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Music / Suffocation

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With album covers like this, you know what you're signing up for...
The band in 1991, their most famous lineup.note 

Suffocation is an American brutal-technical 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 us 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 (rhythm guitar) and Todd German (lead guitar), Josh Barohn (bass), and an unknown drummer, their lineup quickly changed when Mike Smith (drums), Doug Cerrito, and Terrance Hobbs (lead guitar) 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. 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 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 Mullen 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 Mullen leaving the band, creating an uproar that annoyed the band to no end); of course, Mullen stayed, and John Gallagher was chosen as his fill-in for the live dates that he could not 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. Live vocal fill-ins are currently being handled by Ricky Myers. A new album is slated for 2016, and Myers will apparently also contribute some vocals in addition to Mullen's own. At some point in 2016, Guy Marchais quietly left; Charlie Errigo (The Merciless Concept) is his replacement. Talley also left at some point between May and July of 2016 and was replaced by Eric Morotti (Killitorous, Blind Witness) on a full-time basis. Lastly, Ricky stepped down from live vocals around the end of the year; while an official announcement was not made, Kevin Muller (also of The Merciless Concept) took over Ricky's duties for 2017 before he stepped down, and Ricky was welcomed back in the following year.

As of November 2018, Frank Mullen has officially left the band entirely. While Ricky Myers is currently doing live vocals, it is still unknown if he will become their new full-time studio and live vocalist.

Current band members:

  • Terrance Hobbs – lead guitar (1988–1998, 2002–present)
  • Derek Boyer – bass (2004–present)
  • Charlie Errigo – rhythm guitar (2016–present)
  • Eric Morotti - drums (2016-present)
  • Ricky Myers - vocals (2018-present)

Former members:

  • Frank Mullen – vocals (1988–1998, 2002–2018)
  • Mike Smith – drums (1988–1994, 2002–2012)
  • Josh Barohn – bass (1988–1991, 2002–2004)
  • Guy Marchais – rhythm guitar (1988–1990, 2002–2016)
  • Doug Cerrito – rhythm guitar (1990–1998)
  • Chris Richards – bass (1991–1998)
  • Doug Bohn – drums (1994–1996)
  • Dave Culross – drums (1996–1998, 2012–2014)
  • Kevin Talley - drums (2014-2016)
  • Kevin Muller - vocals (2017)

Live members:

  • Bill Robinson – vocals (2012)
  • John Gallagher – vocals (2013)
  • Ricky Myers – vocals (2014-2016)


  • 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)
  • ...Of the Dark Light (2017)
  • Hymns from the Apocrypha (2023)


