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(And now for the millionth installment of my Effigy Of The Forgotten review...)
Damnit, it's such a shame this album is so fundamentally flawed and that it isn't a masterpiece as a result. The potential is there and it's there in boatloads, but the guys from Suffocation just didn't really seem to know how to properly shape what might be the first ever brutal death metal album into something that doesn't make me want to pull hairs from my anus in frustration. Really, the music on display here is competent, oftentimes catchy and surprisingly "musical" for BDM standards, but the shoddy production and water-thin bass drums serve as some of the most annoying drawbacks ever, to any album. In terms of performances, Effigy Of The Forgotten is an absolutely mouth-watering display of techy brutality, simply because everything sounds so right, but I just can't get past that production job.
...It's not very good, the bass drums sound like the musical equivalent of clicking a pen and they're not used sparingly so you'll have to sit through them for pretty much the entirety of this album's material. The guitars are thin but have a very everpresent layer of distortion backing them up so they become a bit fuzzy. There's treble. Definitely. But I feel the guitars lack personality because there's just so little meat to it. I mean, I don't find this album unmemorable or anything, probably because I must've heard this close to 50 times by now and I can easily hum shit in my head or air guitar along with the songs, but it's just not a very exciting experience overall. The bass is not very loud, it's put in the backseat and you can only sometimes hear it from underneath the fuzz that surrounds the guitars. The drums are arguably the biggest offender here though, I simply cannot stress enough how frustrating the drum kit is. Everything sounds okay, but the bass drums, THE FUCKING BASS DRUMS! Ugh, I honestly can't stand them, they're far too thin and they ruin an otherwise awesome drumming performance.
Luckily, Mullen provides here what might be one of the best vocal performances in his career. While it's actually a technique more than a deeper level of growling, he pulls it off very nicely here. The lyrics, while good, serve as being totally useless as you'll have a hard time trying to figure out what the hell this guy is vomiting into the microphone.
It's all very violent, but it just doesn't deliver enough punches in the end. Some passages are oddly catchy and most of the solos are awesome. The slam on the album's opener is famous for being the first slam in death metal history, and it's one of the best at it. In fact, the whole song serves as the sole highlight to this album. It's simply great from start to finish, with the other songs trying to outdo what it did best, but constantly falling short in the process. It's not a bad album by any means, but I feel Suffocation delivered far more with Pierced From Within, which still stands as one of the weirdest BDM albums I have ever heard. Effigy Of The Forgotten is a little more straight-forward and grindy overall, but the lack of personality here definitely holds it back compared to other, better BDM releases.
Mention brutal death metal to any person knowledgeable of the metal genre and the band Suffocation is sure to be brought up. Hailing from New York, Suffocation is considered a legendary death metal band. They definitely have left their mark on the genre, widely credited with creating the brutal death metal subgenre. Their influence is undeniable. The album’s title is tribute to Atheist’s former bass player, Roger Patterson. The artwork was done by Dan Seagrave, who also did the artwork for Like An Ever Flowing Stream. It was released after their Human Waste EP, and features many of the same songs from the EP.
The album kicks off with evil, fast riffs that have a very thick guitar tone. The first song also features what’s considered the first, “breakdown” in this genre. This was ahead of its time for 1991, and you can hear guitar players ripping off Cerrito and Hobbs in many brutal death metal and deathcore bands today. They waste no time going to work here and give you no room to breathe. Frank Mullen’s vocals are very well executed and go great with the riffs. The riffs are brutal and chunky, yet played swiftly with a good hint of melody. That’s one of the things this band has been given so much credit for – being able to play with brutality but also incorporate melody.
This album was also one of the most technical releases of the time. The longer song, “Seeds of The Suffering” really showcases the band's songwriting abilities and their ability to create atmosphere while still maintaining intensity. There is also a slight pinch of grind on this album, particularly in the later tracks. One of things that has always stood out to me (especially after repeated listens) is the drumming by Mike Smith. This was in the days before drum triggers. He sounds great on his kit and is really fun to listen to, especially with the way he plays the double bass. It’s amazing how much drums can really improve a guitar riff. The riffs are well executed, featuring fast, evil, and dark tremolo picked melodies. They also do a great job playing power chords with dissonant melodies at the end of the line. Expect nothing short of greatness from the axes of Doug Cerrito and Terrance Hobbs here.
If you browse through the lyrics of most brutal death metal bands, you’ll find that little effort is really put into making lyrics. A lot of time they just focus on shock value, with vapid statements and nothing all that thought provoking. Suffocation is an exception, however. A lot of the lyrics are really thought provoking. Lyrics delve into topics such as questioning of religious ideas, apocalyptic destruction, and death. A lot of the lyrics are written intelligently. For a good overall idea of their poetic value, read the lyrics to Liege of Inveracity, Effigy of the Forgotten, and Jesus Wept.
One of the great things about this album is its ability to blow you away with brutality, while still having melody and a degree of catchiness. They definitely know how to create hooks to give you a reason to listen once more. The song “Jesus Wept” features one of the best and most iconic hooks in death metal. How can you not like those riffs and the way Frank Mullen growls between those guitar lines?
All in all, this is an essential album to listen to. Even if you don’t enjoy the music, (you most likely will if you enjoy death metal) you should still listen to it because of its influence on metal. It is truly a metal gem and an instant classic.
When this album first came out, back in the middle of the death metal boom, I simply couldn't imagine there ever being a more brutal (that tired and worn description is warranted here, if anywhere) release. I was given fair warning - I read about this band's demo and I had their 'Human Waste' record in my collection already, but this album was something else entirely. Coming out as it did in 1991, right at the same time (roughly - in my memory) as Immolation's massive 'Dawn of Possession' debut and Deicide's incalculably fine 'Legion' masterpiece, it marked a high point for American death metal. There will probably never again be such a time for brutal American music... I simply can't imagine any bands (or scene, whatever) topping that trio of RC releases. Can you? This album was absorbed seamlessly into the American underground, and sparked a massive wave of clone bands that has not subsided even now. As such, I think I can rightfully say this is the album that killed death metal - if not this, then surely their next release, 'Breeding the Spawn', which seemingly shed all of their melodic influences and traded in their fluent Morbid Angel-ish tremelo riffing for a percussive beatdown the likes of I have never heard equaled. There are bands out there still trying to come to terms with that album.
Listening to this album is like being attacked by rabid, slavering demons armed with jackhammers. The most noticeable aspect of it's power is its percussive brilliance, helped along by Scott Burns' bass-heavy production, which I used to think was excellent but which I now know completely handicapped this band by blurring over their melodic talent. Only a few songs escape the shadows-and-fog bass addiction of Burns - noticeably the older material on this that also appeared on 'Human Waste'. In fact, this album is so bass-heavy that if I was ever a contestant in some kind of stereo destroying contest, like the factory unit tosses the car audiophiles often have at their conventions, this would be placed in my arsenal alongside Merzbow and Masonna. Try it out yourself: take that old worn-out department store stereo that you doubtlessly have from your childhood out of the attic or basement, adjust the EQ to max out the low frequencies, turn the volume all the way up, and slip this disc in. Have you ever seen subwoofers explode before? I believe it was actually this album that shredded my first stereo... all I know is that I woke up one day to find that the speakers had somehow ripped themselves loose from their moorings in the cabinets, as if trying to flee an impending holocaust.
