Suffocation

The original crushing grind/death mixture from New York, Suffocation fused the predominant rhythmic styles of death and speed metal with grindcore song constructions to start a new subgenre of music.
flag of the United States Suffocation - Human Waste (1991)
Suffocation - Effigy of the Forgotten (1991)
Suffocation - Breeding the Spawn (1993)
Suffocation - Pierced From Within (1995)
Suffocation - Despise the Sun (1998)
Suffocation - The Close of a Chapter (2007)
Human Waste
Relapse
1991

Production: Somewhere in tone between a garage and a late eighties do-it-yourself studio, the production here captures all instruments but drops some of the bulk of the sound in favor of more indistinct, powerfully fluid sounds.

Review: A glimpse into the formation of death metal comes from the experience of seeing this fusion of grindcore and simple death metal unfold into its rhythmic promise of complexity mated with its unswerving ability to bring death metal's nihilistic blast of chromatic power chords into a stream at once both obsessed with its default valuelessness and its building romance of architectural, energetic, fearless response to the void of life. Suffocation meld the emotions of hardcore and extreme avantgarde metal into a contexture of intricate conflicting structures through absorption of both to the ultimate abstract at the same time they are rendered incarnate in pummeling, concrete, functional rhythms.

Guttural vocals base their power on the rhythm they gain from recursion and iambic synchronicity, chugging into drumbeats fashioned from primal divisions of the human sense of time. Over that shuddering waves of power chords and arpeggios build multiplicative structures from the simple directions of nihilistic chromatic music, taking it from literal riffs in the tempos of human motion to vast mysticisms of scientifically derived, directed thought process; like most death metal, any power or beauty is so buried in the abstract that aesthetics fail to describe, but like most punk music, the living pulse infuses all of the music with a breathing relevance that few can deny.

Tracklist:

1. Infecting the Crypts
2. Synthetically Revived
3. Mass Obliteration
4. Catatonia
5. Jesus Wept
6. Human Waste
Length: 23:14

suffocation human waste death metal
Copyright © 1991 Relapse

One of the first bands to break apart song structures with blast beats and layered rhythms, Suffocation massacre their song structures with deconstructionist reliance upon bridge passages which link recombinant mutable riffs into cyclic architectural turnarounds. Lead guitar is the deadly serious satire of rock n roll that brings apart the ludicrousness of the scale into an obscurity-affirming chaotic, noisy swirl, but does not serve as a unifier so much as an accelerator to these rapid and insanely ambitious complex riff collages. From speed metal comes the chugging, muffled-strum power chord arpeggio constructions and from basic death metal the ripping single note or chord melodies, but from punk music comes the energetic tempo ride that grips each song to itself with bonds of compelling urgency.

Originators and still induplicable, Suffocation bashed out the beginnings of death metal's most visible style, the "New York" combination of blasting grindcore beats and metallic textures through the course of complex and unrelentingly savage songs. On this their demo and first (EP) release, careful listening brings about a renewed appreciation for death metal in substance and ideology, as one can see the authentic development of its paradigm of articulation from the promising but unresolved roots of its ancestry.

Effigy of the Forgotten
Roadrunner
1991

Production: Intense bass-possession holds this release and captures all of the power chord might of Suffocation with intensity and distinction, although sometimes lacking in tone. Drums are lucid and present in the soundstream.

Review: In one of the most intense incarnations of death metal Suffocation take the rhythmic relentlessness of hardcore beats and put them into speed metal structures expanded with the complexity of techno and hip-hop breakbeats and overlaid, counterpoint structures. All in its own conception, this release takes the multiple languages of music and unifies them in a surprisingly simple but evocative thundering chorus of death metal.

New York style metal takes the percussion edge of hardcore and power metal and adds it into the muffled-strum muted chordblast of older style death metal bands and simpler speed metal acts. With the deep-throated chalky rant of vocals synchronized to the offbeats of strobing, violent, cyclic riffs, the main feature of this style is the ritualistic marching beats of its verses and the blasting mayhem of its choruses. Fills are expert, precision percussion nailing complex and innovative patterns to the mark for enunciation of the resolution to each ambitious and architectural phrase.

