Voluntary Mortification - Suffer To Rise

‘Christian metal’ is a bit of an oxymoron, specifically when the term metal is usually associated when referring to anti-Christian themes and ideals. Bands anywhere from Deicide to Immolation have thrown down the gauntlet and dragged Christian ideals through the mud, so it is very surprising and daring when a band- let alone a death metal/ deathcore band- creates a hellstorm of an album that supports Christian themes and ideals, and the Michigan based deathcore five piece Voluntary Mortification do just that. 

“Suffer To Rise” is a strong debut that takes the tropes of groups like Carnifex or even Impending Doom and create a sort of concept album as a journey through hell that show that the genre can take things up quite a notch that goes beyond the more popular standard set by better known groups like Living Sacrifice or Demon Hunter. There isn’t much in the way of beauty or melodies here. No clean vocals or clear signs of hope. Just guttural darkness and heavy chugging breakdowns that suck listeners in but lyrics that are very supportive and positive in their despairing tone without being overly preachy, even if they don’t sound hopeful at all. And that is perhaps the biggest success in metal in general is that is sounds ‘awful’ but promotes some pretty truthful and positive stuff, such as finding hope when pushed down into such despairing darkness. And Voluntary Mortification is certainly not awful even though your average Çhristian listener might say so if they are biased.

The album opens with the brief heartbeat instrumental of ‘Wages Of Sin’ before delving into ‘Death Tremors.’ Musically, the typical deathcore chugs are there with a mix of growled and shrieked vocals; very slow to mid paced riffs and pounding drums that certainly hold the mid era Carnifex flair from albums such as “Hell Chose Me.” It is anthemic, driving, and while not progressive or hold anything to really grab listeners right out the gate, it stays brutal as possible. Your average Christian metal fan might be a bit overwhelmed by the sound, but at least the band doesn’t go full on extreme brutal death metal or grindcore. Their level of heavy is amped up but not so much that it overwhelms. Other tracks like ‘Valley of Slaughter’ pick up the pace a bit and add some groove with the breakdowns. It still anthemic, still driving, but the biggest enjoyment from it is probably the balanced approach of the vocals as the higher and lower pitches seem a bit more even compared to earlier tracks that use one more than the other. The track still oozes and crawls along though despite the up in pace, and carries a bit of an Incantation sound to it. The band also adds in samples of spoken word parts such as the rather tongue in cheek ‘Demoncratic Society’ but this is where the album starts to stale a little bit as riffs and drum patterns kind of start to blend together from earlier tracks, such as the rather ‘militant’ beat of ‘Death Tremors’ that is quite reminiscent in the track. 

There are some stumbles to the album. Aside from the re-use of riffs here and there making the tracks a bit hard to discern, the band uses some interlude pieces which come across as filler. ‘Into Your Hands’ is moody and darkening, but like the samples on ‘Demoncratic Society’ could have done better cut down and added onto the final track. Other tracks like the title track ‘Suffer To Rise’ just chug along but sound uninspired and lacks the ‘oomph’ that some of the earlier ones has. Yes there is groove and the chorus is certainly head-banging, but it leaves a bit of a sour taste in the ears as the band continues to play between the Carnifex and Incantation line of mixing deathcore with a bit of a doom laden death metal. The album overall is loud, but uses the same tricks one too many times. However, the band does close with a bang on ‘Crush the Serpent’s Head.’ Speeding things up, adding in guitar melodies versus just thunderous chugs, and throat tearing vocals that even though they sound strained at times, sound honest and hellish. 

The Incantation sound is certainly prevalent throughout and even though the buzz saw riffs can be a bit wearing it finishes off the journey fully leaving and sound of despair but a message of hope. Overall, “Suffer To Rise” is a gritty yet hopeful album that rides the line between anthemic head banging and 2 step moshing. Sonically it destroys and lyically it tries to help. Hopefully listeners will take both hand in hand and not turn it away simply because they are not a fan of the other. Your average Christian listener will probably want to turn it off after the first track, but the whole album is a walk through hell that promotes ideas that they would well find interest in. And the average metal listener will enjoy the sound for its heaviness and if they are of open mind, will enjoy the lyrics as well.

3.5 / 5 STARS

1. Wages Of Sin
2. Death Tremors
3. Vindicator
4. Valley Of Slaughter
5. Silence
6. Demoncratic Society
7. The Cull
8. Abomination
9. Suffer To Rise
10. Into Your Hands
11. Crush The Serpent’s Head