I also wonder why the armed forces haven't seized on music like this as well in their propoganda/psychological warfare campaigns - if Noriega couldn't sleep with Van Halen (his insomnia was doubtlessly caused by sudden cravings for Clear Pepsi which he couldn't explain) blasting into his compound, wouldn't an album like this just make him drop dead? Commit suicide in abject terror? I believe that this music actually has the ability to kill, if amplified correctly... those kick drums, machine gun snare blasts, bass poundings, and crunching muted riffs could collapse chests, snap necks, and sever spinal chords if given enough juice behind them...
The production aside, this is simply just a massive collection of monumental music. When I listen to these songs it is difficult to believe they were conceived and recorded by human beings - they are so lethal and machine-like they sound as if they were the spectral offering of doomsday robots invented to lay waste to entire planets - like the aural equivalent of the reaping machine on the album cover. How far has rock and roll come in 40 years? If an alien came down to this planet I would wish him to see some prime early rock, say Buddy Holly or Elvis or Haley or Jerry Lee, and then witness this band live... I would just turn to him/her/it and smile with pride. If Elvis the Pelvis was spreading the sexual 'percussiveness' inherent in rock and roll with his abrupt rhythms and quick beats, making mothers faint across the country, how would those dour sour-faced puritans react to something like this? They would probably lose their minds... or submit to the seduction of blast beats in erotic delirium, fainting under the battering of five young men from New York (the harshest city on Earth) who are intent here on flailing and beating themselves into a bloody ritualistic trance... this album is mandatory, a work of art. 'Purification through violence', it's as simple as that.
When I First listened to death metal, it was something new to me to be honest. Refraining from the NWOBHM and thrash, I needed a more fast, aggressive oriented approach to music because sometimes when I'm angry, the 2 said genres I refrained from for a while, didn't relate to how I was feeling. In comes the door to death metal and I'm hooked. The bands like Deicide, Morbid Angel, Death, and Obituary were such a refresh to my music journey because of how new it was to me, but it wasn't what I was looking for. The said bands were devoiding something from me that I would call "brutal". It was not until I heard about this album by the almighty Suffocation and their landmark of brutality debut entitled, Effigy of the Forgotten.
Holy shit when I first glared upon this album, I thought what are we in for here now. The cover instantly compelled me to give this album a listen not only because of the style that the band had their name on this release that would later have bands for years to come do the same as they did. It was mainly the artwork on this masterpiece. Like who the hell would've thought of putting "Wall-E" on steroids as a death metal artwork in 1991. Totally unexpected but it is what it is. They say that looks can be deceiving and while that may be true most of the time, its not in this case. The artwork shown in this album reflects to how the band sounds, and how they execute their shit!
Just like Cannibal Corpse these guys are from New York as well, but from Long Island. The line up consists Mike Smith on drums, Terrance Hobbs on guitar as well as Doug Cerrito. In addition, you have Josh Barohn on bass guitar, and finally Frank Mullen on vocals. Now there is no way this album could have been in 1991 because the standard of death metal at the time was only at the level of the Florida scene. This album is so ahead of its time. If this album was released this year, it would still be as revolutionary as it was when it released in the said year.
Alright fuck it, the suspense is killing me enough as it is so here goes track number one entitled "Liege of Inveracity". I can only come up with a few words to describe the first 30 seconds or so into the song, and that is WHAT THE FLYING SHIT! This took me by surprise because these guys weren't your traditional old school death metal band, they took influences and culminated into the ultimate death metal cookie. This is where brutality started! The biggest surprise is mainly Frank Mullen's vocals. His style has that sound that we here in todays metal scene, and its evident throughout this whole album. The guy is like a angry cookie monster I love it! Whats even more interesting is, that interludes of the said opening track, include the famous breakdown that we all know today as "slam". It is arguably the first slam note to be heard in all of slam. As a slam fan, I commend this with open arms.
Talking about one member as the driving force of the legendary Suffocation doesn't do it justice as the other 4 members contributed to the success and making of this album as well so its only fair I give credit where credit is due. Mike Smith is said to be the man who started it all, and the guy has a solid foundation behind the drums. In almost every song, Mike doesn't disappoint at all. His blast beats are solid, the fills, and double bass action compliment the albums overall brutal sound. There are times where his drumming scares me mainly because of how fast he plays which is expected in a caliber album of this magnitude, and is most likely the first brutal/slam metal drummer. Very original style at the time to say the least. Now onto the dynamic guitar duo. Terrance Hobbs and Doug Cerrito know how to play their instruments, and they played that downtune distorted noise that you hear in todays metal scene. Once again these guys are revolutionary in this department as their abilities are prominent in every song with their crunchy, and brutal riffage that ables to not only captivate the listener's attention, but as well make them head bang the fuck off. Then finally we have Josh Barohn on bass guitar. For some reason the only moment where his bass playing stands out is near the end of the track "Infecting the Crypts" where there is a short bass solo for couple of seconds prior to band exploding. I would say there are some other tracks where he is conspicuous as well, but overall hes pretty talented at what he does.
The production here is pretty solid. I have no complains whatsoever like some people have about this album, so I'll leave it at that because changing it would change the listening experience of this album and I'll stand firm on that. There are also no filler tracks as each one stands out but the one that would stand out the most is the first track entitled "Liege of Inveracity".
To put this in a nut shell, THIS IS THE DEATH METAL ALBUM THAT I CAN RELATE MY PISSED OFF MOOD TOO, and I can't thank these guys enough at all for crafting such an art that I would still be listening to this day. This album is better than most of the shit thats put out today in the modern metal scene. Its such a shame that theres not an album out there that can touch this nor Suffocation themselves for that matter. This is their magnum opus and they were the genesis of what death metal is today whether you want to accept it or not. Buy this shit cause I certainly am going to order this. If I happen to listen to a brutal or slam metal album, one thing that will always be reminscent throughout that album I'd happen to be listening to, is that it has a Suffocation attribute. This album shows why they are one of the most respected acts in the death metal community.
Say it loud and say it proud- SUFFOCATION. To some that word may just be a means to physically murder another person but to me it means balls out death metal that doesn't give a damn about you. For those uninitiated to the band, Suffocation are a brutal death metal band from New York. They were initially formed in 1988 by vocalist Frank Mullen but soon had a new lineup established, and the band went on to release their debut album Effigy Of The Forgotten in 1991. The five-piece band managed with that release to establish a blueprint that various bands would go on to follow in the years to come.
Suffocation's style is one that has influenced so many bands over the years, with their signature use of slams eventually leading to the breakdown-infested sub-genre Deathcore. They rely on relentless drumming, highly technical guitar work and guttural vocal work that at the time was almost unheard of. The guilty party responsible for this album are vocalist Frank Mullen, drummer Mike Smith, bassist Josh Barohn and guitarists Terrance Hobbs and Doug Cerrito. Between them this lineup managed to create one of the first albums in the brutal death metal sub-genre and Effigy Of The Forgotten truly is a landmark in the genre, even featuring two guest appearances from Monstrosity/Cannibal Corpse vocalist George Fisher on the songs Reincremation and Mass Obliteration.
