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Suffocation are a band that provoke almost unanimous positive reactions upon the mere mention of their name to any fan of extreme metal. Their first three albums are consistently handed out great reviews and high scores, with their debut having almost single-handedly defined brutal death metal whilst their second album introduced a melodic flair that many doubted the band could pull off. Some people consider them to have reached their pinnacle on their debut, whilst others claim it to be Pierced From Within, the third studio outing for this legendary New York-based death metal act. This was an album that maintained the brutal edge of their earliest works but contained much more visceral guitar tones and arguably better song craft than ever before. Brace yourselves, this album will be a ride through the darkest chasms of life.
On each of the brutal and blasphemous routs that the band put out on their third album, many things will happen. The first and foremost is that you will be hit like a sledgehammer by a mindless onslaught of some of the heaviest riffs out there. These riffs are many in number and incredible in quality, as is evidenced by the thrash-influenced sections of the second track. The second thing that will happen is that you may snap your neck headbanging to the ridiculously quick drumming and mind-boggling slower "slams". The title track and Depths Of Depravity would be the finest example of this, with the winding song structure of the former showcasing numerous speeds of drumming to great effect. The final thing that will happen is a feeling of nostalgia for their previous album with a great re-recording of the title track to Breeding the Spawn which massively improves both the vocals and the production.
Each of these juggernaut compositions will crush your skull with pure heaviness, mainly achieved through the unparalleled riff craft and aggressive focus on the guitars and drums in the production job. Torn Into Enthrallment showcases some quick, technical riffing after a calm section that opens it up in phenomenal style. Consider this clean bit as merely a breather however as it is the only one you will be gifted. Every instrument has far crisper tones than what was seen on the past two releases, and the quality of the riffs seeps through like blood from a stab wound here. Meanwhile, the animalistic vocals from Frank Mullen are at their best here, being far more decipherable than ever before and retaining that raw, low edge that they had on the past works.
As you spiral into the insanity that is Pierced From Within you will notice that they have exponentially grown as musicians in the few short years between this and their debut release, and for that reason their third studio album trumps even the mighty Effigy Of The Forgotten as the jewel in their discography.
Pierced from Within remains to this day to be a masterpiece of the death metal genre. While the years have not been kind to many of the classics, largely due to an increase in the quality of production abilties, this album remains a masterpiece, and will always be a masterpiece. Why, do you ask?
The production of this album is completely ahead of its time, especially on the drums and bass. Unlike in many death metal albums, you can actually clearly hear the bass! Given death metal in general has its lows completely intensified for increased brutality, being able to clearly hear the bass adds so much to this album. And when you first listen to the track "Depths of Depravity" and its wicked bass solo, you will further realize how much albums with an inaudiable bass suffer. The drum tracking is similarily excellent. What makes the drums sound so unique is that they lack that artificial feel present on so many modern albums. Although you may be a fan of overproduced drums, hearing them in their organic brutality is, for me, much more enjoyable. The drumming is both organic and technical, which may surprise you given Mike Smith does not appear on this album and is typically considered one of the most important factors in Suffocation's success.
The guitar tracking is a major improvement from their previously releases, especially given the poor guitar tracking is basically the only problem with the album Effigy of the Forgotten. In terms of vocals, while still solid, they are a step back from Effigy. Frank stated that he began opening his mouth more while growling on this album to make the lyrics more coherent. As someone who does not care at all for the lyrics and graphic imagry present on albums of this style, I would much have preferred Frank kept his mouth shut and continued with the relentless and guttural style vocals present on Effigy. Regardless, the vocals do not in any way hold the album back, and in many ways, Frank is one of the best in the business at materializing the powerful and hypermasculine vocalist we fans of death metal enjoy.
The first 4 tracks of the album are among the strongest, and although though the tracks that follow are less excellent, they will still get your head moving.
Now, lets talk about what makes this album stand out. The riffs. To describe this album in a sentence would be: an amazingly heavy riff is played by itself, the listener thinks to themself "wow that riff is brutal", the drums and bass come in to complement the riff, Frank says evil things over the riff, than everything goes quiet and another brutal riff is introducted. While many death metal albums utilize repetition to some extent, this album is simply covered in brilliant riffs. Just when you think a song has hit its greatest moment, you are likely wrong, given the next riff will rip the skull off your already skinless face.
One could argue that this album suffers from one problem: it seems to be a transitional album from when Suffocation moved from being simply brutal like on Effigy to being a much more technical death metal band. While some see this as a weakness, I see this as one of the albums greatest strengths. The album maintains the brutality in the breakdowns and grunts, while at the same time has enough technicality to keep those fans of Necrophagist fully engaged.
In conclusion, there are few death metal albums around that keep you engaged as much as this one. The production is organic and ahead of its time, and upon each listen, you hear another memorable riff that you simply won't be able to get out of your head.
Pierced From Within is by far the best offering from Suffocation. The album features bottom-heavy guitars, absolutely perfect drums, wicked vocals, and my personal favorite: an audible bass. It's like someone forgot that death metal isn't supposed to have an audible and active bass.
The bass is perhaps the most exciting aspect of the album, so let's talk about that first. Thrones of Blood and Depths of Depravity both open with a rhythm section assault that, contrary to the normal death metal fare of an enormous blast beat, instead features what can only be called a short duel between the bass and drums. It is catchy as hell, and you wish it had gone on longer. Depths of Depravity also gives us an amazing instance of bass usage towards the end of the song, where the slow, plodding, utterly demented bass is accented by a drum pattern that changes tempo like a schizo changes moods.