Tracklist:

1. Liege of inveracity
2. Effigy of the forgotten
3. Infecting the crypts
4. Seeds of the suffering
5. Habitual infamy
6. Reincremation
7. Mass obliteration
8. Involuntary slaughter
9. Jesus wept
Length: 37:27

suffocation effigy of the forgotten a death metal classic from 1991
Copyright © 1991 Roadrunner

To facilitate the structural support within these complex and multidirectional riffs, Suffocation use many strum techniques with fast scale patterns to hold riffs in place and then slide them into the omnipotent rhythms. Like thrash, each song starts on a simple contrarian rhythm and works it through its positions until concluding with an iteration of its power; like speed metal, each song follows a narrative structure with frequent variations and modulations of idea; like death metal it is architecture of correlated intricacy from the notes of every riff to the subliminal rhythms behind the erratic, epileptic, insectoid guitar solos.

For death metal at the time this release demonstrated the future of iterated percussive interpretation of song themes, and pointed toward future use of rhythm where death and grind's monotonous tonal structures had become limited as containers. Its innovation and spirit have earned it a place among the classics as an undisputed invention and advancement to the genre.

Breeding the Spawn
Roadrunner
1993

Production: Reasonably representative, but not enough clarity or bass to guitars in the mix, resulting in a washed-out trebbly sound. For this reason most fans rejected this release, causing great damage to an otherwise excellent album.

Review: Highly-rhythmic and easily combative, Suffocation's second album builds on the legacy of their first with more emphasis on the bearing weight of repeated changing rhythm than the percussion of repetition, which because of its rhythmic nature has a certain degree of repetition not experienced here. In many ways, this album served as a precursor to some of the experiments in hypnotic metal that came after death metal's obsession with "technicality."

Often using sliding, entirely motion-oriented riffs to direct their tunes, Suffocation are as capricious as nature herself and so direct immediate onslaught toward any idea, even that of onslaught itself. As such it would be easy to get buried in the complexity were it not for a masterful sense of rhythm which guides each song toward its conclusion. Behind that rhythm is a Slayer-derived sense of melody which enables the band to work with few open intervals and still give hints of breadth to harmonic space in simple gestures of motion that refuse to strictly harmonize.

Tracklist:

1. Beginning of Sorrow
2. Breeding the Spawn
3. Epitaph of the Credulous
4. Marital Decimation
5. Prelude to Repulsion
6. Anomalistic Offerings
7. Ornament of Decrepancy
8. Ignorant Deprivation
Length: 35:52

suffocation breeding the spawn on roadrunner records copyright 1993
Copyright © 1993 Roadrunner

The highly dissonant nature of this approach is downplayed because of the rhythmic intensity and narrowness of harmonic focus toward the conclusions of most of the more intensely thrashing material, but the emergence of melody brings a profound conclusion to each song. As always the guttural vocal expansion of vocalist Mullen is crippling and corrosive. With the overall emphasis on brutality no musicality is lost: the predominant element in this album's evolution, becoming more prominent toward the end of the disc, is its tendency toward doom metal with slow and drawn-out riffs in the Morbid Angel style, but even darker, more forebodingly abstract. And although you can barely hear it, there is highly creative lead work from Cerrito and Hobbs sparsely distributed through these songs.

A recursive percussionism of apocalyptic negativity, Suffocation brings a great vitality to existence with these insurgent anthems to chaos and power, and through its use of savage aggression and brutal minimalism encourages independent thinking in a nihilistic world.

Pierced From Within
Roadrunner
1995

Production: Reasonable, bassy, flat.

Review: In death metal history, Suffocation stands unique for fusing the technical with the percussive and brutal older styles of death metal as well as for being emulated more than any other band.

Older death metal used simple structures and repetitive, percussive beats ending in extremely recognizable resolutions to sound heavy and dark, but was shunned by metal audiences as too rudimentary and redundant.

Suffocation integrated the heavier styles of death metal with the muffled strumming and downstroke rhythms of speed metal as did many bands innovating New York style death metal, but then integrated more complex rhythms with a variety of influences and bizarre, mocking lead guitar.