The album clocks in at under forty minutes which is a tidy time for nine minutes of pure death metal brilliance. It opens up with one of the band's most well known song entitled Liege Of Inveracity and never refrains from being a technical, heavy assault on the ears right up until the closing seconds of Jesus Wept. This album does not *** around at all, with each song being structured perfectly so as best to crush the listener underfoot. The riff work on here is absolute insanity with the band being able to seamlessly transfer from playing fast power chords to lightning fast tremolo picking with little effort. Scattered throughout each of the songs are slower moments known as "slams" that serve as a means to break up the tempo and add a little variety to the album. Whereas the deathcore genre's bands would take all variety away from these slams and create their open-string chugging breakdowns that detracted from their songs, Suffocation truly knew how to make these work. Liege Of Inveracity is a great example as to how well the band throws in these clever slams that blasts away until around the 3.00 mark when it suddenly slows down and cuts to a very slow section that is integrated extremely well.
The soloing on this album is another high point, clearly being very Slayer influenced although a lot more tolerable. Both guitarists play solos on this release and they are always more than listenable. Many songs have more than one example to point to and the guitar solos on here are a true credit to the band. They are absolute shred-fests that rely on playing as many notes as quickly as the band possibly could in as short a space of time as possible but it works to perfection and seeks to only impress the listener more. Also the drumming is a highlight as well with some frenzied blast beats thrown around as though they are going out of fashion, with the drumming on Involuntary Slaughter sticking out best. The drumming on here is varied as well with a variety of different speeds being played tightly by Mike. He knows how to use both his hands and his feet to near perfection, with some insane double bass work found on this release.
Jesus Wept is another standout song, that closes off the album perfectly. This is one of five songs that were re-recorded from previous material, with Infecting The Crypts, Jesus wept and Mass Obliteration being re-recordings of songs from the Human Waste EP and Involuntary Slaughter and Reincremation coming from their demo. Jesus Wept is an overly aggressive example of how technical riffing should be handled properly, whilst also containing an absolutely beautifully written slam. Some of the double bass drumming is mind-blowing to listen to, and the sweep picked riff near the beginning is something of a technical wonder to listen to given the speed and precision of it. Jesus Wept stands proudly as one of the best in the band's back catalogue and is only topped off by some insane vocal work.
The only little niggle that can be found is that the production is a little too heavy at times. The guitar work frequently sounds a little too samey and the drumming has a rather horrible tone to the bass drum. It is nothing that cripples the album but is certainly more than noticeable. However, when it comes to a slam-death frenzy of blast beats and ridiculously technical riffing, this is an exercise in how it should be done properly. Listen to Liege Of Inveracity, and if you like that song it is guaranteed that you will like the rest of the album.
The debut album of Suffocation happens to be one of my all time favorite death metal albums. Near everything here that Suffocation was going for was achieved all in this album and their EP before it - Pure fucking brutality that kicks your ass while still being coherent. Coincidentally, half the songs were off Human Waste. I'm not sure if they were re-recorded here as I don't own the EP yet, but I'll leave that out for now. Even the many bands that would come playing in a similar vein to this this band with their newer albums had only hoped to be anywhere as talented and crushing as this album, let alone, this band.
The minute you pop this album in your CD player, you will be treated to an opening involving Frank Mullen's deep and ferocious growls within two mere seconds alongside the crushing music. Now anyone familiar with their more recent material, but not their earlier work will be the ones most astounded by the man himself - here, his voice is MUCH DEEPER AND MORE FEROCIOUS than say in Blood Oath (Now don't get me wrong, he still kicks major ass, he just isn't as godly as he was.) This is even more impressive considering that death metal was still fairly new and that it was essentially thrash made heavier and faster, using shouting vocals. Yep, you read that right. At the time of this album's release, Mullen was one of the most inhuman vocalists.
Guitar work is no joke here. Despite being a brutal death metal record, expect technical riffs and solos everywhere instead of simplistic chugging and chords from Doug Cerrito and Terrance Hobbs. The beginning riff of Reincremated should tell you just how insane these guys are. They play at a fast paced tempo so it's not a chore to listen to and adds to the chaos. Riffs are memorable and heavy as hell. One thing that did make me a little sad was that the guitar solos, in my honest opinion, was that they were fairly unmemorable and seemed to be thrown in for the sake for making solos. Even as technical as they are, it sounded mostly like sheer wank. Thankfully, they're Slayer-tier at worst, and they're not awful enough to ruin otherwise awesome songs. Also, it did add some variety to the songs so they didn't sound the same. Oh, and the infamous breakdowns that deathcore acts would abuse. Suffocation does them, but not only in moderation, but they sound really goddamn brutal and stick with the flow when they do use them, such as the one found in Liege of Inveracity.
Drumming isn't sloppy and out of rhythm, but even despite that, he's no slowpoke here. His blast beats and snares are not too loud and is actually cool sounding here. Very impressed.
Lyrics, while fairly hard to decipher even with a sheet, are a solid point here, too. The whole misogynistic, gory crap that Cannibal Corpse was responsible for was done away for more nihilistic, misanthropic lyrics as well as the evil side of humanity that don't come off as stupid or immature. Such an example can be seen with the title track:
Forced into your mind, passed down through the centuries
Cultures will collide, holy wars for what?
Holy book of god, holy book of lies
Chanting scriptures in vain
Hoping to allow to rest
Hopeful peaceful life
Compassion all but gone
Effigy of what's to come
Hopeless, worthless dreams
Sorrow scars your brain
End the weak, all is dead
...Goddamn, that's some grim poetry right here, ladies and gents. Then again, I admit to being no lyricist, so these came off as intelligent as I could possibly interpret these in many different way.
Originally, I said that the production wasn't all that. However, a few more listens to this and a few more albums from the early 90s/late 80s and it began to dawn on to me that this album was actually on the very top of it's line in that department. Sure, it's not overly clean, but really, this production fits the grim brutality here so much better than a clean, crisp one (at that time, at least) would have.
Overall, this is one of the best albums that does it's job beyond anyone's expectations, and it's aged rather well. This album alone shows that they were not fucking around and were dead serious about making awesome brutal death metal. Definitely a classic that I recommend for the death metal fans looking for older albums.
So, it was October '91. There had definitely been some serious death metal output by then but this was probably something no one had expected. Suffocation simply unleashed this beast to push death metal boundaries even further. Brutal death metal.
Let's start with the production. The production is one thing ALL Suffocation clones fail to satisfy us about. Thick, massive, low sound, maybe inspired by the grindcore scene but a lot more distinct. I can blast this at 27 out of 31 on my cd player and I can listen to it without fucking high pitch tones piercing my goddamn brain. However, everything is beautiful and the grooves feel like blows in your stomach.
The drumming is great as it should. There are thrashy beats that will force your head to bang. There are double bass beats that will make you feel like disemboweling your neighbour. There are grind influenced blasts that will put a smile on your face and a knife on your aunt's pet hippopotamus. It's not as fast as Nile for example but it has the right amount of death metal grace in it.