Everyone knows the infamous Florida scene's bass drum sound. Clicky clicky clicky -- sounds like a sea of typewriters, right? I'm sure you were wondering where the 'bass' part of the bass drums were. Well, here it is. Suffocation's drumming was a whirling black hole vortex of doom that sucked in every bit of bass from those bass drums. Yeah, the bass drums here are deep, powerful, and truly destructive. No lame clicky blast beats here. You play this stuff out of a subwoofer, and you'll be getting a hell of a massage. Oh yeah, and the guy plays insanely well too. Some of the best drumming I've ever seen, because he knows not only how to play fast, but how to play slow. It keeps the album from getting dull. His fills are truly inspiring too.
The guitars, like I said, are bottom heavy. The riffs are perhaps a little dull at times, relying overmuch on the guitar tone (which is spectacular and heavily distorted). However, though the riffs aren't quite as great as they can be, the point of music is to SOUND good, and the guitars certainly do SOUND good, so I can't really complain too much. The solos, on the other hand, are a class of their own. Some of the best solos in death metal can be found here. In fact, my favorite solo in death metal (perhaps excepting Trey's solo in Summoning Redemption) comes into play in Thrones of Blood, playing over one of my favorite drum patterns in death metal. It is epic, thunderous, and legendary.
The vocals are interesting. They are deep, powerful, intelligible (considering how low they are, and considering they're death metal vocals), but they are a little bit monotonous. However, the fellow has certainly improved his vocal delivery since the debut and sophomore offerings. I can't really talk too much about them since they don't really vary that much. However, his performance on Thrones of Blood is certainly exemplary, and I think his bottom heavy tone fits the overall bottom heavy tone of the album. Like I said, they seem to have sucked the bass out of every other death metal album to come up with this kind of subwoofer-raping sound.
The songwriting also seems to display a pattern. By far the best songs are the first four. If they had kept the quality of songwriting throughout the album, it would be by far the best death metal album in existence (and it's already one of the best). The problem with the album is that it drops in quality through the course of the album. The first four are again quite amazing songs. Then the next three, while decent offerings of their own, aren't quite up to the same quality of the first four. Then the last two are, in my opinion, completely unworthy of being on this album.
The production is very bottom-heavy (did I mention it's pretty bassy?) They must have wanted this to sound good on a stereo system with subs. Sibilants in the vocals sometime get muddied, but the solos remain pretty clear. Channel separation is used, especially in songs like Torn Into Enthrallment, which lets the vocalist sound as if he's moving all throughout the room. Drums are perhaps the best produced drums I've ever heard (and this being in '95!) As I mentioned earlier, the bass is audible. It thumps. It sometimes sounds like a rubber band. It bangs, it hammers, and it's THERE. I apologize, it's just so unusual for a bass to be THIS audible, and the quality of the album really reflects the addition of the bass. I can't even imagine a Pierced From Within without the bass. It'd be much duller. The guitars are great, and the bottom-heavy tone works with the album incredibly well. The solo tone is perfect. All in all, it's an incredible improvement over the oft-panned production of the sophomore release.
My overall impression of this album is that THIS is how death metal should've gone. Tempo changes are an important aspect of death metal, and it's hard to do tempo changes when you go from lightning fast tempo to greased lightning fast tempo. This album goes from slow, plodding, almost doomy/drony (Depths of Depravity), to very fast and full of blast beats. It is a very technical work. I have more respect for the technical prowess of Suffocation than the technical prowess of Origin, despite loving both bands. It's just that Suffocation knows how to make even slow passages feel very technical and well-written, while Origin hasn't slowed down from superluminal velocities since they were in their momma's belly. It is an amazing offering from Suffocation, and I hope they are able to repeat the 'feel' of this album in their next offering.
Suffocation is one of those bands that can virtually do no wrong. Sure, nothing can or ever will top the raw ferocity of Effigy of the Forgotten, but everything Suffocation releases has either been fantastic or some chromatic shade of furious brutal death metal.
As with the glorious Effigy and the neglected Breeding the Spawn before this, Pierced From Within is a sharp and fizzy album littered with monstrous riffery and what is virtually Suffocation's anthem in the title track. Seriously, how can you not nearly break your neck at the breakdown? Then those solos? Terrance Hobbs is seriously a maniacal genius when it comes to the guitar; always combining the standard trem bar wank of death metal with obtuse and terrifying scalar runs and vibrato from hell. The man can do no wrong, seemingly.
Not to discount Doug Cerrito's formidable chops: his solo work and menacing riff contributions equalize Terrance Hobbs's overall chaotic mastermind.
Another thing I should bring up before I desecrate this most sacred of albums, people like to discredit Doug Bohn. Yeah we get it he's not Mike Smith and as such people get sort of butthurt over nothing, when he gives an extremely proficient and intense performance. Definitely one of the highlights of the album.
Most people remember this album simply off of the title track, and to be honest it's clearly the best song on the album, but there more than a couple killers on this album. Sadly the track following the title, "Thrones of Blood", is fairly mediocre though when the rumbling bass and eventual monster of the classic Suffocation sound in "Depths of Depravity" rams into you headlong, you'll be taken over in no time.
Speaking of the title track, Frank Mullen's vocals are definitely worse on this album than on the previous two. It seems he experimented with higher vocals, when his brutal gutturals on Effigy and Breeding were both excellent and fit extremely well with the sound of the band.
