Supuration The Cube: Death Metal’s Most Unique Album

It is commonly assumed that the most unique album in death metal is Nespithe and while there is a very strong case for such a claim, Supuration’s The Cube has a stronger claim to such a title. Demilich have a large number of failed imitators while Supuration have none at all. The first listen to Demilich immediately shows the band’s intentions and dizzying whirlwinds of ideas in elaborate riff mazes. Supuration sounds like a rock hybrid that borders on modern metal but with much depth and just as unique but requiring many more listens to dig past the highly accessible aesthetics. Here are a few tools that Supuration used to create the most unique album in Death metal.

The tonal vocals are not sung with good technique or with much conviction but rather a heavily accented, emotionless voice that hits the right notes without any problems. One of the many reasons why English language music sung by French speakers sounds flat is due to the lack of tonic accents in the French language. A tonic accent is defined as being a syllable pronounced with great stress. Without these, words sound flat and almost unrecognizable to the experienced/native English speaker. The vocals have a tendency of cutting up the syllables at random places due to the lack of fluency from the vocalist. All this removes the individuality and humanity from the vocals which is necessary in regards to maintaining consistency with the themes of the album and avoiding the personal drama that has infested the way that clean vocals are handled in extreme metal.

The guitar, like all string instruments possesses a certain number of unique sounds that require a wide variety techniques to activate. This is accomplished by manipulating the nodes on the strings (points of the string where there is minimal variation in amplitude when the string vibrates). Incantation for example use this extensively to create sounds that make their melodies more twisted. Out of all the possible tricks available to distorted guitar, Supuration use the simplest one, the natural harmonic. The guitarist lightly places places his finger over the node while picking the string normally. This simple technique is often ignored in metal as it creates bright tones that are limited as they occur in very few places across the guitar neck. “Through the Transparent partitions” shows this perfectly as it creates an otherworldly melody from these bright tones. Of note is the way the opening chords of “The Cube” are attacked. Rather than hitting the string with the pick. Both guitarists pinch them with their fingers which allows them to interrupt the decay of the chord and thus create the unique sonic effect. Bands like Hellhammer found success in playing with ideas that were discarded by other bands for being too simple and Supuration continue within that path.

In metal there has always been a golden rule in regards to the roles of both guitars. When diverging, the rhythm guitar sticks to the lower end of the neck while the lead guitar explores the higher regions. The Cube does adhere to this mentality for the most part but at times both guitar will play variation of the same melody on the same octave. This is mainly avoided as both melodies will occupy the same frequency range making them difficult to distinguish but Supuration manage to move in such ways that the melodies aren’t muddled in an audible blur. This allows the band explore much shorter intervals superposed on top of each other in order to create the dreamlike twisted universe of the album’s concept. “The Dim Light” shows this perfectly as these two simple consonant melodies collide in a bizarre and unexpected manner as they mesh perfectly to set the tone of the album’s harrowing finale. This opens moments where the band fall into conventional harmony that is virtually non existent within Death metal but use this to bring forth chromatic melodies by inverting the positions of certain notes within the chords. This is what allows The Cube to retain its metal edge during these excursions into non-metal territory. This allows the band to create passages that are purely chromatic but that can interact with the more conventional melodies that the other guitar is performing. An interesting method of composing that is sometimes found within black metal.

There are a lot more compositional elements that make this band unique but that would require a book entirely dedicated to the subject. Its quality doesn’t stem exclusively from how unique it is but how the methods are integrated into the Death metal style and the use of the more traditional metal components. A much better concept album than the overly praised The Key that never got its long overdue praise. The greatest modern metal album of all time and one deserving its place in the pantheon just below the top.

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21 thoughts on “Supuration The Cube: Death Metal’s Most Unique Album”

  1. Bunn E says:

    What’s your take on OLD’s Lo Flux Tube…?

    1. canadaspaceman says:

      O.L.D. (1991) Lo Flux Tube is great IF you like weirdo metal like late 1980s Voi Vod.
      It has the feel and sound of Old Lady Drivers, but they slowed it down and went more in the avant-garde/industrial hardcore road, maybe influenced by Die Kreuzen too like Voi Vod who ripped off Kreuzen on the Killing Technology album after touring with them.

      1. Might point him toward Kong at that point…

  2. Bring back the draught says:

    I really miss the days when maraat would have reviewed an album like this by posting nothing except a picture of 6 guys hanging dead on a crane.

  3. Cynical says:

    Disagreed on the overall uniqueness; aside from the usage of natural harmonics (which is a question of using technique to get a particular timbre moreso than composition), this album treads very similar ground to “Soulside Journey”, “Mystic Places of Dawn”, “No Longer Silent”, or, moving to a nominally-different genre, “Thy Mighty Contract”.