The bass is bass. I mean, imagine someone playing fast Obituary parts with an amp at the size of Moby Dick buried beneath your house. That's it. Earthquake basslines, as I love calling this kind of stuff, which you will feel deep in your guts if you listen to this album from a decent system. Especially on the groovier parts, the bass works so well combined with the drums that it almost makes me want to become a gorilla and destroy my own house.
Guitar work is the main thing that sets this album ahead of its time, together with the beatdowns. And I will tell you that 97% of the bands that copy Suffocation haven't realized what the riffs here are about, so they throw in some crappy puke over a lo-fi downtuned riff to act tough. Riffing on this one does not seek complexity for the sake of being complex, yet escapes from simple or simplistic routes by playing with feel. Leads are some of the best of early American death metal, featuring serious melodies and not following the trend of chaotic sweeping in the vein of Morbid Angel and co.
The vocals come in to complete the disgusting portrait. Featuring an unexpectedly great sense of rhythm that many "clean" vocalists would envy, trademark-growler Frank Mullen delivers some of the sickest shit our ears have ever experienced. While incredibly low pitched, the grunts are nothing like the annoying deathcore / slam death / whatever "pig squeals" and make the whole listening experience EVEN more enjoyable. The lyrics are mostly about religion and prejudice, and in an ideal society teachers would teach them at schools.
I don't really know why I'm writing this review since most people that are going to read it have already listened to the album. But as a guide to new death metal fans, I hope that this will be helpful. Guys, forget all that Dark Tranquility and Arch Enemy shit. This is heavy death metal to bang your heads and fists to. GRRUAGH! Yeah, just check it out.
Ah, Suffocation. They certainly need no introduction, so I'll just get straight to it here, because with this band the proof is in the pudding. There are no tricks or gimmicks with these guys, and while to a degree I can understand some of the criticism that Suffo have garnered against their favor (especially that which is of the last three albums released post-reformation) I must admit that I've always been a huge fan and probably always will be.
Speaking in terms of their first 1990 demo through the utterly devastating "Despise The Sun" EP, Suffocation were (and arguably still are) the most innovative yet conversely also the most barbaric conceivers of brutal and technical death metal on the planet. The claims of "The Worlds Heaviest Band" are not unwarranted! Frank Mullen is savagely seething blood-red in his unmistakable signature grunting and growling style, and instrumentally most elements are unique and innovative in musical nuances. Many would disagree and find that last statement dubious, but I implore those who feel this way to look past the rough aesthetic values. The grainy Boss Metal Zone guitar tones thru an Ampeg VH-140c solid-state amplifier do little to emphasize the genius of the guitar playing and the cavernous, bass-heavy, and ragged sound is an acquired taste. This is for certain. But without these elements it just wouldn't be "Effigy of the Forgotten" and these all become an inseparable staple of the history of brutal death metal, for better or for worse.
Some people who hear this album for the first time, as their sole introduction to Suffocation will deduce that it's merely the barbarous noise of neanderthals, but those individuals would actually be mistaken. In due time, with enough repeated listening it is likely that most of those people will come to realize the brilliance of Suffocation's complexity and mastery of song construction within a sphere of absolutely punishing heaviness and brutality. I could never decide which of their albums is my favorite, as each one up until "Despise The Sun" has it's own impeccable charm, but "Effigy of the Forgotten" seems to be the most frequent fan and band pick on all accounts, so new-schoolers may want to start here. Personally I'm partial to the "Human Waste" EP.
Lets face it- pretty much every strictly classifiable 'brutal death metal' act of the last ten years has (while probably denying it) tried to ape every possible aspect of Suffocation's sound. Most of them take it beyond wearing their influences on their sleeves and simply take it into a faceless copy and paste territory while failing to attain the greatness of what Suffocation can do themselves. The pummeling syncopations, the inhumanly low vocals, the slamming, down-picked breakdowns. All of it. Why not just listen to the real thing?
Suffocation have it all and have always stomped the shit out of the imitators without even having to try.
Beginning with one of my favorite songs of all time, Suffocation’s “Effigy of the Forgotten” takes no prisoners when releasing the balls out intense “Liege of Inveracity”. A song exploding forth with unprecedented chaos, this song features one of the first brutal death metal breakdowns, a style that Suffocation has perfected and that deathcore continues to overuse and stick in my craw. At 2:50 the heaviest sound comes forward from the fray of notes that was the chorus. It is a lumbering beast who leaves a guitar chug with every step. This behemoth marches forward, but is forgotten when another chorus comes. But, after that chorus he comes again as the sound of thunderous mechanisms click around it, what is it? It is the breakdown. This is by far the heaviest breakdown I’ve ever heard, and the reason why “Liege of Inveracity” sticks out in my mind so much. This breakdown symbolizes every bit of the grittiness that gives Suffocation the title of brutal death metal. The hardcore influence is also present as this band does hail from one of the hardcore capitals of the world, New York City.
With such a strong opening, one would think that topping it would be hard, but lo and behold Suffocation’s title track is a strong second track. Beginning with some snare, bass, and double bass kicking, the guitars kick in to create a wall of riffs that, due to poor production, are nearly indiscernible from each other. Though the guitars blend with the drums and bass at times, they do sound really good when the ambient noise is taken away. The tempo changes throughout the song are superb as double bass kicking is present while the rest of the band slows down. The soloing wails from each guitar with precision and emotion as they sound like the screams of victims trapped in a basement dungeon. The song takes on a bit of groove as it progresses that adds a new dimension to Suffocation’s music giving it just that little bit more to put the song over the top of expectation. Groove is the last thing that I’d expect from a brutal juggernaut like Suffocation, but in the furor of music exploding forth; it seems the band inadvertently created a catchy beat. This beat is mercilessly massacred as the song ends with their combination breakdown and new riffing section.
Since I don’t plan to do track by track reviews, I’ll wrap up the track description with “Infecting the Crypts”, “Seeds of the Suffering”, “Reincremation”, and “Jesus Wept” are very standout tracks. It would be completely foolish to say that every track is completely amazing without backing it up, but the above are definitely the best tracks on the album as they are the most distinctive of the songs on this album and feature some of the most intricate riffs, drum patterns, and songwriting styles of the album.
That being said, the production does hold this album back. It doesn’t matter to me that much since I’m looking more at the content of the album than the wrapping paper around it, but some of the blending and background sound as well as even the vocals do get discouraging while trying to listen to the whole album. Though it is a long shot, it would be nice to see these tracks done justice by being rerecorded, but better production would take away the coarse emotion in them and the muddiness of some of the tracks does give them character.
The bass sound is one of the reasons for the muddiness of the album but also a reason for the heaviness of the album. Where brutal death metal bands like Disgorge and deathgrind bands like Brodequin utilize wall of sound bass to beef up their music, Suffocation’s wall of sound is nothing other than an accidental side effect of the bass and double bass combo mixed with the production of this album. Though it enhances the heaviness of this album, this lethal concoction does muddy the mix and make the guitars sound weaker, mess with Mullen’s vocals, and hurt the sound of some of the songs. Other songs, this is just what’s needed and during the breakdowns, it is one of the many things that contribute to the feeling of the band slowing down.