Now, if you take a gander at my review of Effigy of the Forgotten you will know that that is simply my favorite death metal album of all time, and that the combination of grindcore pacing, furious riffing, and the periphery of hate and evil atmosphere that the production allows all equate to it being pretty much nearly perfect.
What makes Pierced From Within not the best is that each song lacks its own atmosphere, groove, motif, or whatever that every single song on the debut held. Generally what you're getting is a dense album with some songs running around the same territories as others (such as Suspened In Tribulation having very similar riffs to tracks 2, 3, and 4).
The sudden burst of technical prowess is also hindering, since the band hadn't yet quite found its niche with the combination of Effigy-style brutality and this album's overall insanity, and as such kind of plays itself as a one-trick pony, and while Effigy was in the same situation, this album's one trick is far less impressive and awe-inspiring.
However, that being said, the album still has absolute MONSTER riffs. Seriously, how can you say "no" to the beginning of "Synthetically Revived" and the pure mayhem in the first few riffs of "Brood of Hatred"?
I've already mentioned the genre-defining epic that is the title track. Fantastic riff after thrashing riff after chaos and doom...so perfect. And, the brooding intro to "Torn Into Enthrallment" almost makes up for the general awfulness of the song. Don't get me wrong, when Suffo does doomy, it rules, but this just seems like a haphazard of riffs.
Such classic songs deserve respect, though with bombs like tracks 4-6 it's hard to justify this as the best Suffocation album. Do not forget that this is a strange album in that it bookends with its amazing material, and leaves the shitfests for the middle. Some call that a bonus, but hell, I don't.
Overall, this album is way too imperfectly balanced to constitute an amazing album. It opens with the best track, then follows with another great song in Track 3, until it drops considerably with the mid-album material, then returns somewhat to hold your sway only until the end.
- Title Track. Seriously. Fantastic song
- The guitar tone is considerably better than on Effigy
- The solo work is phenomenal
- Intro to "Torn Into Enthrallment"
- Frank's vocals were weaker on this album than on previous and forthcoming albums.
- Very awkward song order choice, resulting in you listening to Track 1, then stopping.
- Couldn't dedicate to their previous utter brutality or newfound technicality, and the songwriting suffers for it.
My all time favorite Suffocation album, “Pierced from Within” is an absolute masterpiece that brings to the fore a stronger, honed quintet of New York death metal innovators exploring not only a darker and more crushing sound, but punctuating their brutality with a more technical approach that brings out the genius of the band and the individual skill of each musician. As the “Human Waste” EP and first album, “Effigy of the Forgotten”, laid the structural groundwork to Suffocation’s unforgiving style and began to give Suffocation a name in the underground, “Pierced from Within” perfected the band’s legendary technique and made Suffocation a household name among death metal listeners. Through this music, the New York brutal and technical death metal band came to influence hundreds of bands of many metal sub-genres to involve the “Suffocation blast beat” or the “Smith blast beat” as well as incorporate progressing and multi-faceted breakdowns in their music. While Mike Smith is not present on “Pierced from Within”, his style lives on in Doug Bohn’s imitative drumming.
With songs like “Synthetically Revived”, “Pierced from Within”, “Depths of Depravity” and “Torn into Enthrallment”, Suffocation brings a complexity to their songwriting that exemplifies Doug Bohn’s crushing thunder behind the drum kit as a driving force in the music, brings longer, progressing, flowing riffs from guitarists Terrance Hobbs and Doug Cerrito, and with clearer production allows Chris Richards’ bass guitar to finally take its place as a balancing factor in the band’s sound. It’s not so much that every instrument adds only versatility to the cohesion of the mix as that every instrument becomes a perfect focal point in each song while still devastating within the combination of the group’s overall presentation. From the journeying riffs and solos in “Pierced from Within” and “Torn into Enthrallment” to the amazing bass sound of “Depths of Depravity” to the destructive percussion of “Synthetically Revived” and insanity building rise in “Torn into Enthrallment”, Suffocation demonstrates a great deal of musical depth as an ensemble. With so many constantly drifting focal points that make each song a show of extreme unrelenting force in such a larger-than-life style that gives the music the over-the-top brutality anyone would expect from Suffocation, the music still contains a serious, didactic approach that makes this album the perfect template for how to create death metal well and makes “Pierced from Within” mandatory curriculum in the study of extreme music. Suffocation also perfects their style of breakdown in songs. “Thrones of Blood” punctuates the mental degeneration of narrator’s lyrics with a barbarous, animalistic growling breakdown progressing in two parts after the solo that pummel deeper and deeper joining the narrator’s psychotic hacking at a corpse. Suffocation makes use of breakdowns in a few other songs like “Depths of Depravity” and “The Invoking” but keeps them linear with the song rather than the immediate focus of the song’s path. This sparing use of breakdowns gives them the crushing power of an extreme drop but ensuring their reservation as a last resort to drive home the insanity of each song. Suffocation’s influence through breakdowns is obvious in the deathcore genre, but when compared to the sheer immensity and the stylistic deployment of the breakdown in “Breeding the Spawn” or any of the other devastating drops Suffocation employs, few can truly measure up. Doug Bohn’s drumming during these breakdowns isn’t much different from Mike Smith’s, they’re in fact so nearly identical that I originally mistook Mike Smith to be the drummer on this album. Drumming makes all the difference in any Suffocation album, and both Smith and Bohn play perfectly in their appearances in “Effigy of the Forgotten” and “Pierced from Within” respectively, but their styles are so similar that their differences are nearly indefinable despite both drummers having defined a genre with their music.
