Make Them Suffer's career has been interesting so far, to say the least. The Aussie band's first few studio releases were very much grounded in deathcore with heavy key-led symphonic influences. However, as time progressed, the band have made a lot of stylistic changes from album to album. Their sophomore full-length, Old Souls, still had a lot of the ferocious symphonic death metal elements of their earliest material, but it also had some songs which fell more in line with metalcore. Perhaps the most stark change in sound, however, was on Make Them Suffer's third release, Worlds Apart. The album's name is an apt description for the sound, which was far more atmospheric than anything else they had released before. However, in spite of taking these risks on each album, Make Them Suffer have always managed to stay very consistent when it comes to the quality of their albums, and the change in sound hasn't taken away none of the savagery and the power that was present on their earliest material.
This brings us to their fourth full-length release, entitled How To Survive a Funeral. This album is, to put it as liberally as possible, a bit of an oddball in this band's discography. The strength of the musicianship on here is just as strong as it has always been, with an obvious highlight being lead singer and frontman Sean Harmanis. His vocal delivery here has just as much power as always, and this is made known from when he comes in on 'Falling Ashes', the first full track on the album. This song is an absolutely brutal affair, complete with ferocious blast beats and mosh-heavy riffs and breakdowns. Without question this is one of the heaviest songs Make Them Suffer has written since their early days, and one of the highlights on the album for sure. In addition to his harsh vocals, Sean also has the opportunity to show off his ability to sing on a few tracks, such as on 'Erase Me' and 'The Attendant'.
Another focal point of the album is keyboardist and backing vocalist Booka Nile, who has given the vocals a greater presence on Make Them Suffer's material since her arrival on the aforementioned 'Worlds Apart'. Her dreamy singing and keyboard playing are one of the main reasons for the atmospheric and almost spacey feel to the newer Make Them Suffer material, and could even be compared to gothic rock acts such as The Birthday Massacre.
However, in spite of the strength of the musicianship on show here, what makes How To Survive a Funeral an oddball is the inconsistency and lack of cohesion when listening to the entire album. This is a very hit and miss album, with the three pre-release singles being particularly worrying songs where the band seems intent on forcing very awkward transitions between aggressive verses and soft, flowy choruses. These awkward transitions may have been more acceptable and less noticeable if it had only been used on one track, but having the same forced compositions on three songs on a ten-track release, not to mention on all three pre-release singles, is impossible to ignore and plays a part in detrimenting the flow of the album, something that has always been the strength of every previous Make Them Suffer release. It's a real shame, too, given the aforementioned strength of the musicianship still present on these weaker songs.
However, in spite of these obvious flaws, How To Survive a Funeral is by no means a bad album, and what it lacks for in cohesion it still mostly makes up for with the strong musicianship on play, and the tracks individually are still very good, and even the weaker songs are enjoyable and not unlistenable. For every forced transition in the weaker songs, there is another song where these transitions feel natural and flow seemlessly, such as in 'The Attendant', possibly the best song on the album, and closing track That's Just Life is another example of these transitions being implemented in a far less forced and overall more successful way.
How To Survive a Funeral is, overall, not a bad record, but it is a shame to hear Make Them Suffer fall short of the quality of their previous albums, but this doesn't mean the album is an unenjoyable experience, nor does it give off the impression that the band have run out of ideas. Hopefully, come their next studio release, Make Them Suffer will have learned from the mistakes here and return to the consistency they presented with, save for this album, the entirety of their discography.