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What's that thumping sound? - 90%

Angry_Citizen, July 10th, 2011

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.