Review Summary: "Pierced from Within" is Suffocation's magnum opus, displaying their sheer, unadulterated brutality as well as their superb skill as both musicians and composers.
Ah yes, Suffocation. Arguably the founders of brutal death metal, and one of the most cherished bands in all of extreme metal. These New Yorkers and former pot smoking buddies have made quite a name for themselves since their 1991 debut LP "Effigy of the Forgotten". The album shook the underground and had metalheads clamoring for more. Despite high demand, Suffocation's follow-up album "Breeding the Spawn" left a somewhat polarizing effect on fans. Some praised it for the type of excellent musicianship they expect from the ones who gave them "Effigy". Others were let down by poor production. For Suffocation's 1995 release "Pierced from Within", they really stepped up their game. Sporting infinitely better production, more technical riffs, and crazier drumming than ever before (Despite drummer Mike Smith's departure).
The album starts of with the masterful self-titled track. From the opening drums to the ending the opening track is an unrelenting maze of technical riffs, insane drum fills, outrageously gutteral vocals, and a bass that still has surprising presense without being too high in the overall mix. This song alone has enough intensity for two albums, and it's just the first track. From there, things slow down a bit with "Thrones of Blood". While not a bad song in the least, it's easily the weakest track on the album with its slower pace making for a somewhat jarring switch in gears. The riffs are good, but they sometimes, albeit infrequently devolve into chugfests. The solo is no doubt the high point of the song. It's a little on the slower side, but it sets a great, sinister atmosphere. The song finishes off up-tempo, setting a good stage for the following track.
"Depths of Depravity" starts out with a bass riff that brings to mind a predator stalking its prey. Then, it explodes with a thunderous yell from vocalist Frank Mullen as the guitars go on to play a similar riff as the bass. What follows is probably the most aggressive song on the album, utilizing palm mutes, tremolo picking and harmonics to their fullest potential up until some speedy solos near the end of the song.
Now, I want to take about a paragraph out to describe the soloing on this album. It generally describes Suffo's soloing style in general, but I think it's best applied to this particular album. When drawing parallels between guitar duos, the first one that comes to mind when hearing Suffocation's Terrance Hobbs and Doug Cerrito is Slayers Kerry King and Jeff Hanneman. Both duo's solos sort of go all over the place, but differ in quality of composition. While Slayer's infamous hellraisers seem disorganized and wanky, Terrance and Doug maintain the same reckless quality without sounding messy of annoying. An "organized chaos" approach, if you will. There are times when the solos can grate on the nerves, but it's usually just isolated sections. Now that we've dealt with this little tangent, let's move on.
"Suspended in Tribulation" is arguably the most technical track on the album with plenty of on-the-fly tempo switches and time changes. The song is good, but due to the aforementioned abundance of time changes, it never really settles on a mood. This is especially troublesome given its length of about six and a half minutes. A good song, no doubt, but it may need to grow on you. The chaotic heaviness that closes out the song gives way to a gentle, but somewhat sinister acoustic section in the beginning of the next song "Torn into Enthrallment". After this uncharacteristic, but not quite out of place opening, the heavier guitars and drumming comes in accompanied by vocals that speak sentences in a chopped up rhythm similar to the guitars. The effect of this combination is slow and heavy without going into mindless chugging territory. The rest of the song picks up speed as the instruments gradually smooth out of the choppy rhythm and start playing faster with the vocals following suit a little later. Then there's the solo. The opening to the solo packs one hell of a punch, and the stuff that follows ain't half bad either. The song then slows down to a moderate tempo before speeding up again to close out the song. From beginning to end, "Torn into Enthrallment" is a pure adrenaline surge, and even those who don't feel like spending money on the whole album should at least download this song.
"The Invoking" still maintains the vibe of previous songs on the album, but rather than have lots of tempo shifts, this one is a straight-ahead speeder. Sure, there's the obligatory breakdown, if I can recall correctly, but for the most part, this song goes full speed ahead. This isn't a bad thing, but once you're settled into the song patterns on the album, it can feel a little different. Following that is "Synthetically Revived". Like Thrones of Blood, this is a perfectly good song, but nothing really sticks out about it. I wouldn't go so far as to call it filler, but at under four minutes, I don't think the song developed as much as it could have.
The final two tracks are a headbanger's dream. They take everything that was good about the album before and turn those things up to a higher level. The first "Brood of Hatred" is in my opinion the superior of the two. Like the rest of the album, it goes through the requisite twists, turns, and tempo shifts, but what's amazing is how well it flows despite the changes. The whole song is one seamless, energized experience that would have done a fine job closing out the album on its own, but we still have one song to go. A re-recorded version of "Breeding the Spawn" off tof the last album closes out the LP in grand finale fashion, sporting intricate, well crafted riffs, ripping solos, and a breakdown heavier than a whale. While Brood of Hatred would have served as a good closer on its own, it's this song that makes the album feel complete.
Suffocation's "Pierced from Within" could pay host to several brutal analogies, but I'll just describe it as a roller coaster ride. Not in the usual cliche sense, but in the sense that no matter how shaken you are from your initial experience, you'll be aching to ride again.