Suffocation is an American brutal death metal band, and quite possibly the Ur Example of the brutal death genre as a whole. Easily identifiable by their twisted progressions, exceptionally fast tremolo runs, dissonant yet eerily melodic leadwork, and their trademark "Suffo blasts", Suffocation stands as one of the most successful and influential death metal groups in the history of the genre. Let's put it this way: if you ask someone in a modern death metal band about their influences, Suffocation will almost assuredly be at the top of their list.Formed in 1988 in Long Island, New York by Frank Mullen (vocals), Guy Marchais and Todd German (guitars), Josh Barohn (bass), and an unknown drummer, their lineup quickly changed when Mike Smith (drums), Doug Cerrito, and Terrance Hobbs (guitars) joined after their own band folded, creating what many believe to be the classic Suffo lineup, as it was the one that recorded Effigy of the Forgotten. Barohn left sometime after and was replaced by Chris Richards, creating a lineup that would record Breeding the Spawn, their troubled sophomore album. Mike Smith then left shortly after and was replaced by Doug Bohn, creating the Pierced from Within lineup. Bohn left shortly after and was in turn replaced by Dave Culross; this lineup went on to record Despise the Sun before breaking up a few months later.This, of course, was not to last, as Mullen and Hobbs reformed the band in 2003, welcoming back Smith, Barohn, and Marchais on their respective instruments, though Barohn was quickly fired, forcing Hobbs and Smith to perform bass duties for the album. Thankfully, they quickly found Derek Boyer to fill the bass spot in 2004, where he has stayed ever since. This lineup would go on to release multiple albums and tour like madmen, ushering in a new era of success for the band. Things stayed stable until 2012, when Mike Smith quit and Bill Robinson (also of Decrepit Birth fame) had to briefly take Mullen's place on the European tour, with Culross once again taking drum duties. As of February 2013, they have officially released a new album, titled Pinnacle of Bedlam, in addition to announcing that Frank would have to sit out tour dates here and there due to his need to put his job first (which, of course, was misconstrued as Frank leaving the band, creating an uproar that annoyed the band to no end); of course, Frank stayed, and John Gallagher was chosen as his fill-in for the live dates that he couldn't make. By the looks of things, they still have no intention of stopping any time soon. As of 2014, Culross has left yet again, with Kevin Talley officially taking over on a full-time basis.
Reincremated (1990) - demo
Human Waste (1991) - EP
Effigy of the Forgotten (1991)
Breeding the Spawn (1993)
Live Death (1994) - split with Malevolent Creation, Exhorder, and Cancer
"Jesus Wept", off Human Waste and Effigy of the Forgotten. A person's soul is bound to the ashes of their cremated corpse, stuck in eternal limbo. The person's relatives somehow become aware of this, and send the ashes back to the mortuary to be re-cremated, but all this does is enhance the victim's agony.
"Catatonia", also off Human Waste, and re-recorded for Despise the Sun, concerns itself with the plight of a victim of (possibly forcefully induced) locked-in syndrome. The person cannot find release even as their body begins to rot away and (apparently) other souls (or corpses) begin to rise around them.
"Dismal Dream" seems to be about a person trapped in a never-ending string of nightmares.
Somewhere between Class 2 and Class X in "Mass Obliteration".note the lyrics at various points imply small pockets of humans left living on a wretched husk, or simply a "World Explosion" Predictably, it's all humanity's fault.
Gorn: Downplayed. While some of the band's songs can be very graphic, they don't use this trope as much as other death metal banks.
Harsh Vocals: Mullen took Chris Barnes' grunts and made them clearer while sacrificing none of their gut impact, creating an instantly recognizable vocal style that would go on to shape the future of death metal vocals.
I Am the Band: Terrance Hobbs qualifies as he is the main songwriter.
Jerk Ass: Smith cultivated quite the reputation for having a Hair-Trigger Temper (bad to the point where he was forced to take anger management classes by his bandmates), serious ego issues, and a penchant for assaulting people who angered him, and he left on exceedingly poor terms when he destroyed band gear to spite them after a dispute over touring.
