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Piercing the ears and stimulating the mind. - 89%

hells_unicorn, September 8th, 2010

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.