Suffocation


Human Waste

Suffocation - Human Waste ©1991 Relapse
1. Infecting The Crypts
2. Synthetically Revived
3. Mass Obliteration
4. Catatonia
5. Jesus Wept
6. Human Waste

The first blast of reasonless genius Suffocation gave the world, nearly a decade before they (sadly) agreed to stop scarring its inhabitants. Human Waste takes technical brutal death metal beyond the realm of unimaginative thrash-cloning and depressingly linear Cannibal Corpse rehash. It's their world of bass-heavy palm-muted tremolo riffage, subjected to extreme death-grind going progressive attack with outbursts of crazed vocals hearkening a diseased and sociopathic humankind.

The general vibe pervading this release is the sonic imagery of a rotting industrial sewer, of strange creatures living in its horrific depths. The music is rather incomprehensible in the beginning, as the "hooks" are buried deep within the structures that are only semi-apparent on the first listens. It is entirely devoid of obvious "emotional" content other than an impersonal anger, but the way the riffs and structures affect your appreciation of them is inexplicable and ultimately emotive in distantly depressive ways. There is so much "information" embedded in this music - be it intellectual or "emotional" - that this CD alone can keep a person occupied for hours of repeated listens in exploring its murky depths.

There is a ridiculous amount of reverb on the guitars and drums here, often taking away from the clarity and the brutality. The thin production doesn't help either, though the riffs remain decipherable. The biggest problem, however, is that all the tracks here except for the title track are present on other albums, all of which have much "heavier" production than this one. The bludgeoning serviced by "Catatonia", for example, is more effective with the help it gets from the production on Despise the Sun (their last album). This problem, at least in my opinion, is nullified by the presence of the title track; last on the disc plays a two minute frenzy meant to educate the public in handling sledgehammers and being indiscriminately rabid.

The first (indelible) etching on their modestly prolific (unparalleled) discography (epitaph), Human Waste goes towards being historically important but musically redundant. However, buy it just for the two minutes of the title track: my guarantee of its worth. Let's hope that the next time they threaten to release an album, they will grace it with the sickly sounds of "Human Waste" redone.

Review by Rahul Joshi

Review date: 03/2000

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Effigy Of The Forgotten

Suffocation - Effigy Of The Forgotten ©1991 Roadrunner
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

A tremendously influential record from one of the most talented bands in...well, in music. Though the production is heavily bottom-heavy and sometimes makes it difficult for the listener to "get" the riffs, repeated listens and close attention should make the assimilation much easier. The music is mainly technical riffs arranged to create flowing, progressive passages. Not only are the riffs in themselves exceptional, but the way the "flow" and melt into one another is also remarkable - there are no emabarrassingly abrupt and inappropriate pauses. They are specifically centered around the blast beat, and the blast - low E string interplay is amazing at times. The bass, though not as actively involved as in future releases, provides additional heaviness and keeps rhythm to let the guitars wander into some quirky technical segments. The vocals seem generic at first but are more powerfully delivered and better enunciated than on most other CDs in this now-infamous sub-genre. They act as an additional rhythmic "instrument" as opposed to being those-stupid-growls-that-ruin-the-music. The drumming, being central to the music of course is great - Mike Smith does these insane little double-bass runs at the end of "segments" that are just too cool to hear. The influence of this record is apparent on almost all technical-death CDs of the late-90s. Cryptopsy might be more wild and insane, but Suffocation are the gods in terms of sheer songwriting talent. Interestingly, these guys are hailed for being brutal and technical all the time, but people often manage to fail mentioning their knack for writing great songs. Buy this, or the Green Slime From Mars will devour you!

Review by Rahul Joshi

Review date: 01/1999


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Despise The Sun

Suffocation - Despise The Sun ©1998 Vulture Records
1. Funeral Inception
2. Devoid Of Truth
3. Despise The Sun
4. Bloodchurn
5. Catatonia

Gods of technical death-grind return for what is sadly their final offering. Incredibly, they've already released four records without a single bad song on any of them, and I can say without any hesitation that Despise the Sun has them safely holding that record. It is sixteen minutes of a breathtaker.

