that message without the music sounding like the massive chaotic nothing we all exist in,” he says. “From the standpoint we were coming from it wasn’t the right platform to channel our frustration and distaste of living onto.”
“I feel it’s important for us to establish right off the bat that we’re going to be an ever evolving band and we’re not afraid to push certain boundaries within our own sound,” says drummer and vocalist IsN. “We don’t want people to always expect the same thing with every release.”
Needless to say, it was not a straightforward process, and their second album took nearly three years from inception to release. “In Passing Ascension was kind of a nightmare to get off the ground,” says IsN. “The writing process took a while because YhA really wanted to perfect the sound he wanted on it. He started writing it as a teenager and we finished recording it in his early 20s. I was 19 when I recorded the drums on that record and sometimes it’s easy to forget that, since the songs still feel so fresh to me when we play them. Then there was label hunting, which was a process that took months and then when we finally landed on Blood Harvest there was contract negotiation, sorting out formats etc,.
But what took the absolute longest was our artwork. It took 8 months until the cover and the layout were done. It really set us back with the release, however I think ended up working in our favor because I feel like it was released during a really good time. It was released on May 26th, 2017 and we played Maryland Deathfest exactly 366 days later. So I’m really thankful for how much that record was able to change the course of the band.”
And indeed, In Passing Ascension caught a lot of people’s attention and was highly lauded upon its release. The time it took to put together the album seems to have been well spent and presented the sound that has defined Suffering Hour. One often compared to Deathspell Omega (with good reason) but still distinct, the move forward to their next EP was far more fluid with the experience under their belt.
We strive to be absolute best at what we do and to stand apart while doing it because our sanity is completely reliant on what we do within the confines of the Suffering Hour banner. We don’t have the convenience of half-assing anything we do and feeling okay enough about it to sleep at night. – YhA, guitarist of Suffering Hour
“Dwell was miles easier,” says IsN. “YhA took a few months to put together this song, then I went in and came up with a decent amount of my own drum parts and changed things here and there, DgS wrote the lyrics and then we recorded. The art was done quickly and everything came together a lot smoother. Granted we learned A LOT from the whole process with In Passing Ascension. We were brand new, but now we know what to expect and know how to handle ourselves better and more professionally.”
Bassist and vocalist DgS also writes the lyrics for the group, which are evocative of a hopeless cosmic underworld that reads as real as it does fantastical. “My lyrics usually come entirely from somewhere in my own head, usually without a whole lot of outside influence,” he says. “Most of my lyrics are a culmination of very personal ideas and how I think about life and living on this earth. They are also filled with a lot of other emotions and ideas other than just straight up nihilism, and expressed through very metaphoric contexts. I like to take a very visual, and sometimes simple idea or concept, and elude it to something more physical and earthly. I also express it through a lens that I also feel fits with the vibes that emanates from YhA’s music.”
The artwork for Dwell was also conveyed through DgS’ visions, and if you’re familiar with his lyrics that much is very obvious when you see the album cover. “The art was done by Cold Poison, who we actually got in contact through you guys at the Covenant, he says. “I had read the interview you guys did with him a long time back and knew from hearing him describe his process and use of synesthesia when working on art for bands that he would be a great fit. From the get-go when I’m choosing an artist to work with I’m choosing them because I trust that they will properly interpret it into something I can also see fit. The music and lyrics is our vision and the art is theirs. It definitely felt as if he turned my words directly into visuals, making a very fitting and evocative piece.”
With the seemingly never ending influx of new bands in extreme music who all want to make their mark, listeners face a lot of ancestor-worship as well as earnest attempts at innovation that don’t quite hit the spot. The true pleasure lies where you find a group of people that breathe new life into familiar forms. Suffering Hour is part of a new generation of bands that, in the face of all that’s already been done in heavy music, has to show us that there’s still much more to hear.
“I personally think that the amount of branching out that took place between the eighties and early nineties was more than anything has branched out in the 20+ years since,” says YhA. “In the beginning between the early extreme metal bands, a lot of it did sound the same. I only think that’s because they were such new concepts that they had to establish a proper fitting. Regardless with a lot of those early bands you knew which ones were which just by listening to them. When Forbidden is on you know it’s Forbidden, and when Pestilence is on you know it’s them. While the roots of everything going on around said genres were very similar, all of these bands contributed their own ideas to what eventually became the “generic” concepts of said genres they were a part of,” he elaborates. “Flash forward to the present, particularly in death metal. The ripping off of these old school bands is not only encouraged but worshiped, musicians are okay in letting their sound slip into a gigantic abyss of bands that sound just like them, and these bands are celebrated as being revolutionary and bringing their respective genres to new heights. When I can listen to a band and practically name the album every riff they play came off of, there’s nothing revolutionary going on. At all. The true spirit of what made old school metal so special has been killed off by the embrace of heaviness, “trueness” to the root of a band’s genre, and a surrender of revolution in favor of sounding like every other band people enjoy within their respected subgenres. It’s honestly gotten painful to watch. There’s a very big difference between ripping bands from a certain genre and understanding where they were coming from and figuring out how one would advance that mission from their own point of view.
YhA continues, “The amount of non-metal influences with these bands is dwindling too, and the self-created ouroborus in the scene that is the endless loop of metal inspired solely by metal is another cancer that has to be ridded of as well. Putting blinders to other genres up to one’s eyes does is limit one’s ability to find new ideas and atmospheres one wouldn’t have found otherwise. Metal isn’t a special offshoot of music, it’s music. To think ignorantly staying away from certain music genres enhances one’s dedication to a genre is a simply pathetic move that hinders expression. There are, as with everything, exceptions. Relatively newer bands like Jordablod, Negative Plane, Supersition, Chapel of Disease, Gentry Lord, and many of the bands part of your Covenant, have proven that staying true to the roots of a genre while bringing new, fresh ideas to the table is possible. That’s where I’d like to see metal go, and that’s where I try to take it.”
“Suffering Hour for me is my spin on the mission statements laid down by extreme and not-so-extreme bands decades before me as well as bands of recent times. Whether or not what we make people find original is up to the listener, but I’ve spent over 15 years writing music trying to develop a sound that’s my own, and this is it,” says YhA. “I know very well that I sound extremely elitist and I apologize to any friends that I may have up in arms while reading this, but for the three of us this band is what keeps us stable. We strive to be absolute best at what we do and to stand apart while doing it because our sanity is completely reliant on what we do within the confines of the Suffering Hour banner. We don’t have the convenience of half-assing anything we do and feeling okay enough about it to sleep at night. It’s something that although to a degree is a curse for us is something I wish I would see more bands do, but the current climate makes mediocrity an okay thing to strive for.”
For musicians to take it upon themselves to try and forge some kind of new path in such a heavily saturated genre can for many be a fool’s errand and for those who do find success, the rewards are undefined. But we can be grateful there are still those bands that do it regardless and surprise us when we come across them – Suffering Hour very much included.
BLOOD HARVEST RECORDS is proud to present the new Dwell EP on CD, 12″ vinyl, and cassette tape formats. The vinyl version shall be one-sided, with art etching on Side B.