The heavy metal historian visit’s Suffocation’s Effigy Of The Forgotten
As we approach the release of the new album The Pinnacle Of Bedlam by New York death metal stalwarts Suffocation, it becomes clear just how influential the band has been on an innumerable amount of death metal bands. After their first EP Human Waste (the first ever recored released by the now well-established Relapse Records), the band recorded their debut LP Effigy Of The Forgotten. This album, like much NY death metal, hits like a Mack truck right out of the gate, and is seen as a progenitor of the very odd sub genre of death metal known as “slam.”
The nucleus of the band was particularly strong with Mike Smith on drums, Terrence Hobbs on axe duties and the otherworldly Frank Mullen on vocals; Suffocation were clearly on another plane of existence in 1991 and thus require further examination.
An absolute pounding opens the album by way of “Liege Of Inveracity”. The undecipherable vocals are a focal point for first time and repeat listeners, as well as the interplay between Hobbs and Smith which run through jazzy sections where vocals are absent. The stop and go nature is a staple of Suffocation’s attack, as are the aforementioned “slams”; a slow down to near breakdown, which is then picked up by ample guitar solos, both of which are more than welcome.
Moving to the title track, Mullen’s gasps continue, sounding like they’re ruining the man’s throat as he unleashes his inner beast upon unsuspecting listeners. A triumphant gallop – one like that of the four horsemen – is enacted by Smith’s drum kit. Flash and flourish are then utilised by Hobbs and his partner Doug Cerrito as the album slows and quickens with the blink of an eye, and Mullen grunts and groans his way to the finish line.
Also featured on the band’s original EP is the powerful and most well known song of the band’s: “Infecting The Crypts”. Seeing as it was my introduction to the band, its mere sound brings me (and my virgin ears) back. The swirl of riffs that play behind Mullen and his band of maniacs is mind-boggling on first listen, but when deciphered make for an ultimate maelstrom of history-making death metal. Adding in the shovel sound effects to simulate exhumation makes for an excellent effect as the song closes out too.
Habitual Infamy” ’s overall pace is set by Smith’s drumming and lyrics like “Morally detrimental // Incapacitated existence // Ignorant false worship” make for excellent Ash Wednesday listening while writing this piece.
Buzzing along towards the finish line is “Reincremation”, which features more changing time signatures with jazz flourish. The focus moves from drum, to vocals, and guitar; repeating this process is mind-blowing as you are not sure with which weapon Suffocation will hit you next. Slowly squirming out of the depths is “Involuntary Slaughter” with scorchers of guitar solos, which fade back to Mullen. The fat riffs towards the end crunch and crush the masses with their infinite catchiness.
“Jesus Wept” closes out the album in a lyrical tour-de-force, showing how people hold on to religion while they live and when the tides turn towards death, people often wonder why they wasted their time doing so, when life has much more to offer. “Only one thing clinging to your mind // The prayers to the feeble god whom you once believed in // But now an ever greater pain engulfs you // Reincremation did you no good, return to inflict others.” Mullen’s digitized vocals to end the song are also quite unforgettable.
Suffocation are without a doubt one of the most influential death metal bands in history (not to mention their inclusion for a commercial on The History Channel), as the countless bands who pay homage to them shows; it’s incredible. Still going strong twenty-two years after their debut album, their fanbase continues to grow. Skepticism surrounds the band, however, as drummer Mike Smith recently departed.
Through all of this I expect The Pinnacle Of Bedlam to be a great showcase of the band in 2013 and for the future. Feel free to drop me a comment about a band you’d like to see covered, or just leave one as a sign of good faith. For what I’m currently listening to you can always check out my Last.fm page. Some death metal for your Valentine’s Day. Until next week.