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Suffer In Heaven


Album Review: CHELSEA GRIN Suffer In Heaven

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American deathcore outfit Chelsea Grin have been going strong since the release of their debut LP, 2010's Desolation of Eden. That's more commendable than it might sound initially considering that they've gone through numerous line-up changes since then (not to mention a few during their formative years). In fact, last year's Suffer in Hell—the initial half of the band's new double album—garnered a lot of praise from genre enthusiasts, with many championing it as the band's best outing to date.

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Unsurprisingly, the same can be said for follow-up Suffer in Heaven (which sees session drummer Nathan Pearson once again filling in for Pablo Viveros, who's been on hiatus since 2021). Perhaps even more than its predecessor, the 27-minute sequence is an immensely polished, economical, and vicious entry into the style. What truly sets Suffer in Heaven (and Chelsea Grin) apart, though, is its use of sobering atmospheres and multifaceted intersecting vocals. Combined, these elements elevate the record into what's surely one of 2023's most ambitious and artful deathcore statements.

Opener "Leave With Us" instantly establishes both qualities, as it begins with foreboding medieval timbres and a garbled robotic narrator emotionlessly offering apocalyptic proclamations. Afterward, Chelsea Grin skillfully build upon that foundation with an onslaught of blastbeats and fiendishly crunchy guitar riffs, all of which are wisely conceived around frontman Tom Barber's stacked black and death metal singing. There's a surprising amount of vocal diversity here, whether it be various approaches in unison or back-and-forth exchanges between two (or more) kinds of growling. In that way, "Leave With Us"—and much of what comes next—sounds like it's sung by a choir of different demons rather than a lone agitator.

The rest of the collection expands upon those intricacies in compelling ways. For instance, just as the second song on Suffer in Hell, "Forever Bloom," featured The Black Dahlia Murder's Trevor Strnad, Suffer in Heaven's second track—"Orc March"—features Dustin Mitchell of Filth. Naturally, he complements Barber well, resulting in increased variety alongside the arrangement's innovatively riotous trajectory. Oddly enough, it's simultaneously frightening and fun, as is the subsequent "Fathomless Maw" (due mainly to its politically-charged voiceovers and blistering guitar solo).

Later, "The Mind of God" kicks off with a brief sermon and mournful note progression that's adeptly interwoven into the rest of the composition. Likewise, "Yhorm the Giant" incorporates programmed percussion, faint gothic tones, and relatively zany guitarwork for one of the LP's most intriguingly eclectic experiences. As for finale "The Path of Suffering," its subtle background bells, drones, and chants—juxtaposed by its bizarre cyclical textures—makes it particularly cinematic and nightmarish. That it ends with a beautifully industrial coda (which wouldn't feel out of place in a classic Tim Burton film) is the icing on the cake.

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Even when it's quite straightforward ("Soul Slave" and "Sing to the Grave"), Suffer in Heaven is engagingly ferocious and striving. Thankfully, though, it typically goes a step further via imaginatively moody production and playful structures. As such (and as usual), Chelsea Grin ensure that Suffer in Heaven is an especially nuanced, clever, and unified sequence. From start to finish, it represents the peak of what they—and deathcore as a whole—can do.

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