Num Skull - _When Suffering Comes_
(Defiled Records, 1996)
by: Steve Hoeltzel (7 out of 10)
Although their spelled-wrong-on-purpose band name keeps making me think of hair metal wussies Ruff Cutt, these guys have absolutely nothing to do with wussy-hood. Nope, this is brutal death, North American-style - the kind of thing that would make Ruff Cutt wet their spandex pants; and if you're big on this particular style, then you're almost certain to like it. It's superbly heavy, with a bit of early Suffocation feel to the sound, plus some crushing mid-tempo grooves and rhythm guitars that occasionally remind me of Malevolent Creation's uber-powerful _Retribution_. What I especially like about the album is the genuine old-school vibe it's got going: these guys are much more interested in morbid heaviness and unpretentious structures than in needlessly technical riffing and constant tempo changes. Not that it's monotonous, though. There are some great, barbaric dynamics on tracks like "As the Dead Pile High," "The Gift of Hate," and opener "Eyes of a Madman." Another cool touch: they close with a cover of Venom's "Buried Alive," a song which definitely benefits from an injection of death metal heaviness. The production is solid, and so are all the performances. Why didn't I give it a higher score? Well, at 33 minutes for nine tracks, the compositions are all fairly short, and some songs don't really seem to go anywhere in the course of their brief durations. More to the point: although definitely enjoyable, Num Skull are lacking in any real distinctness that might set them apart from their peers. But hell yeah, they know what they're doing, and this is undeniably very heavy.

(article published 3/16/1997)


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