The drumming is a true demonstration of what innovation means. As I’m only eighteen I shouldn’t even talk about 1991, the year in which this album came out and a year after I was born. I was just another stupid toddler watching Barney as the heaviest bands of all time were creating some of the most intense sounds ever called music and defining the most extreme musical genres that have ever been created, death metal and black metal. But alas we do have historical records, and according to many sources, 1991 did not host many bands that sounded like Suffocation. Going on that evidence, I can conclude that Mike Smith is one of the most amazing innovators in the brutal death metal world. His use of double bass cannonade in the second breakdown of “Liege of Inveracity” immensely adds to the power of the tempo change. Where the behemoth marched in part one of the breakdown, the double bass kicking made the behemoth charge forward to its kill. That’s not all for the drum section, though. Mike Smith shows no mercy throughout the album, there are no parts where he lets up. From his fills in “Mass Obliteration” to the great opener to “Seeds of the Suffering”, there is very little that he hasn’t done to improve the sound of each track.
The guitar sound gets muddied at times, but where it does muddy, the gist of the riffs is still present, and even the gist of the riffing is enough to say that the guitars hold raw talent in each note they play. From the screaming soloing to the general tempo changeups, it is obvious that there was a lot of focus on getting the guitars to sound right, and as they go from playing simultaneous riffs to doing their own thing on command, it is evident that pure, unadulterated ability is coming forth. The guitars sound best in “Effigy of the Forgotten” and “Seeds of the Suffering” among most of the other tracks and do add a tremendous amount of emotion and strength to each song. Made solid by the guitars, the vocals are able to come in just under the guitar chugs and just above the heavy bass to ensure that there is sound at nearly every brutal pitch possible except maybe brown noise.
Mullen’s growls are pure brutal death metal. He cups the microphone a lot, but when he doesn’t his pure gutturals are very brutal. The lyrics are also very well written and surgically accurate. Some of the lyrics have to do with religion, a usual piece of fodder for death metal, the supernatural, and the apocalypse. There is a lot of emotion in Mullen’s gutturals and the pummeling power, though muddied by the production, is still understandable, especially when he moves to sporadic cleaner throatier gutturals at different times.
“Effigy of the Forgotten” is a Suffocation masterpiece, and if there are any Suffocation or brutal death metal fans who do not have this album, I suggest they buy the Roadrunner Records version that has both “Effigy of the Forgotten” and “Pierced from Within”, two genre defining albums that catalogue some of Suffocation’s best works.
It's 1990, the dawn of extreme music as it is. Death metal is coming across with multiple genres, and is morphing into a sub-human creature with multiple limbs and heads, and grindcore is the little kid of said monstrosity.
Then, some incest and a year later, Effigy of the Forgotten is born. A combination of the technicality and brutality started to form in death metal, and the furious drumming and vocals of grindcore and hardcore punk. A revolution in modern music, Effigy of the Forgotten is what some call the first, or one of the first, brutal death metal albums.
We are greeted instantly with reverb coated guitars, a very thick and grindcore-esque guitar tone, and vocals from hell. Frank Mullen is a monster on the mic, and is one of the progenitors of the guttural vocal, as seen in bands like Disgorge or Defeated Sanity. His cupped grunts and occaisional hoarse screams are fabulous, and mesh perfectly with the brutality of the album's music and lyrics.
Speaking of which, the instrumentals pummels your head in, even now almost 20 years later. A mix of technicality, that would be seen evolving in later Suffocation releases, and brutality make this records guitars a warm welcome. Fizzy tone has never worked better for a band than this, the tone is dry and heavy, and it fits the intense riffing very well. The solos have a reverb touch to them, but remain in that thick, grindcore type tone.
The bass is decently prominent for a death metal release from the early 90's. You can hear when the bass kicks in, but other than that it sadly disappears behind the riffery of the genius of Terrance Hobbs. From what you can hear of the bass, though, it's well executed.
The drumming is legendary on this album as well, seeing as it generated a massive drumming sound which wasn't seen in death metal until now: the blastbeat. Sure, it had a slower form, but that was used in D-beat punk as well, but the blastbeat was a hyperspeed version, every drum sound stacked on top of each other to create a hectic wall of sound. Mike Smith has some pretty standard fills however. His cymbal work is phenomenal though, very consistent yet unique.
The production is like the guitar tone, dense, thick, and fuzzy. This all works for the better of the album, and makes for a very heavy and truly brutal release, if there ever was one. The songwriting is what you would come to expect from Suffocation, brutal, fast, and with groovy breakdowns (see: Infecting the Crypts main riff, Habitual Infamy, Jesus Wept) to make a furious, but slow, climax for the songs.
The songs on this album are so...good. No one song on this album is better than the other (except for maybe Infecting the Crypts) and they all have this feel to them that's specific to the song, and grooves along on the theme, or they just smash your head in with true brutality.
All in all, if you haven't heard this masterpiece of an album and call yourself a death metal fan, buy it. Ot maybe shoot yourself because of your stupidity.
The sounds heard on this monstrous beast of pioneering technical brutality could be summed up in a number of ways. A hammer smash induced pile of skull fragments, a rotten carcass of venomous rage, or perhaps a decrepit field of battle dead with the gods of war howling their glee at the carnage they’ve caused. But to understand the methodology/alchemy at work here, the best picture to paint would be that of a death metal piñata. Take all of the vile sweetness of the Teutonic Thrash scene embodied in Kreator and Destruction and place it in little plastic wrappers, add to it the morose gutturalness of Morbid Angel in its most concentrated form, and the speed and fury of Slayer and wrap it inside a nicely decorated shell that represents the generally accepted viewpoint of death metal at that time and Metal in general. Now picture the 5 guys who make up Suffocation each taking a baseball bat and proceeding to pummel the hapless thing in front of every fan of death metal in 1991, until the last piece of extreme metal candy lays on the ground.
Though there was definitely some stuff out there at this time in the grind scene ala Napalm Death that was heavily comparable to this in terms of brutality, this is basically the pioneering album that laid the ground work for the brutal side of metal being technical. The only other real example that comes to mind is Cannibal Corpse’s “Eaten Back To Life”, but while that album sort of came off as a thrash album with brutal vocals, this ratchets up the aggression further, to the point where the beginnings of what led to what became brutal death metal as we know it today come into view. It still keeps enough of the thrash roots of the style fixed in place, particularly in the riff department, to avoid the seemingly random nature that Cryptopsy would embody. The drums also lack the overt, masturbatory showmanship that has since crept its way into the style and though quite fast and technical, actually keep some sort of a beat.
The area where the band really excels is in the guitar department. The character of each riff is darkened significantly by down tuning, but avoids turning into a muddy mess without any punch. Bits and pieces of “Reign In Blood” and “Pleasure To Kill” can be heard in almost all of these songs, though exaggerated to the point that on most of these songs some effort is needed to pick out the specific areas. The lead guitar work is basically Kerry King on steroids, ripping through a series of chromatic scale runs and wild whammy bar flutters like the wailings of a maddened banshee. Some of it relies a bit more on symmetrical patterns than the Slayer axe man/icon, but the same spirit of upstaging a technically impressive rhythm section with a twice as technical display two or three octaves higher endures, and at a respectable duration of a good 20 to 30 seconds like most old school bands, rather than the ridiculously short and unmemorable lead passages that pass for solos today.