  • All Drummers Are Animals: Subverted with Mike Smith and Dave Culross; despite their powerful, hard-hitting styles, they both played in a calm, fluid manner. Played straight with Kevin Talley, who was known for being quite animated and theatrical behind the kit, as well as Eric Morotti, who also matches his hard-hitting and aggressive style and animated stage presence with a boisterous personality.
  • 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:
  • Ascended Extra: Doug Bohn had been a friend of the band for quite a while before Mike Smith left the first time, and he recorded Pierced from Within as a favor to them despite having never actually played death metal prior to that (he had been a hardcore drummer). Similarly, Ricky Myers and Charlie Errigo had been longtime friends of the band before they were hired on full-time, and the same was also true for Kevin Muller, who realized that he didn't want the job and backed out.
  • Badass Biker: Guy Marchais and Kevin Talley. Mike Smith, meanwhile, is a motocross enthusiast who has built a track on his property.
  • Big Applesauce: Not from the city proper (they hail from Long Island), but it's where they got famous. Also, there's Frank Mullen's famous thick accent, which is frequently the butt of jokes. Subverted with Boyer and Morotti, who live out in California (Boyer) and up in Ottawa (Morotti).
  • Big Guy, Little Guy: Hobbs, Boyer, and Errigo are all quite short, while Eric is of average height and Ricky is quite tall and lanky and towers over most of his bandmates.
  • 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.
  • Career-Ending Injury: Well, less of an injury and more of a chronic illness, but Doug Cerrito will probably never do anything music-related again thanks to severe arthritis.
  • Catchphrase: If you have ever seen Kevin Muller do vocals for anything, you will have heard "MOVE IT THE FUCK IN!" at least once.
  • Cluster F-Bomb: Averted in their music (the amount of songs containing profanity can be counted on one hand), but played straight with Frank live. The man is legendary for his expletive-laden rants.
  • Concept Album: Pinnacle of Bedlam and ...Of the Dark Light.
  • Deathcore: Not themselves by any means, but their distinct style of technical yet percussive riffing proved influential to the genre.
  • Death Metal: Arguably the Ur-Example of the sub-Sub-Genre of brutal death, as well as laying the groundwork for what would become slam.
  • Determinator: "Prelude to Repulsion" seems to be a deconstruction, as the protagonist is marching relentlessly onward towards an ill-defined goal that seems likely to destroy both himself and humanity.
  • Epic Rocking: "Immortality Condemned" (6:05) and "Suspended in Tribulation" (6:31). Most of their songs are surprisingly short for a tech-death band.
  • Gorn: Downplayed. While some of the band's songs include graphic descriptions of death and violence, they do not use this trope as much as other death metal bands.
  • Hair-Trigger Temper: Doug Bohn. Anyone who knows the man will tell you that he is always pissed about something.
  • 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 is the only original member of the band and remains the most frequent songwriter.
  • Iconic Item: Terrance Hobbs' custom B.C. Rich Warlock guitar (notable for its reverse-pointed headstock) and glasses are both instantly recognizable, though in 2017 he switched to using a Legator Ninja for his main stage guitar.
  • Kill It with Fire: Mike Smith rather infamously quit the band by lighting Terrance Hobbs' Vader cabs that were being kept at his house on fire and sending him the pictures. The two have since reconciled and are now on okay terms once again, but that particular incident has gone down in legend.
  • Large Ham: Frank is well-known for his live antics, particularly his lengthy, profanity-laden rants and the "blast chop."
  • Lead Bassist: All of their bassists have been Type As, but Derek doubles as a Type C due to his rather famous stage presence (where he holds his bass like a double bass and actually got a custom bass made that was specifically designed with that in mind) and status as one of the two main creative forces in the wake of Guy Marchais' departure.
  • 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. Dave Culross and Kevin Talley are similarly famous and influential drummers (not to mention Talley's Wolverine Publicity due to his innumerable live fill-ins and session appearances), though Dave is more known for his work with Malevolent Creation than his work with Suffocation.
  • 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.
  • Metal Scream: Type 2 for Frank, Ricky, and Kevin; while Frank may not have quite been the Ur-Example of true gutturals (Chris Barnes and Glen Benton both beat him to the punch), he was most certainly a Trope Codifier by way of how he made them clearer and more intelligible, cutting out both the gurgliness of Barnes' vocals and the bellowing quality of Benton's. Ricky, meanwhile, has somewhat lower and more gurgly vocals with a very distinctive wheeze-like characteristic. Lastly, Kevin had a bit of a hardcore-flavored Type 1 edge to his, but was still very much a Type 2 as a whole.
