WHO: Arguably the single most important band in the development of modern Death Metal, Suffocation have influenced/inspired so many aspects of the genre taken for granted these days; death growling, slams, exploration of the blast beat, speed, intensity, the list goes on and on. Since 1990, Suffocation have simultaneously defined and revolutionized Death Metal with each release. However, many fans are split on the question of their very finest work. There is no such thing as a bad Suffocation album of course but deciding which of their downright mythological accomplishments is the most astounding takes time and lots of reflection. Having taken the time and reflected as much as I possibly could, I decided on ‘Pierced From Within’. Not only is it Suffocation’s finest release but it’s also Death Metal’s finest release. Yes, I wrote exactly what you think I just wrote; ‘Pierced From Within’ is the greatest Death Metal album of all time from the greatest Death Metal band of all time.
WHEN: On May 23rd, 1995, metal music received one of its crowning achievements from Roadrunner Records.
WHERE: Morrisound Recording in Tampa, Florida.
WHY IT’S A CLASSIC: I’m positive the last line of the ‘Who’ section certainly got your attention, which is why I shortened the ‘When’ and ‘Where’ sections so you can jump straight here and I can explain myself in greater detail. First things first, I’m sure there are some readers who are surprised that I consider Suffocation the greatest Death Metal band of all time. Is there really any other choice when you get right down to it? Cryptopsy would have been the closest second place if ‘None So Vile’ wasn’t the end of their dominance. Gorguts has been on hiatus so long I wonder if I’ll ever get to hear a snippet of their rumored latest LP. Demilich could have even beaten both if ‘Nespithe’ wasn’t their only release. Same goes for Lykathea Aflame and ‘Elvenefris’. The most important question to ask when thinking about a ‘greatest band’ or ‘greatest album’ is how much influence has that band/album had on the entire genre, does it stand the test of time and outside of their very best, how many dips in quality does their discography feature? Suffocation’s influence is undeniable to anyone who can rub two brain cells together, ‘Pierced From Within’ kicks the shit out of anything Death Metal released since 1995 (even in close fights) and there really isn’t a significant dip in quality at any point in their history. If your immediate reaction is to bring up ‘Breeding The Spawn’ or their self titled 2006 album I say a pox on your house and ears for parroting nonsense! Any and all reasons you could come up with for Suffocation NOT being the greatest Death Metal band of all time have surely been proven false. If there’s a brutal riff you really love, chances are Suffocation already wrote it. They are, for all intents and purposes, the Black Sabbath of Brutal Death Metal, with one of the best track records for quality any band has ever had. ‘Pierced From Within’ works on every conceivable level because it functions on every conceivable level. Looking for mind blowing technical prowess? It scarcely manifests itself in the legendarily influential way Terrance Hobbs, Doug Bohn, Chris Richards and Doug Cerrito manifested it here these days. Looking for soul crushing brutality? You’ve found the Mecca. Every track on this album will destroy any previous expectations of anything and everything Death Metal. ‘Pierced From Within’ churns, gnashes and annihilates but it also envelops, astounds, fascinates and dazzles. At no point in all of the times I’ve listened to and replayed ‘Pierced From Within’ have I ever found fault in any of the compositions on display. This is Death Metal’s magnum opus and those who deny Suffocation’s rightful place at the top should check their premises.
HOW: As I briefly mentioned above, ‘Pierced From Within’s greatest success is the unification of every conceivable element a Death Metal fanatic could ever want without sacrificing the power of any last piece. Frank Mullen, who was one of the first to usher in the Death Growl as we know it today turns in one of the absolute best vocal performances Death Metal has ever seen; the juxtaposition of his masterful enunciation and bellowing pitch result in the best death growls short of the complete inhumanity of vocalists like Matti Way and Phlegeton. Terrance Hobbs has always been one of my favorite guitarists and if you look nowhere else to understand why, look to ‘Pierced From Within’. Every riff the man writes is genius and only serves to make me weak in the knees. Doug Cerrito and Chris Richards round off the stringed assault with savage secondary guitar and indomitable bass but the real underdog of the album is Doug Bohn on drums, filling in for Mike Smith. He proves himself more than worthy as a substitution, never missing a blast or fill and always staying on top of things.
Really, I could rave about this album forever (which is probably why this took so long to write) but I’ll end my piece with this; in every genre of music, there are always a select few bands/musicians/composers that not only define the genre as a whole but set the standard for said genre for years to come. Baroque Music has Bach, Jazz has Miles Davis and Death Metal has Suffocation. Since 1990, the band has done nothing but consistently amaze, continually innovate and leave even their most dedicated students/devotees in the dust. Here’s to many more years of being at the very top, destroying posers and delivering only the most exquisite gems of brutal, technical excellence.
Fuck yeah. \m/