The transitional nature of this album from its genre’s thrash roots remains consistent in the vocal delivery as well. Frank Mullen’s guttural bellows are definitely a step closer to the human frog standard set by Chris Barnes and then perfected by Lord Worm, but they carry a much more percussive quality to them conducive to the riff driven backdrop he’s been given. Basically he succeeds in being guttural enough to avoid becoming an extreme caricature, and much like David Vincent, ends up sounding evil rather than comical. Although his demon grunts are mostly unintelligible, it is also obvious that this band was more interested in a multifaceted approach to lyrics that includes some intellectual takes on society and mankind, rather than simply dwelling only upon the cliché of gore and descriptions of the human anatomy meant to trigger one’s vomit reflex.
From start to finish, this is a perfectly straight shot of pure thrashing brutality, unrelenting and uninterested in trying to adhere to any standard of contrast. There is a level of nuance from song to song, as some like “Seeds Of The Suffering” and “Jesus Wept” are go really close into being Slayer inspired death/thrash, while others like “Involuntary Slaughter” blast away with intensity that reaches closer to “Blasphemy Made Flesh” territory. But there are no quiet sections or any breaks to speak of from the sense of pulsating rage present here that could make the most extreme sounds on Morbid Angel’s discography sound tame in comparison. There is also very little emphasis on the bass, which works perfectly for this style as constant interruptions by bass showboating would throw off the solid thudding quality of the arrangement, something which was heavily present and hurt an otherwise decent album in “None So Vile”.
Of the several albums put out by this highly respected outfit, this is the one to get, regardless of whether you define yourself as being an old school or new school death metal fan. It is one of those few albums that can successfully straddle the divide between both generations and come off as genuine. It’s unique in the sense that it was neither ahead of its time or just a little too late to be “the album” in terms of its genre, but was instead the right album at the right time to keep things interesting, right smack in the middle of the high period of death metal’s reign in the early 90s. If you like aggression done intelligently and with a fair amount of virtuosity, look no further than the 9 pieces of brutal ear candy lying below the battered piñata.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on February 12, 2009.
Ladies and gentlemen, let me introduce to you one of the most influential records ever for the future (so, present) evolution of death metal. Effigy of the Forgotten, apart being one of the most brutal and dark death metal albums of the 90s, is also regarded as one of the most influential and important milestones in creating a new form of death metal. The morbidity and the heaviness of this record had no comparisons at the time and it’s undeniable its importance in throwing the bases for the future creation of the brutal death and the gore death metal. Suffocation invented the brutal technical death metal but this time, on this album, the atmosphere is even so dark and putrid that it became so important for those who worshipped early Carcass, Entombed and Obituary for inspiration and natural evolution of a genre that was becoming always more and more gore.
If you want to enjoy this album, forget the cleaner production of Pierce From Within or the thrashy one of Despise the Sun because here it’s all about the sheer darkness of the instruments. The production of the young Scott Burns gives to the instruments a terrific low sound. Everything seems to come out from a crypt in terms of volumes and distortion. Human Waste can be considered a Bon Jovi album if compared to the heaviness of this one. The opener is immediately massive, fast and pounding; its name is “Liege of Inveracity”. The terrific tempo changes are one of the most important characteristics of this sound and the monolithic blast beats differ a bit from the classic death/grind ones of that period because they are not that fast but they point more on the heaviness and the sheer nastiness of the beats. Everything must be complex, massive and truly heavy as a mountain since the first notes.
The solos are incredibly flowing and not simple for the style they are played, while the morbid down tempo parts are full of ultra gore influences. Once again Mike Smith is the man because the bass drums beats during these parts are particular: he plays the bass drums together even during the mid-paced beats to make the sound heavier and darker. This is a thing to notice and I’m sure you already have. The title track is even faster and even this time Frank’s vocals are just inhuman. He invented a sort of pig style way of singing and even this was very, very influential for the future. The guitars are on constant switches of tempo and the bass drums triplets are perfectly mixed to the blast beats. “Infecting the Crypts” is a re-recorded version from their debut EP and this time is far more dynamic and fast. The guitars are like a wall and the Frank’s echoing screams are just dark as hell.
Even the long “Seeds of Suffering” has easily recognizable riffs. This is a truly complicated characteristic to create because mixing complexity to “catchiness” (in terms of brutal death) is a thing that few achieved. One thing is for sure and it’s that you cannot find monotonous parts because you cannot hear a single riff for more than 20 seconds and the tempo changes are rabid, fast and out of the blue. “Reincramation” is shorter to point everything on the everlasting up tempo sections. George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher appears as a guest vocalist (like also on the following “Mass Obliteration”) but his vocals are soon obliterated in violence by the ones by Frank. The old school death/grind influences are stronger for the already announced “Mass Obliteration”. The Harmony Corruption style riffs and the furious blast beat sections are just devastating.
“Involuntary Slaughter” has again incredibly gore, ultra slow sections with furious up tempo/blast beat fragments. Here the guitars solos are more present and good for the morbid atmosphere. The last “Jesus Wept” comes from Human Waste EP again and, while the style is the same, the volumes, the production and the violence have improved and increased in an astonishing way. The riffs are always intricate even if the band has incredibly young musicians while the drums rolls are one of the most recognizable characteristics of this song. The long, last guttural scream by Frank Mullen leads us to the end of this incredible album and after it’s like you have assisted to the passage of a tsunami. Everything is destroyed and here reign the silence.
Few bands have impacted the metal scene quite the way Suffocation have. Besides the outfit's own legacy of excellence, Suffocation pretty much single-handedly inspired the entire genres of both brutal and technical death metal. Incredibly heavy, mind-bendingly complex, and deceptively melodic, this New York band's take on extreme metal made an enormous impact on the underground metal world. And Effigy Of The Forgotten, the band's full-length debut, is arguably the definitive outing of one of the most important bands in metal's history.
I can't imagine how deathmetallers raised on Morbid Angel and Death reacted when they first heard Effigy. Compared to their contemporaries at the time, Suffocation were truly in a class by themselves. Only grind acts like Carcass and Impetigo rivalved Suffocation in terms of sheer brutality, and no one even came close to the incredibly complex and technical approach to songwriting displayed by Hobbes and Cerrito (one of metal's all-time greatest guitar duos). Every aspect of the band's sound on display here simply screams innovation, and would subsequently be ripped-off by legions of other acts, from Cryptopsy to Gorguts to Immolation. The heavier-than-heavy guitar sound; the bizaare, manic soloing of Hobbes; the incredibly intense drumming of Mike Smith; the devestating breakdowns and blastbeats, and of course the brilliantly guttural musings of Frank Mullen, who would go on to become one of death metal's most recognizable frontmen. Suffocation simply re-wrote the death metal handbook with Effigy Of The Forgotten, and even today, few death metal albums, no matter how progressively over-the-top they would become, can match it.
"Leige Of Invaracity" begins the onslaught, and is probably my favorite Suffocation song to this day. From the getgo its apparent that Suffocation were already fully competent musicians and had found their sound. The intense riffing and classic breakdowns found in this track sets the stage perfectly for the coming attack. "Infecting The Crypts" is another classic (hell, they're all classics), with its fantastic groove and delightfully evil sample at the songs conclusion. Despite their incredibly technical nature, Suffocation were highly skilled at giving their songs the hooks and flow to ensure memorable compositions, and the band's melodic sense, while more evident on future releases (especially on Pierced From Within) was nevertheless a big part of Suffocation's success here. Check the melodies in "Jesus Wept" and "Seeds Of The Suffering"-- brilliant.