Tracklist:

1. Pierced from within
2. Thrones of blood
3. Depths of depravity
4. Suspended in tribulation
5. Torn into enthrallment
6. The invoking
7. Synthetically revived
8. Brood of hatred
9. Breeding the spawn
Length: 45:29

suffocation pierced from within
Copyright © 1995 Roadrunner

A typical song would begin with slamming, pummeling beats under sections of riffs and then break into the fast strumming chorus riffs of death metal, with chords flowing together from distortion and speed. This beginning would modulate into the unpredictable -- a punk- like strut beat, a walking jazz bassline, or a structural bridging to define the song. Each song brought forth its own struggles and torment both musically and lyrically, at odds with itself and the world.

With Pierced From Within, Suffocation have returned from the abyss of popularity after their brilliant second album, Breeding the Spawn, was ignored by fans either for its lack of bass-heavy production (made famous by Suffocation's first album, Effigy of the Forgotten) or for the fans' pompous attitudes about death metal.

Where Breeding the Spawn was focused and cohesive, Pierced From Within expands to include divergent styles and musical metaphors. Thunderously heavy and rigorously artistic, it surpasses expectations and suprises consistently.

Despise the Sun
Vulture
1998

Production: Reasonable, bassy, flat.

Review: Constructed from the same elements of abstract structure and compelling rhythm that made Suffocation a deathmetal standard, "Despise the Sun" sees the band comfortable enough in their style to develop it to a muscular prime in which it pits its own themes against one another in a vast internal conflict represented as rhythmic warfare.

With more fast strumming than previous albums, and less reliance upon the chanting-rhythm muffled strumming that was "heavy" then, this is a savage example of pounding death metal that utilizes contrapuntal structures in a recursive pattern to produce its effect. A major theme contrasts a challenger, and the two each split into their component parts, which prowl in the form of unseen riffs to return for structural elucidation. The refinements in style can best be seen in the final track, a remake of "Catatonia" from the band's first EP.

Tracklist:

1. Funeral Inception
2. Devoid of Truth
3. Despise the Sun
4. Bloodchurn
5. Catatonia
Length: 16:34

suffocation despise the sun on vulture records 1998
Copyright © 1998 Vulture

Highly percussive from its continued use of heavy downstroking and variable expectancy rhythm, where the pattern of a chord's appearance in a tempo structure is defined by a strict structuralism of the whole complex enough to permit surprises. Engaging, energetic and insightful, this music tears along with no letup in intensity. Accompaniment by the guttural bass blast of vocals punctuates the riffing with a voice of power and reason.

Tearing itself apart as it builds, "Despise the Sun" is nonetheless a powerful testament to artistic process as well as death metal design, and its conflict if taken literally projects a hidden reality embedded within the justifications of human survival. Whatever the abstract interpretation, however, the textural existence that is this music contains both the complexity to be interesting and the brutality to mystify.

The Close of a Chapter
Relapse
2007

Production: Loud, clear and thick for a live album, with some noise artifacts creating squeal effects at odd times.

Tracklist:
1. Infecting the Crypts (6:42) mp3 sample
2. Thrones of Blood (6:04)
3. Surgery of Impalement (5:23)
4. Catatonia (6:00)
5. Liege of Inveracity (5:17) mp3 sample
6. Despise the Sun (4:13)
7. Subconsciously Enslaved (4:56)
8. Immortally Condemned (6:55)
9. Effigy of the Forgotten (4:33)
10. Tomes of Acrimony (5:29)
11. Breeding the Spawn (5:36) mp3 sample
12. Pierced from Within (7:48)
13. Funeral Inception (4:22)
Length: 73:18

Suffocation - The Close of a Chapter: Death Metal 2007 Relapse
Copyright © 2007 Relapse

Having ceased as a band as death metal ran into stagnation, Suffocation returned in 2002 with a new line-up and a new outloook, which was to be more like the recent hardcore hybrids and simultaneously, to play up the band's reputation as technical masters. On this live album we hear the result through its interpretation of older songs. These are simultaneously played with more groove but less awareness of the small organic differences in rhythm that made them hang together; riffs either swing or are exactly on the beat, with little variation between. The result avoids the fear of all metal live albums, which is a mechanical sound, and replaces it with a seemingly uncoordinated one. Newer interpretations of guitar solos give them jazzier rhythms and more recognizably scale-based runs, and the increased texture of drumming with riffs at a slightly slower pace removes the frenetic claustrophobia that defined this band's earlier work. However, that was what made them stand out artistically and while every note is played to technical correctness here, the resulting inability to see the mood of these songs renders them sterile and obedient.

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