  • Multinational Team: Most of the band is from the US, but Eric Morotti is from Canada.
  • Nerd Glasses: Hobbs sported the coke-bottle kind during the band's original run. Post-reunion, he seems to have begun using contacts, with the glasses only occasionally showing up.
  • 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.
  • Older Than They Look: Ricky Myers is 48, but between his youthful-looking face and thin, lanky frame, looks at least ten years younger.
  • One-Steve Limit: Averted with the Pierced From Within line-up, which had two Dougs (Cerrito on guitar, Bohn on drums).
  • Pintsized Powerhouse: The entire band at this point; in their twenty-six years of existence, a sizable majority of their members have been fairly diminutive, particularly Boyer and Errigo. Mike Smith was the only true aversion and towered over the other members, and Ricky was also quite tall but had a lighter build than Smith.
  • Punctuated! For! Emphasis!:
    • "GOD! FOR-BID!"
  • The Quiet One: Surprisingly, Frank Mullen. Onstage, he is famously talkative, but offstage, he usually just keeps to himself and watches sports (usually football), and he seldom hangs around fans.
  • Religion Rant Song: Quite frequent. If religion or God is mentioned in their songs, it's often in a negative light.
  • Re-release the Song: See Running Gag below.
  • Revolving Door Band: As of the 2010s, they have had a lot of turnover that started with Mike Smith's departure in 2012, which led to the band going through two drummers in four years as well as changing guitarists.
  • 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.
  • Scary Musician, Harmless Music: Inverted with Frank. Aside from the tattoos, he looks like someone's middle-aged dad (which he actually is), and most of his time off is spent working or watching sports; the fact that he is not a very big guy makes him seem even more unassuming. Onstage, however, he has a commanding stage presence, a powerful and forceful voice, and a tendency to go on rambling (and often extremely funny) tangents in his infamous "Lawn Guyland" accent that has become legendary among metal fans.
  • Sean Connery Is About to Shoot You: Frank did this in the liner notes of the Self-Titled Album. With a shotgun.
  • 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 Dave shortly before the band's original dissolution and later returned to fill in and eventually take over for him after he left. Finally, Ricky Myers started out as this before he became a full-time live member (if you're confused, Frank still does short tours and most one-offs, while Ricky does the long tours and overseas fests); after he left in 2016, Kevin Muller (The Merciless Concept) took over and also contributed backing vocals to ...Of the Dark Light.
  • 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 was their drummer until 2015, while Charlie Errigo was also a brief live member in 2014. 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. Lastly, Myers started Serpents Whisper with Damian Leski, Jack Owen, Brad Parris, and Parker Yowell (Skin the Lamb) sometime after his split with the band.
  • Step Up to the Microphone: Ricky Myers. While he was a very good friend of the band (and a former bandmate of Derek, who had played in Disgorge on an on-off basis), he was a drummer and occasional road tech who had no major vocal experience. Due to the fact that Bill Robinson and John Gallagher are both far too busy to be reliable fill-ins, they chose Ricky, who has done quite a good job by all accounts.
  • The Stoner: Terrance, Guy, and Eric.
  • 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 Dave Culross gained a reputation as one of the best drummers in the entire tri-state area while he was still a teenager. Eric also qualified during his time in Blind Witness, as he was no older than eighteen back when he recorded Nightmare on Providence Street and did the touring for it.
  • Token Minority: Terrance is the only African American in this band after Mike's departure.
  • 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.
  • True Companions: With Decrepit Birth. On a personal level, Derek and Ricky are longtime buddies and the former pushed for the latter to get the job, while the same is also true for Charlie and Kevin Muller.
  • Uncommon Time: All the time.
  • Ur-Example: Of brutal death.
    • The breakdown in "Liege of Inveracity" is considered one for slam.
  • Verbal Tic: Frank Mullen includes "my friends" in the vast majority of his sentences while engaging in stage banter, while Kevin Talley ends 99% of his social media posts with "siiiiickkkkk!"
  • Vocal Evolution: Frank underwent two phases of this.
    • The first, during the band's original run, saw him playing with his vocal style until settling on the more enunciated approach that he's used since Pierced From Within.
    • The second phase has involved his growls gradually becoming throatier and higher pitched since Pierced, a pattern typical of Death Metal vocalists.
  • 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.
  • Would Hurt a Child: The protagonist of "Prelude to Repulsion" takes some time during his mindless march to "wreak havoc amongst the children of a present with no future".