Of course, none of the complexity of the band's songs holds any water if the musicians don't have the chops to back it up. The individual performances on Effigy set new standards for death metal in every area. The melodic sense of Hobbes and the brain-cramping style of Cerrito create a simply immense sound of dexterous riffing and chest-thumping chugging, and Hobbes' wonkily (?) melodic leads were revolutionary (peep the long solo in "Seeds"--fucking unbelievable). The drumming of Mike Smith was similarly ahead of its time. While blasting and speedy double-bass work were obviously already a part of death metal, Smith broke new ground in just about every area of the instrument. From his invention of the two-foot blast (now a standard in pretty much all brutal/tech death) to his insane snare speed and amazing sense of both groove and dynamics, Smith's razor-precise and hard-hitting style became the new benchmark for extreme drumming (and he was only SEVENTEEN when this was recorded). The ominous presence of Josh Barohn and Frank Mullen's immensely guttural vocal work top of the brilliant sonic picture.
With supreme songwriting and top-of-the-line musicianship, the only thing holding Effigy back from a perfect score is the production. While bone-breakingly heavy and fairly balanced, the incredibly low register and density of the guitar tone obscures many of the band's more intricate and melodic passages. Its not a bad production job by any means, but its kind of annoying how indistinct some of the riffs sound. Regardless of this flaw, Effigy Of The Forgotten is an absolutely essential release. Its historical significance and innovation are enough of a reason for the uninitiated to pick this up, let alone the legendary music contained within. Some would say that Pierced From Within, with its superior production and more intelligible vocals, stands as the best Suffocation album. But for this reviewer, Effigy is the definitive statement from the band, and easily one of the best death metal albums ever.
"A new race I will now create
As I end their pityful lives/
My destiny has only begun
To torture future minds."
...Kinda sounds like these guys saw it coming, right?
For all the praise that gets heaped on modern-day technical death metal bands like Psycroptic, Vile, Visceral Bleeding, etc., people seem to forget that every single album these bands put out is basically a knockoff of Human Waste played faster and with more triggers. That's not to say that modern technical DM isn't bad, but it seems like too many bands these days are succumbing to the "play this riff as fast as I can with palm muting to differentiate the notes, then throw in a whammy bar solo and call it brutal" formula. Suffocation, however, figured out how to write brutal death metal without compromising artistic integrity with Effigy of the Forgotten, a now-legendary album that seems to have been (pardon the pun) forgotten by the new breed of tech deathheads.
For newbies to Suffocation, the band has a sound truly unlike any other band, though for the uninitiated to metal they might seem very similar. First are Frank Mullen's vocals, which are deep enough to sound almost inhaled but still have that crisp growl to them. Totally indecipherable and sounding like a tyrannosaurus rex, they work perfectly with the music and aren't boring at all. The guitar riffs are truly evil and twisted. You can tell these guys know what they're doing- every single note is intentional and adds to the song, instead of being a placeholder for blastbeats as so many other bands do. Solos, while a bit overused, are beastly, fast, and beautiful at times. Mike Smith's drums are a spectacular mix of blasts, unique double bass work, and inhumanly fast snare/fill work. True to the mark of a great drummer, you'll find yourself anticipating that one double bass roll as much as you are that great guitar solo. The bass work essentially follows the guitar, but you can tell the guy has skill when he takes center stage.
Characteristic of NYDM bands, Suffocation does have a bit of that "slam" edge to them, using breakdowns when appropriate. There's only one place on the entire album that metal purists might find offensive, and it's about thirty seconds of the first track. You won't find anything like Skinless or Devourment here. For those who enjoy a touch of groove in their metal, Effigy doesn't disappoint- there's plenty of full-speed-ahead headbanging to be done here. The only minor qualm I have is the production, which, frankly, is quite nasty. The drums sound fine (apart from not having much "punch"), but the guitars are difficult to hear a lot of the time unless you turn down the bass on an equalizer or what have you. Still, it's nothing metalheads aren't used to, and fans of Suffocation know that their production has never really been great on any record. As far as comparisons go, it lies somewhere between Human Waste's tinny, hollow sound and Pierced From Within's heavy mid scooping.
If you're a fan of death metal, just buy this album, simple as that. It's a classic. While the overuse of solos and lame production may hinder it a bit, it's not enough to take off any points; when the last track is over, you will be craving more.
Having experienced many albums and reading many reviews on the archives that generally pissed me off, I felt it was time to write my first review. I chose Suffocation’s debut simply because it was an album that really did make me question what I was looking for in a Metal album. The general consensus that seems to float around the archives is that most European bands focus more on atmosphere. While their American counterparts focus mainly on intensity. Suffocation don’t disappoint in the intensity department, the music on the album is generally more intense than most of the new clone bands that have spawned from their undeniable influence.
Musically this is a very sound album, although the reviewers before me gave the album what I believe to be an extremely inflated score; I personally feel it does not warrant a 90+ score, but hey that’s me. The drumming on this album is probably the most intense aspect of the album. Mike Smith’s drumming abilities are really top notch, the one aspect of his drumming that impresses me is the way he manages to incorporate the Blast Beat in an interesting way in all the drumming patterns.
One area of this album which I found to let me down a little bit was the guitar playing, although they manage to help contribute to the general scheme of the album’s brutal sound. The problem I have is that most of the riffs are generally just being played for the sake of playing because most of them don’t jump out at the listener as creatively spectacular. The main up side of the guitar playing on this album is the screeching solos that the guitarists pull off amazingly.
In the vocal department we have Frank Mullen who pulls off one of the most brutal vocal performances to that point in time. His low grunts and growling are simply outstanding and even to this day he remains one of the better vocalists in the metal world.
Out of all of Suffocation’s albums I found a distinct difference with Effigy and the rest, this is that Effigy was produced in a way that emphasizes the bass. Both the vocals and guitars sound really bassy which does make the album sound distinctly heavier than Suffocation’s following albums.
One thing that always gets me with this album is that although the album has all the brutality and intensity it is lacking in atmosphere and after listening to the album I usually feel that I’ve been totally smashed by the sheer intense brutality, however I do not recommend this album if you are looking for “something more” in your metal music.
Everyone must know what to expect from an album classified as brutal death metal. Pummeling drums, uber-distorted guitars, rumbling bass and of course demented bestial growling are all part of the routine. The gentlemen of Suffocation deliver all that is expected, and so much more. It must be exclaimed that they perform the regular brutal death routine, but with convincing passion and artistic flair. Not only is it ‘brutal’, it contains something of artistic worth. Not to mention, superior songwriting.
Before we get to analyzing the music, let’s have word on the production. It is ultra beefy and thick, capable of making heads explode. Even the least picky person cannot ignore the excellent job done on the mixing table. Every instrument is heard clearly without compromising an ounce of rawness. The drums thunder more loudly than an angry, thunder-bolt hurling Zeuss. The guitar tone is absolutely monstrous, capable of shattering skulls with its sheer tonal prowess. Producer Scott burns deserves high praise for this album. He really brought out the powerful tone color of each instrument.
