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Their Greatest Work - 100%

Five_Nails, September 23rd, 2010

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.