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.
- 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
- Pierced from Within (1995)
- Despise the Sun (1998) - EP
- Surgery of Impalement (2004) - comeback single
- Souls to Deny (2004)
- Suffocation (2006)
- The Best of Suffocation (2008)
- Blood Oath (2009)
- Pinnacle of Bedlam (2013)
The band provides examples of the following tropes:
- And I Must Scream:
- "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.
- Apocalypse How:
- Big Applesauce: Not from the city proper (they hail from Long Island), but it's where they got famous. Also, there's Mullen's famous accent, which is frequently the butt of jokes.
- Book Ends: Souls To Deny begins and ends with the same riff. Since the opening is a fade-in and closing a fade-out, this also creates a loop if one chooses to put the full album on repeat.
- But Not Too Black: Averted with Smith, who was exceptionally dark-skinned while playing in a VERY white genre. Hobbs is somewhat lighter, but he's also the main creative force.
- Deathcore: Not themselves by any means, but they proved VERY influential to the genre.
- Death Metal: Arguably the Ur Example of brutal death, as well as laying the groundwork for what would become slam.
- Five-Man Band:
- Frank Mullen is About to Shoot You: In the liner notes of the Self-Titled Album. With a shotgun.
- 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.
- 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.
- Mohs Scale of Rock and Metal Hardness: Hard 9 on the demos before Effigy, 11 on Effigy itself, and a hard 10 afterwards.
- New Sound Album: Many.
- Effigy was where they created the sound that made them famous, as their earlier material was thrashier death more akin to what was coming out of Florida at the time.
- Breeding featured their most complex and borderline progressive arrangements, the likes of which were sadly hampered by the awful production.
- Despise the Sun was something of a return to their early style.
- Souls to Deny was more stripped-down and more riff-oriented compared to their original material.
- Suffocation was even more stripped-down and markedly similar to a lot of modern brutal death (Deeds of Flesh, Beheaded, Gorgasm, etc.).
- Blood Oath brought back some of the technicality that had been dialed down on recent efforts, placing major emphasis on odd time signatures and their trademark twisted progressions.
- Pinnacle of Bedlam was basically a far more technical Despise the Sun thanks to Culross' presence, as well as having an increased guitar solo presence.
- No Export for You: The Japanese release of their Self-Titled Album featured two re-recordings of Breeding the Spawn tracks: "Prelude to Repulsion", which was released to all regions, and "Anomalistic Offerings" which remains Japan-exclusive.
- The Pete Best: Todd German and the unknown drummer.
- Promoted Fanboy: Boyer, Robinson, and John Gallagher.
- 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).
- 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.
- Start My Own: Guy did this with Pyrexia, but he left that band a long time ago.
- 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.
- Troubled Production / Screwed by the Network: Breeding the Spawn is known for its awful production, which was all due to Roadrunner refusing to pay for another recording session at Morrisound (where Effigy was recorded). This wound up being part of the reason why Smith initially quit; while Roadrunner kept the band signed (unlike Malevolent Creation, who went through the exact same thing with Stillborn), they jumped ship not long after Pierced from Within was recorded. Most of the Breeding tracks have been re-recorded on other albums, so it stands to reason that they'll all turn up in a rerecorded fashion somewhere down the line.
- Uncommon Time: All the time.
- Ur Example: Of brutal death.
- Voice of the Legion: The Effigy version of "Mass Obliteration" does this on the first word of each verse in the breakdown, with George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher being credited as the guest vocalist.
- 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.