As it may have been mentioned before, the members of Suffocation do what brutal death metal bands do. They are able to handle riffs that require altered level of abilities and rhythms that necessitate surgical precision. All technicalities are delivered with unrivaled brutality. Bass is a bowel churning background rumble. Drum playing offers up straight ahead thrashing and blasting, followed by an ultra-heavy syncopated beat performed with a slow to mid paced crunch. The transitions between each tempo and rhythm is executed flawlessly; never sounding awkward or jagged. Likewise, the guitar riffs link together with graceful smoothness. Vocal performance accentuates the instrumental brutality. Frank Mullen roars like an outraged hell spawned monstrosity.
All instruments harmonize to create a symphony of terrorizing brutality.
What must be placed tremendous emphasis on, however, is that these gentlemen know how to compose some great death metal. There is true inspiration to be found in a Suffocation song besides ‘brutality’. Every riff is teeming with violent urgency and intimidating rage. This undeniable anger is brought about by maniacal chromatic riffing; which is administered with thundering power chords and grinding tremolo picked notes, interspersed with deranged melodic flourishes. Every note is chosen to complete each riff was selected with violent alienation in mind. That is, violent alienation against a society on a path towards annihilation.
One aspect that is severely lacking in today’s death metal is some damned cohesive songwriting. Here is where Suffocation greatly exceed. There is practically no evidence of cyclical verse/chorus structures. Instead, the listener is treated to linear-like songs comprised of technical, brutal, and memorable riffs. Every riff is sequenced to create some sort of atmospheric tension, drifting about randomly and ravaging everything in their path. What is impressive is that they manage to do this without ever allowing the songs to become formulaic, or in cohesive. One intense riff is followed by another, increasing the palpable tension until it erupts into a guitar solo. The song the spirals into a fiery pit of doom. Even the songwriting itself is symbolic of a society marching towards its own destruction. Such an artistic attribute is sorely missing from today’s death metal.
So there you have it, Suffocation’s legendary ‘Effigy of the Forgotten’.
A testament to all things brutal death. As far as I’m concerned, this album is yet to be surpassed by some other brutal death metal band. Just about every contemporary brutal death band is content with just playing the game of one-upmanship. They may be more ‘technical’ or more ‘brutal’, but they surely don’t have the artistic qualities of Suffocation.
Here's an album that every fan of death metal should have in their collection. What originally sparked my interest for this band many years ago was the band photo on the back of this particular CD. There were two African Americans, a couple dark-haired white guys (one who resembles a corpse), and a skrawny blonde kid with a Trump Plaza t-shirt. It certainly seemed like an usual lineup for a death metal band. What finally made me decide to purchase the CD was the jaw-dropping Dan Seagrave artwork, and of course the thought of two black fellows playing death metal... Once I actually listened to it, I was convinced that this was the most brutal album ever made; and even now, nearly 15 years after its release, there's not many bands that can touch this. At least not in terms of the perfect balance between heaviness and brutality. Not even Suffocation themselves. My respect for these guys grew even further after watching them play live many times since their reformation. And in addition to that, I was recently revisiting the liner notes and noticed that "Effigy..." is dedicated to none other than Roger Patterson of Atheist. That in itself was reason enough to give this one another needed listen, which ultimately made me write this review.
The production on this album is excellent and one of the best ever achieved by a death metal band. Of course, it's not crystal clear like a jazz CD, but it suits the style of music perfectly. Scott Burns was really on the mark with this one. I mean, everything sounds so fucking heavy that it will make your speakers melt. The guitars and bass are absolutely crushing and will bring you to your knees, while Frank's vocals have a sickening, distorted tone to them that is gutwrenching beyond words. The drumming, especially the double bass, is simply pulverizing. Mike Smith is a human dynamo on this CD... Indeed, this my favorite Suffocation release not only musically, but production wise. "Human Waste" was dirty and raw, but there was definitely an extra element of heaviness that was lacking there. On the other hand, "Breeding the Spawn" sounds like shit compared to this. Yes, the songs were even stronger in structure, but the drumming was very muffled while the vocals sacrificed brutality in exchange for clarity.
There are nine songs on this CD, and each one is a monument of devastation. They range from purely brutal compositions with lots of blastbeats and chunky riffs like 'Liege of Inveracity' and the title track, to more traditional death metal songs with guitar solos and fast thrash beats like 'Seeds of the Suffering' and 'Mass Obliteration'. George Fisher from Monstrosity contributed some backing vocals on the latter, and they sound fucking great! The guitar riff at around the 1:35 mark on that particular song is insanely dark and abysmal, while the opening part to 'Involuntary Slaughter' is quite possibly the heaviest thing I've ever heard in my life. Mike uses lots of blastbeats on this album, but they're not pure speed like those of a grindcore band. The blasting is always done with heaviness in mind and doesn't consist of merely pounding away at full force to create a chaotic wall of noise. The blasts are more toned down, but because of that the heavy element of the guitars and bass is able to seep in between the cracks of each beat.
I used to criticize this CD for having too many of those typically NYDM, chunky 'mosh' riffs that would later be severely overused by bands like Skinless, Internal Bleeding, etc. In reality, there's really only a handful of these riffs on the entire album. For example, during the middle section of 'Habitual Infamy'. As much as I hate that shit, I've gradually learned to tolerate it (but only on this album!).
"Effigy of the Forgotten" is a landmark in the death metal underground. So many bands have tried to copy its style over the years, failing miserably in doing so. And while this style of death metal isn't my most favorite, I respect this album and know to give credit where credit is due. Jesus Wept.
This is Suffocation’s 1991 release, comprised of 5 remakes and 4 new tracks. Two of the remakes are from their first demo, “Reincremation” and the other three are from the “Human Waste” EP released in the same year. The highlight of the album is by far the vocals. Frank Mullen's growl is amazingly low, yet he alters the pitch and speed on his delivery to make the songs much more interesting. The drumming is excellent as well, and adds a very frantic feel to the songs. Although the production isn't the greatest, it has a much more polished feel compared to their previous releases. The guitars are very bassy, which makes hearing the notes and harmonies difficult at times, and unfortunately the bass is almost completely buried in the mix. But, the music on the album more than makes up for a somewhat spotty production. The song "Effigy of the Forgotten" highlights the skilled guitar and drum work, while "Seeds of the Suffering" contains one of the best vocal performances in the history of death metal. "Habitual Infamy" starts at an intense pace, and then slows down around 2 minutes in, only to pick up speed again. Suffocation’s combination of break neck speed and slow and ominous parts makes for an interesting listen, and adds a layer of complexity to the songs. The highlight of the album is the remake of "Infecting the Crypts". The vocals are insanely catchy, and are layered upon an amazing collage of riffs. The guitar lines are relentless, and the song features a solo, and unlike most solos in metal, actually adds to the song. Even though the song is made of several different segments it flows together beautifully. This is not only one of my favorite cds in my metal collection, but also in my entire collection. Don't let the first listen overwhelm you, give this cd a chance and you'll soon find the songs to be both exciting and memorable.