After the mindblowing involution of Pierced From Within, this album is somewhat of a more accessible outing. The riffs are less progressive, the structure less fluent, the arrangements rather fragmented with clearly distinct riffs playing their parts in the composition of individual tracks. The start-stop feel - always a major part of the trademark Suffocation sound - is even more marked here, though the general speed is less varied with slow, sludgy parts being kept to a minimum. The songwriting is as brilliant as ever, and the guitar sound is especially crushing on these five tracks; clear, also, which can't be said of it on at least one of their previous albums. Drumming comprises of highly disciplined savagery from Dave Culross, though the weak snare and tom sound and the clicky bass obviously don't help in adding to the brutal feel. The bass guitar has a an exaggerated metallic boom, going quite well with the general bottom-heavy guitar bludgeon. Vocals are deeper than usual, rhythmic patterns now perfected to an even greater extent: Mullen really does seem like the fifth instrument. Lead guitar is absent on all tracks except the last, and I can't really say it is much of a loss since I can't think of too many memorable solos that I've heard on the rest of their albums.

"Funeral Inception" is a terrific opener, a convenient summary of the following tracks. "Devoid of Truth" has an uncompromising tempo, giving way to the title track which has some marvellous arrangements. The introductory riff is stunning in its richness of texture, the way the band unfurls segment after segment of top-class riffage from then on is alone worth the price of the MCD. "Bloodchurn" accomplishes what I suspect was intended from its title, and soon we're into Suffocation's best composition ever: "Catatonia". It is a paragon of elite songwriting in the genre, an absolute classic - though already heard on their first release "Human Waste", this is done a little differently from the earlier version. There's no reverb on the instruments here, the guitars are infinitely more distinct, and the brutality inherent to the composition is fully realised. The last minute of this track is some of the most intense/insane music to ever be put on a CD...what a way to conclude a flawless career!

People always commend Suffocation for being "heavy" and "brutal", so I often wonder if that's all they see in the band - what about their unparallelled knack for writing unforgettable riffs and structures? There are a million other "brutal" bands, but not even a handful, I guarantee, would be able to do it better than this band has. Essential to a metal collection.

Review by Rahul Joshi

Review date: 07/1999

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Souls To Deny

Suffocation - Souls To Deny ©2004 Relapse
1. Deceit
2. To Weep Once More
3. Souls To Deny
4. Surgery Of Impalement
5. Demise Of The Clone
6. Subconsciously Enslaved
7. Immortally Condemned
8. Tomes Of Acrimony

After a six-year hiatus, the genre's best group is back in business. But though the equipment they're selling is good, it is outdated and expensive, and somehow this time 'round the quality control personnel have been a lot less sharp.

The sound is softer around the edges this time - the guitars sound less like grindcore thumps and more like 80s thrash. The vocals are a little too prominent in the mix, as several people have pointed out - can't imagine the purpose of that, since the vocal rhythms aren't particularly interesting.

Something is lost, I think, maybe that grandness and perfection of structure that pulled you in the very second you played a Suffocation record. The songwriting is almost on target - there's only that ineffable charisma missing. "Deceit" is a terrific opener, and it starts the album on an energetic, forceful note. "Souls to Deny" and "Tomes of Acrimony" are the other two standouts on the album - they bring to mind the jagged corners and natural flows of the earlier records. "Surgery of Impalement" has some interesting start-stop segments; I must say that Mike Smith's return at the drums flavours this record with a tinge of the old tastes. Indeed, some parts sound closer to Effigy of the Forgotten than to anything they've released in the last decade. But most of the rest is rather forgettable; I've listened to this album at least eight times, and I barely remember any riffs from the other tracks. It all sounds decent on the first listen, but the repeat-listen value is awfully low.

Traditional death metal has reached an impasse, and I can't see anything other than solid songwriting carrying it out of the rut. Or perhaps it's just time to acknowledge that there's nothing more to be done with the genre. Souls to Deny leaves me generally indifferent, and will be getting a lot less play time in my CD player than their last two records.

Review by Rahul Joshi

Review date: 08/2004

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