Frank Mullen’s vocal delivery is at its peak on this album. With thunderously low gutturals, better enunciation, and clearer production, the lyrics are not only easier to understand, but are also improved with a surgical precision in their writing that since this album has not been matched in any of Suffocation’s work. “Chemicals revive my life, reanimated, brought back again. My diametrical state has assured me eternal life. Serum no longer fluid, respritoral terminus, artificial resurrection, dosage inefficiency”. While building off their first attempt at “Synthetically Revived” on the “Human Waste” EP, Suffocation has not only improved the lyrics and delivery within the song but ensured that every line is given such meticulous attention that the lyrics themselves become surgery. Sure, the lyrics to this song could be considered pretentious in their vocabulary, but it always puts a self-actualizing smile on my face to send these lyrics through the minds of rap fans and watch them scratch their heads at the meanings to “smart people” words in their native tongue that, when put to music, are vocalized by someone who “only does that evil growling sound”. “Needles perforate my neck. Cyanide smothers my existence. My torso lies raped of essence. Impotent state. I cease to exist. As my former self, synthetically revived.”
I have encountered few death metal albums that can hold a candle to Suffocation’s “Pierced from Within” and really bring home their designation of heavy metal. Some are too contrived in their brutality; others don’t understand the meaning of brutality in their music, and still others do little to give off the heavy feeling that this music is supposed to display. Suffocation, on the other hand, weighs the listener down with their sound, brings him up for air, and crushes him again with such enormous strength and such tactical precision that few are able to remain standing after witnessing this musical behemoth’s devastating potential.
By the time 1995 had rolled around, the borders between the various manifestations of that decrepit yet lovable marriage of horror and sonic punishment known as death metal had pretty well taken shape. A few years prior one might refer to Cannibal Corpse’s “Butchered At Birth” as the end all, be all of brutality; but within the New York scene and its even viler bastard Canadian son Cryptopsy, a different flock were pushing the envelope. Suffocation’s 3rd offering “Pierced From Within” might seem a tame beast compared to what was offered up by said Canadian outfit just a year later, as it tends to be a bit more conservative in its approach to song creation, but compared to most prior to ‘95, outside of the band’s own previous offerings, it was definitely a beast to be reckoned with.
In terms of sound character, this listens like a steroid injected, more technical answer to Deicide. Several references are made back to the dissonant, chromatic sound of Slayer‘s “Reign In Blood”, which is naturally to be expected at this point in death metal’s history. But the guitar work isn’t content to sit on 4 or 5 riffs, nor does it frontload all of the interesting changes at the intro section of a given song, but wanders around in a typical fashion to the technical pursuits of later 80s thrash albums. There is cohesion, but it’s varied enough to throw the listener for a loop in manner comparable to a suspended rollercoaster. The term technical may seem a bit misleading if one is going by the model as applied to the likes of Cryptopsy, as this does not really dabble in the overt jazz influences, super dissonant chord combinations and genre bending tricks of said band, but it does take a few steps out of the death/thrash box.
Of course, the technical side of this album is only half the story, the other half being the pissed off, fist pounding aggression displayed in the overall sound. The vocal delivery is equally as guttural as Chris Barnes, but has about twice as much punch to it and draws a picture of a justifiably pissed off soldier reveling in the carnage of his enemies rather than the mindless ramblings of a homicidal lunatic. But Mullen’s demonic barks are not the only display in this display of rational berserker mayhem, as the guitar tone on here is dense enough to stop an 18 wheeler dead in its tracks. It has the sheer crispness and clarity in the attack of early Cannibal Corpse, but also the thickness that those albums lacked. One could almost assert that this album is the album that “Tomb Of The Mutilated” could have been had Barnes and company elected to take a few more risks within their creative paradigm.
There aren’t really any out and out losers to speak of on here, though perhaps a single flaw in a few of these songs could be seen in that they throw one too many ideas into the mix occasionally. What this results in is something that is worthy of the same band that gave us the amazing “Effigy Of The Forgotten”, but isn’t quite at the same level. Nonetheless, longer winded, lyrically intellectual songs such as “Thrones Of Blood”, “Suspended In Tribulation” and “Breeding The Spawn” are packed to capacity with neck wrecking riffs, spastically riveting lead breaks, fancy yet precise drumming, and a few rather impressive bass sections that manage to avoid the quirky, out of place slap bass work inspired by “None So Vile”. Like most death metal albums, let alone technically oriented ones, you won’t be humming any of the tunes found on here, but instant familiarity and distinctiveness is clearly displayed throughout this album’s duration.
Pretty much any self-respecting fan of death metal, particularly the older guard, should have all 3 of Suffocation’s full length’s before their split and reformation. Of the bunch, “Pierced From Within” is the weakest, though only in the sense that it only builds a tiny bit on already established practices and doesn’t quite reach the same level of intensity. It could maybe function as a gateway to older conventions to newer tech. heads who are obsessed with the likes of Decrepit Birth, though it bears almost no resemblance to the progressive conventions that said band inherited from Cynic. But for the most part, this is pure brutality that differs from the rest only in that it is done with intelligence.