    IMO, better candidates for the title of “most unique album in death metal” are “Blessed Are the Sick” (mainly for the first half) or “Pierced from Within”. I don’t know of a single other album that attempts the slowly mutated structures of “Blessed…”; frequently, it isn’t even truly riff-based, with lots of lines never quite being repeated exactly, or sometimes only getting one repeat. “Pierced…” stands alone within the genre as an attempt at merging both the “spastic rhythm”-style of technical death metal and the “weird chromatic melody”-style of technical death metal with NYDM brutality; nothing else in the genre that I’ve ever encountered even attempts this, the closest is Deeds of Flesh but their albums are built more on the more “flowing” style of NYDM of Immolation/Incantation rather than the “percussive with sudden breaks” style of NYDM in the Suffocation/Pyrexia/Baphomet school.

    (Demilich is a worse candidate than anything mentioned in this article or above, being built on fairly straightforward “gore death metal” stylings played with some rock offbeat accents, like Autopsy on a Rush bender or the first Carcass album slowed down.)

    1. DEMILICH says:

      we’re just hella cool but yeah

    2. kool AIDS says:

      agreed on all points. even though I had viscerally negative reaction to your take on demilich. they are basically just gorguts if gorguts were much better. the uniqueness is superficial. great as they are.

      1. Cynical says:

        I didn’t mean to sound negative on Demilich; I was among the crowd of people that brought down Svart’s website when the 2CD compilation preorders went up, and seeing them live with Averse Sefira in 2006 is one of my favorite memories. They’re a killer band, but they’re not as “out there” as they’re reputed to be; anyone familiar with Carcass and Autopsy will recognize the style.

        1. kool AIDS says:

          didn’t think you were being down on demi. I don’t really feel the carcass comparison because it’s very much north american dm influenced without any grind. but yeah on ‘topsy. some weird new york groove as well. maybe it’s the odd time signatures or just the overall aesthetic but something hard to pin down stil makes them stand out beyond the raw technique.

          1. Cynical says:

            There’s definitely some grind influence in Demilich — the riff at 2:50 in “When the Sun Drank the Weight of Water”, or 1:09 in “The Sixteenth Six-Tooth Son…” both come to mind. Also, material like some of the slower grooves on “Reek of Putrefaction” shows up on “Nespithe”; listen to “Genital Grinder”, and tell me you don’t hear some Demilich in that…

            1. kool AIDS says:

              those are just blasts, not really anything to do with grind, which is more hardcore than metal anyway. there is no hardcore in demi.

    3. I would argue that what made Demilich great was not form, but content. They managed a mood that was not so much weird as aiming for a combination between febrile and imaginative. I see them as closest to At The Gates, with doubled structures evolving from the original, and heavy reliance on a certain mode, but the voice they manage within that is their own, even if they added a jazz-fusion sense of rhythm to it. I find the form least convincing, and the voice of these songs most convincing.

      1. bloodypulp says:

        demilich rules. i put it on for people who arent really into metal and they like it. and one of the best live sets ive seen.

    4. No one came anywhere near at first at doing so much with that weird Finnish scale at first and Demilich pushed as far as they could with a strong American Death metal/grind influence. Supuration are the only DM band to venture so far into conventional harmony without playing Death n’ Roll.

  4. Frozenlake says:

    Ha. We agree on something. Great piece.

    1. lemmy kilminstrel says:

      It’s the uniqueness of this album that makes it even more unique! Definitely most unique.

  5. Clenched asshole says:

    Anyone know where I can buy a copy of this album?

    1. Duh, anywhere on the internets dummie.

  6. Well Regulated Metal homo says:

    “The guitar, like all string instruments possesses a certain number of unique sounds that require a wide variety techniques to activate. This is accomplished by manipulating the nodes on the strings (points of the string where there is minimal variation in amplitude when the string vibrates). ”

    this is the most pretentious thing i have ever read i hope the polyps inside your colon manipulate themselves into stage iv cancer you fucking retard vadihas

    1. please write it out in simpler terms. Explaining certain mechanics principles is always difficult.

  7. Vomit says:

    This one is great, I got the CD reissue but was lucky to find the double LP reissue that has demo tracks of their older material recorded around the same time that is actually fucking better. Far more distant and ghostly sounding. There’s a strand of gloomy downbeat death metal from the early 90s that never had any popularity that Supuration were absolutely a part of. I’d say also see Sororicide and the first Pentacrostic, there are others, Malediction also. I prefer this style over most of the “oldschool death metal” stylings that have been overpraised and over analyzed to death (Florida, Swedish etc).

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