Large Ham: Frank is well-known for his live antics, particularly his standup routines and the "blast chop".
Lead Bassist: All of their bassists have been Type As, but Boyer has also become a borderline Type C thanks to his live antics.
Lead Drummer: Mike Smith, who, in addition to being one of the most influential death metal drummers (along with Pete Sandoval), was also a frequent songwriter and a shrewd businessman who helped propel the band along a great deal.
Loudness War: Started creeping up on Despise the Sun, and their post-revival material is brickwalled to about the extent of most modern Death Metal. Pinnacle of Bedlam is particularly bad, however, with incredibly obvious clipping on a good deal of the album, particularly with the cymbals.
Misogyny Song: An interesting case as it's clear that these are horror stories rather than promotion of said ideal, but still qualify:
"Marital Decimation" plays with this, with the protagonist being Driven to Suicide out of horror from the alcohol-fueled brutal murder of his wife and subsequent desecration of her corpse. That said, it still describes said mutilation in detail.
"Entrails of You" is a straighter example, though the protagonist there is quite obviously insane and possibly having a psychotic break.
Religion Rant Song: Quite frequent. If religion or God is mentioned in their songs, it's often in a negative light.
Running Gag: The band's history of re-recording songs from older material goes all the way back to Effigy of the Forgotten, which was actually more re-records than new songs ("Infecting The Crypts", "Mass Obliteration", and "Jesus Wept" came off the Human Waste EP; "Reincremation" and "Involuntary Slaughter" first popped up on the Reincremated demo). Pierced from Within represents an intersection of sorts, as it contained re-records from both Human Waste ("Synthetically Revived") and Breeding the Spawn (title track). Only Breeding and Souls to Deny lack any re-records (and those two just happen to have the weakest reception out of the band's full-length releases to date).
Ripped from the Headlines: "Bind Torture Kill" was recorded on the self-titled album, which was released about a year after Dennis Rader's arrest. The lyrics don't go into detail about his crimes, though, instead being about the general serial killer mindset.
Sanity Slippage Song: Possibly the band's favorite subject for their lyrics, to the point it would be better to list their songs that don't fall into this trope.
Special Guest: John Gallagher got the chance to fill in for Frank on the live dates that he couldn't make on the spring 2013 tour, while Kevin Talley briefly filled in for Culross shortly before the band's original dissolution and later returned to fill in and eventually take over for him after he left.
Start My Own: Guy did this with Pyrexia, but he left that band a long time ago. Interestingly enough, Doug Bohn joined that same band in 2011 and is still their drummer to this day. Smith, meanwhile, started the Horrorcore project Grimm Real sometime during the band's initial run and released a long out-of-print mixtape sometime in the late nineties, though he has stated that he intends to revive it.
Technical Death Metal: Also laid the groundwork for the more brutal side of tech-death; before Suffocation, tech-death was exclusively a rather melodic affair.
Teen Genius: Mike Smith was only eighteen when he joined and recorded Effigy when he was nineteen, while Culross gained a reputation as one of the best drummers in the entire tri-state area while he was still a teenager.
Trope Codifier: Of brutal death (along with Pyrexia, Internal Bleeding, and Dehumanized), as well as being the Ur Example. For that matter, one could also argue that they serve as this for modern technical death metal; prior to Suffocation, the technical death acts of the day (Death, Atheist, Hellwitch, and Nocturnus, among others) were still very thrashy and tended to be less heavy than the standard death outfits. Suffocation was not only the heaviest thing going at that time, but also one of the most musically complex and technically demanding, and that fusion of extreme heaviness and technical proficiency was eagerly snatched up and changed technical death forever, while the rawer, meaner, more "urban" edge that was also present struck a chord with another branch of metal fans and helped give rise to a variety of acts that would go on to help create slam.
Welcome Back, Traitor: Sort of with Mike Smith. He certainly did not leave the band on good terms, but he was given a guest spot on drums on the Pinnacle rerecording of "Beginning of Sorrow" in spite of that. That being said, however, he's almost assuredly never returning, both because he doesn't want to and because the band won't let him.