So, here we have Suffocation's 1995 release, "Pierced from Within." Fourteen years ago, metal wasn't the same as today. Not every band strove to be the most brutal, the most technical or the heaviest. You see nowadays bands like Waking the Cadaver, who pride themselves on being "brutal," or bands in the vein of Necrophagist and Braindrill, who, despite being rather good bands, are insanely shallow with their jaw-dropping yet annoying technicality. Back in 1991, with the release of "Effigy of the Forgotten," Suffocation was simultaneously one of the most brutal and technical bands at the time, something unseen as of then, and it was original, a term that can hardly be used anymore.
Even in 1995, 4 years after the release of their debut album, Suffocation were still the kings of brutal and technical death metal, and it hadn't gotten old yet. Therefore, this album was one of the best death metal records to date, and still is. "Effigy of the Forgotten" may have been more groundbreaking than "Pierced from Within," but the latter surpasses the former because of multiple elements: better production, better songwriting, and a better performance.
Rather than break every song down, it is easier to sum up the album this way: sick drumming, sick riffing, sick vocals. Doug Bohn, the replacement for the ledendary Mike Smith, fills the void left by the innovating Smith perfectly. After listening to "Effigy of the Forgotten" and hearing Mike Smith's style, I thought it was still Smith on this album, but no. Doug Bohn was the ideal replacement, making time signatures, tempo changes and blasting his bitches.
Terrance Hobbs and Doug Cerrito are perhaps the greatest guitar duo ever in death metal. The sheer amount of different riffs found on this album are enough to make even an experienced metal-listener's head spin. But then take into account that all the riffs are solid, with more than enough of them brilliant, throw in some skillful solos, and you have one of the best guitar albums ever made in the genre of metal.
And of course, how could I write a Suffocation review without basically sucking Frank Mullen off? Frank truly is the penultimate death metal vocalist. Sure. there may be other vocalists with more talent (though you'll really have to search; Frank has some demonic pipes.) but Frank's style fits the music perfectly. He doesn't exceed the tone of his trademark guttural growl very often, though he mixes it up much more than on "Effigy of the Forgotten." There aren't any screams to be found exiting the throat of Frank, just a lot of devastatingly powerful growls and all out roars.
The production blows that what you may have heard on "Effigy of the Forgotten" and "Breeding the Spawn," the two prior albums to this one. This album was the first well produced Suffocation album. It still retains the downtuned, bottom-heavy, percussive tone found on other Suffocation albums, but every instrument can be easily heard . . . even the bass. Yes, the bass. What the hell? Hearing the bass in music like this? You'd be surprised. And it helps that Chris Richards was a rather good bassist. Not comparable to, say, Jeff Hughell (Braindrill) or Alex Webster (need I even say what band?) but serviceable nonetheless.
The one bad thing about this album is that it really drags towards the end. The first four songs are awesome; the proceeding five are standard brutal death metal. But Suffocation is just too much of a classic death metal band to give this album anything less than what I've given it. I say this is Suffocation at their near best because of the rather boring ending to the album. If you want prime Suffocation, I recommend checking out their "Despise the Sun" EP, because it's minute-for-minute better than anything else they've done. However, this album remains a classic and a must-listen.
This album was actually the first metal record that I had ever purchased. It was back somewhere in the summer of 2001, with me meandering through the isles in a record store in Toronto (can't remember the name of the shop). I don't know what caused me to purchase the album, since I had never heard of Suffocation up until then. All the metal that I had come across at that point was Iron Maiden, Ozzy Osbourne and Black Sabbath. Eitherway, the cover art drew me in, and boy was I in for a surprise!
When I finally got the album home, I unpackaged it, stared at the cover for several moments, then finally placed it in my walkman. The sound was booming! I couldn't make out the drums properly at first, because everything sounded entirely percussive. The vocals were akin to a bear hugging the life out of you! After the first two songs, I had to take off my headphones. It was simply too much for me at first.
Repeated listens proved to be rewarding. The compositions became far more clear, the drums finally became lucid in the mix, and the booming sound felt almost as comfortable as my own heartbeat. I knew that I had found something special and musically challenging. I never truly went back to Iron Maiden, Ozzy or any other traditional heavy metal bands after that.
Upon opening the booklet, I came across lyrics that actually impressed me. They felt very realistic, and not inane like some other bands who felt that the use of pseudo-esoteric lyrics truly meant something.
And as for the overall music, it was (and is) definately on a whole other level, where not many other recordings that I've heard since can reach. Highly dynamic, percussive, and lurching forth like a wild bear about to tear a deer to piecemeal.
I can't recommend this album enough!
Riffs. This album is full of them. Drumming. Technical and highly fill laden. Vocals. Deep, unique, and somewhat understandable. Bass. Stands out very well. Did I also mention this album has RIFFS?
This album is basically like a maze, there are so many paths, you can easily get lost, or in this case, so many riffs, you can forget which riff goes where. When I first listened to this, I had the hardest time getting into this album. It was definitely one of the tougher albums (Bands also, in general) to finally "get" because of their generally awkward, abstract style. After listening to this many times, I think the band "clicked" and so did this album. A very rewarding experience.
Anyways, onto the review of the album. Every instrument and aspect of this album can be heard. This album is generally clustered with so many different riffs it can be very hard to follow at first, but if you listen to it enough times you will notice that all the songs stand out. The guitar work and drumming are very technical, it's hard to appreciate at first. Throw in some "melody" (Don't panic if any of you hate it, there's very little melody here). The drumming is outstanding, and you can't notice Mike Smith was actually substituted as well. Every musician shines here, and this makes this their "Best work yet".
