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Suffocation at their near best. - 89%

COBHC_Oranos, July 5th, 2009

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.