The producer on this album is another Scott Burns production, although I generally hate some of his production jobs (Death's Human for example, the bass is way too low in the mix) but here, he makes every instrument heard clearly. There is almost an atmosphere of depravity, and gloom here, this contributes to the abstract feel of this album as well.
In conclusion, this is a definite must for every Brutal/Tech Death fan as well (Not essential, but if you want to get into it, mind as well try this album on).
It took me a couple years with this album, but I finally 'got' Suffocation, which I guess I'm thankful for, at least since I now get to know what the big deal is. Being raised on Cryptopsy and other speedy brutal death metal bands, I always sort of failed to recognize exactly why Suffocation was so widely revered and appreciated. And though I'm still not particularly amazed by them, I do appreciate what they've done and where they're coming from with albums like this.
The thing about Suffocation is that, apart from simple stuff like 'Thrones Of Blood', they're a pretty abstract brutal death metal band, perhaps one of the most abstract in the style. The riffs are generally strange and awkward, and along with the lopsided, hammering drum performance, there's very little in the way of organic flow. Even the vocals have erratic patterns. So coming from a fast brutal death and slam sound primarily, I had trouble getting into this; it was more like Gorguts circa 'From Wisdom To Hate' than Devourment. After a while though, you get into the strange, otherworldly feel of the music. Most Suffocation fans are pretty dumb, so I'm not sure how they handle music like this unless they just zone out until a breakdown kicks in.
It's not really 'fun' music, and it's probably the most alien sort of thing in the brutal death field apart from bands who took the general idea of claustrophobic, atonal riffs and fill-laden drumming and turned them into a lifestyle like early Fleshgrind or Deaden. Groove and 'normal' death metal moments are few and far between, with the band acting in favor of excessive yet restrained technicality and almost mind-bendingly flat production, like the band is daring you to try and understand what's going on. The guitar tone is nothing but bass and distortion and the playing alternates between winding tremolo riffs and slow, convoluted chug sections while the rest of the band... pretty much does the same thing on their respective instruments.
I don't really like this album very much but I can certainly appreciate the amount of time and effort that has to go into composing such abstract and unusual music. Suffocation clones never end up sounding like Suffocation typically because what's here is so hard to replicate: a band deliberately attempting to not be understood by the average member of the audience. After they reformed Suffocation pretty much ended up doing mass-appeal brutal death metal with only a thin sheen of their previous sound, but this is pretty cool even if I pretty much never want to put it on.
This is where it all began. If you want to find where lots of bands took inspirations for their brutal works, you must listen to this band and especially to this album. Human Waste was a bit grind yet but already showed us a band technically compact and violent, while the debut is something bestial for the gore level and the production. Anyway, from that album the skills of this great band, started to come out to create a more personal, brutal sound.
Breeding The Spawn was poorly produced but always great and with this huge piece of burning piece of hyper technical brutality, we have the consecration of a band that never went down in inspiration and brutality. Here we can find some of the most violent and technical compositions that the death metal ever left us…they are all for us to enjoy. The band has hugely grown in technique and impact and the production is finally great and able to exalt each single instruments.
What I always adored in the music by Suffocation is the perfect mix of technical parts on the rhythmic session united to always catchy and destructive riffs. You cannot hear a part for more than 10 seconds in a song, but the great thing is that each one of these parts has a perfectly recognizable riff you can notice listen after listen. The up tempo and the blast beats fury are always present but they last just for few seconds in a song, broken by tech passages and doom, rotten parts, to start again after few minutes. That’s way you can really appreciate each parts without being boring or annoying.
It’s the case, for example of the brutal blast beats assault of “Depths Of Depravity” or the title track. The solos are mostly evocative and violent at the same time and with evocative I don’t mean the melodic/wanky ones, but full of negative and gore atmosphere ones. Frank at the vocals is always, simply amazing and brutal like none else in this field. The vocals are so particular in their classic, canonical growl that they result unmistakable!
The bass is always pounding and doesn’t remain behind a sort of a curtain made by the other instruments because its distortion is simply powerful without being too extreme. “Suspended In Tribulation” is great for this, apart from its sheer brutality. The riffs are like a heavy, black mountain coming to bury you. The heaviness of the guitars, especially on the power chords is something you can’t listen anywhere. This is class with brutality.
“The Invoking” is another highlight here among awesome songs and features great riffs, almost progressive during the verses. They could be labelled as progressive technical brutal death ones. What a mess! And how many of you sang the “Synthetically Revived” refrain with Frank each time, listening to this song? I’m sure many of you! This is awesome with up tempos/blast beats sections. Overall, a milestone in brutal death metal, made of simply great, violent and catchy songs. It’s impossible to resist to this album.
Suffocation aren't known as one of the legends of death metal for nothing. The band debuted right when the 90's started with their Reincremated demo and their infamous Human Waste EP, and when "Effigy of the Forgotten" was released in 1991, it tore death metal a new asshole. But what I'm reviewing isn't "Effigy of the Forgotten", it's their pinnacle work which is called "Pierced From Within", and what an amazing album this is, especially for following up the horribly produced "Breeding The Spawn".
This album is a landmark in death metal. Scott Burns' production fits perfectly for such an album like this, in which every instrument makes a standout, and it gives it a true dark feel. Mike Smith didn't do the drumming for this album, but album replacement Doug Bohn fits it so well that it's not obvious to tell that the drummer got switched. Guitarists Terrance Hobbs and Doug Cerrito perfect the use of riffs and solos here, but the bassist Chris Richards makes an outstanding appearance throughout the album, especially on the priceless intro to "Depths of Depravity". Frank Mullen's vocals fit with the music brilliantly, and while he may not have the best range out there, I really cannot complain since it's perfect for Suffocation.
The songs are brilliantly composed. Each song strays away from the banality that the genre is known to cause by using complex structures, and they fit well. For example, listening to the title track "Pierced From Within", it's hard to not be pulled away, because with its frantic pace, the sudden slowdown gives the ears a pleasant surprise. Each track is able to switch tempos and time signatures without it sounding pretentious at all, which Suffocation deserves plenty of respect for.
I can't recommend this album enough. The variation that lies within each song, the crushing and dark production that fits it well, the amazing musicianship from each member, it's definitely not to be missed if you appreciate brutal or technical death metal.
Suffocation had set the bar for technically brutal Death Metal. Even to this day they have stayed true to their roots (unlike countless bands). Some people may hold their snobby noses to this band, but secretly sneak listens when no one is listening. A band that started back in 1990 have evolved and one of the afterbirths of that evolution is Pierced from Within.
I am not going to rehash was most people know... it's brutal and technical yah yah, but what is different about this album then the previous two. The main body of the riffs are thrashy and executed in short shredding bursts. The semi-technical fret dancing by Hobbs is properly placed through out each song and gives this album a better sense of atomsphere. Maybe not as melodic as the Swedish kind, but that was never Suffocations aim. What has created a shift in song writing and stucture is the drums. This time around Smith has sat this one out and Doug Bohn has stepped in for the fight. To my suprise this has opened up Suffocation's sound to a more varied and organic feel. Instead of the constant cold mechanical blasting listeners were accustom to Bohn delivers more variety. The problem with Smith was he used blasting to fill out every part of a song (as if he did know what else to do), where (for example) double bass could have broken up the blandness of constant grind drumming. Note worthy, the drum sound does not over power the music and instead there is greater thickness in the riffs and bass quitar.
You can't complain about Suffocation's Pierced from Within, this album delivers what the fans of the genre want. If you don't like "brutal" Death Metal, why even bother. To complain about this album's merits is like a person who hates cheese cake whining about the whole cheese cake he just ate.
This is an excellent slab of brutal/technical Death Metal, and I'm not much into the "Brutal" Death Metal, aside from Suffocation and Nile, so that should tell you I'm very picky, and it should tell you theres something special about this album, the first thing that makes Suffocation different and better than most Brutal Death Metal bands, is that they don't try to out brutalize others, none of that "OH I CAN PLAY FASTER THAN YOU" shit, the other thing, is Suffocation realize they have to use Thrash riffs to make it good, as they are lots of Thrash riffs present here.
The production on this album is typical Scott Burns production, raw, but not bad production, meaning everything is heard, but it's not overdone, gives it more of an edge.
Let's take a stroll down Pierced From Within lane, "Pierced From Within" Opens here, definatly the kind of song you want to open an album with, as it's full of killer fast riffs, and killer groove riffs, and blast beats that just pummel, and a solo that will make you drool for more, and "Thrones of Blood" does just that, opening with a nice groove riff, and a killer verse, with that same riff underneath, theres lots of spots in this song that catch you off gaurd, and when it slows down, wow, is it fucking heavy!, and another solo to die for, Cerrito is a winner for sure, and this album does not let up here "Depths of Depravity" Opens with some nice drum and bass parts, and then Franks demonic growl comes in eventually, and the riffs take you on a hellride and back, as they are fucking brutal as all hell, this song gains some nice speed, and has nice blast beats as well, and yet, ANOTHER, killer solo, this guy is a fucking nut!, one great solo after another.
And if you think that was good, wait until you hear "Suspended in Tribulation" Opening with some brutal as all fuck slower riffs, and listen to that bass solo!, crazy, and Franks voice eventually fades in, this song has some spots that catch you off gaurd as well, one minute there will be a repeated riff, then next, a totally new riff, the technicallity is amazing here, the outro riff is fucking killer too, and that takes us to "Torn into Enthrallment" Whats that? It's an acoustic intro!, brutal DM with an acoustic intro?! YES!, and it works well too, this song is more midpaced, but it still kicks ass, as it's filled with interesting riffs and grooves, and another killer bass solo too, and yet another solo that just owns, "The Invoking" Has a main riff that is similar to the title track, but still has a slight twist to it, making it different too, love when it slows down too, as it's just heavy as fuck, makes you want to stomp someones head in, yes it's that brutal!
Now since I don't want to make this review to long, I will just state that "Synthetically Revived" and "Brood of Hatred" are both good songs, but theres nothing there that makes them standout from the rest, but they are good, now, "Breeding The Spawn" Is re-recorded here, and it sounds MUCH better than it did on "Breeding The Spawn" good production did this song alot of justice, if you liked the original version, you'll fall in love with this at first listen!
Roadrunner made them rush their previous album "Breeding The Spawn" and that was what ruined it, in that 2 year time spand, Suffocation worked hard for their next release, being this, and wanted to make up for the last one, and believe me, they did, and then some!, so if you weren't happy with BTS, and want something killer with good production, then check this one out.
Suffo have always been one of the favourites for me in the technical area of Death Metal. They've been able to retain an oldschool sense of riffing while still playing insanely. It's not many bands who can remain this comprehensable and infectious when going berserk on their individual instruments.
The songwriting is done in an almost progressive fashion with plummeling stuctures that start, stop and change tempo flawlessly. It remains headbangable and straight up brutal while staying true to the progressive influences. I'll say it again: Not many bands can accomplish this, creds to Suffocation.
Production values are a bit strange, but fitting in their own way. The bass is possibly the loudest I've ever heard and it gives the CD an intersting punch. In terms of quality it's not perfection, but perfect for the music. There are a bunch of bass solos, as in the beginning of "Depths of Depravity", which must be one of the most crushing intro sections ever.
Most songs also mix in some Thrash, and it's just as well done as the progressive influences. There's the starts and stops of 80's Thrash, yet the drums and guitars are blasting back and forth in a modern tech-Death fashion. Technical bands who tend to play a bunch of harmonics instead of solid riffs should take notes here.
The vocals are pretty good and flows well with the music. It's often driven by the riffs, which is exactly how bands like this should do it. They're not supposed to drive the music by themselves, they're supposed to enforce it. And they surely do.
Beyond the fact that most songs on the CD sounds the same, there's no real weakness to be found here. "Pierced From Within" is a treat for anyone who likes brutal and technical Death Metal with a sense of structure and solid riffing. Recommended.
Favourite tracks: "Pierced From Within", "Depths of Depravity", "Torn Into Enthrallment"
With the passing of time, I find myself increasingly wary of received opinion, of what "they" say. Many factors have contributed to my personal cynicsm, but I have no doubt that part of it results from the fact that "they" say that "Pierced From Within" is one of the great masterpieces of death metal. As usual, "they" are full of shit.
Suffocation is one of those bands that everyone name drops; but I have a hard time believing many people actually listen to them (the Pixies of death metal?). I suspect a few people keep their records on the shelf for the same reason others keep the phone number of that black dude they once smoked up with in college. "I'm not racist, I listen to Suffocation!" Beyond the dubious originality of their work (much of their style is derivative of Morpheus Descends and Baphomet), Suffocation have always suffered from the common flaw of most second tier bands; they're fucking boring.
In this respect, "Pierced From Within" is no different. Spinning this disc leaves no doubt that you're dealing with a group of highly competent, professional musicians, they execute archetypal American "technical" death metal with ease, stuttering and chugging and changing direction with a casual flare. It's death metal as science. Unfortunately, what they forgot was the art. Underneath the precision and the expertise lies nothing but tepid pit fare. In the grand populist tradition, this is music for motion, music for your toes, your fingers, your neck. It's not music for the mind or the heart.
Where "Pierced From Within" succeeds is as a statement of violant alienation and rage at a world gone mad. And even this aspect isn't fully realized, as much of the power and punch are sucked out by studio vampire Scott Burns' trademark sans testicles mix. The truth is, there's nothing terrible here (other than the mix), but if you're looking for thunderous, rhythmic death metal with real vision, this isn't it. You're far better off with "Into the Grave" or "The Erosion of Sanity."
I hadn't listened to this album in about 4 years, and had forgotten how it sounded - somewhere down the line it degenerated in my mind to the point that I falsely remembered Suffocation as a bad Morbid Angel clone.
Hah! Wrong! These guys could (and, probably should) rip Morbid Angel a bazillion fucking assholes and leave them to die. These guys are actually pretty good. Their drummer isn't a stupid showoff fuckwad, and actually plays drum parts that fit in the context of the songs. When the songs are brutal, they are brutal, not self-parodisingly "br00tal" in the stupid Dying Fetus moshcore sense of the word.
And the riffs... there are a whole fucking fuckload of fucking riffs. Oh yes. This album is complicated as fuck, with the riffs constantly changing, and a whole lot of tempo changes as well. This album isn't generally very fast, though it does tend to alternate between fast and midpaced a lot. And mercifully, the riffage isn't a bad ripoff of Pleasure to Kill - not too many tremolo riffs to be found here. I mean tremolo riffs are fun, but annoying as fuck when overused.
Highlights... Suspended in Tribulation. What a headbanging monster. The whole thing is 7 minutes long - I have no idea why these guys aren't hailed as the masters of progressive death metal. Fucking Opeth gets that crown, and they are barely progressive and certainly not death metal. Fuck Opeth. Another highlight - The Invoking. The fast section in the middle is just fucking great, especially with the slightly melodic (well, about as melodic as Suffocation gets) riff passage. Synthetic Revival has some definite Raining Blood moments in there.
The production is very good... it's heavy as fuck, and accents the guitars - something that a lot of death metal bands forget about. A great, heavy (suffocating! Hah!) guitar tone, combined with the tasteful mix of the drums (not so fucking loud that you can hear nothing but blastbeats), and excellent bass work that you can hear, and also it tends to do something interesting most of the time, a good contrast to the rhythm guitars. Then the vocals - above average for death metal. Good range of expression, while remaining firmly in the "cookie monster" range. I don't find them particularly memorable, but they don't get on my nerves and go well with the riffs, so I like them.
Worth getting? If you like anything resembling death metal, this should pretty much be a staple. For a thrasher like me, you will miss the constant whiplash - though it is pretty above average for death metal. My only real complaints are that sometimes the drummer does get a bit irritating (but again, not nearly as bad as, say Krisiun or whatnot), and the songs tend to meander a bit without really being initially memorable. But still, this is solid death metal. As I said - Suckfuck Angel should learn from this and die.