I can’t be the only one who’s been mostly underwhelmed by Suffocation’s output since the ’04 reunion. Aside from the verging-on-impressive self-titled ’06 record, these forefathers of brutal death have thus far done little that resembles anything inspiring and, though credit must be given for never straying from the brutal path, that simply isn’t enough to warrant the extended reunion hype. Souls To Deny was a disillusioning disappointment and though the self-titled album righted some of the wrongs, Blood Oath is back into Souls To Deny’s ordinary territory. Sad to say it, but Blood Oath miserably and, unfortunately not so shockingly, plays like the kind of album we’d expect from a third-rate Suffocation imitator signed to some obscure, Eastern European label. Depressing. - James Tape

Highly respected on the metal scene for its sheer organized brutality, N.Y.’s SUFFOCATION has now released its third full-length album. In what appears to be a case of two steps forward (improved production as well as maintaining the heavy writing style); one step backward (the lessened depth of the vocals), the new album Pierced From Within, the new amazing offering of vocalist Frank Mullen, guitarists Doug Cerrito and Terrance Hobbs, bassist Chris Richards and drummer Doug Bohn is an album, which, to Ali “The Metallian”, is reminiscent of MONSTROSITY’s Imperial Doom album. - 1995

The band disagrees with that assessment, but my first question for guitarist Cerrito pertains to those vocals mentioned earlier. I have heard that you had to resort to scuffles in the studio to have the vocals changed. “We were trying to get the vocals as clear as possible without losing the power,” he elaborates, as if ready for the question. “It took a little while, but we got it. There were no scuffles; I don’t know who your sources are. We didn’t want people to put the album on and only hear the vocals. We still have the very low vocals in some parts to maintain versatility though.”

I, for one, miss the older vocals. Regardless, what was your reaction when Frank was pondering leaving the band due to family commitments? Cerrito denies any knowledge. “I don’t know where you heard that from. That is not true.”

Even though I stand by my information we move on to the departure of drummer Mike Smith and the entry of Doug Bohn. “Mike was not getting along with a couple of us,” explains Cerrito, “ and his musical tastes were changing. He wanted to do side-projects. We had to change drummers as it was taking time away from Suffocation. Our new drummer is a friend and was in a band called Social Disease. At first, we weren’t sure about him because he comes from the hardcore scene, but he picked up amazingly well.”

What do you think of my Monstrosity analogy and my opinion that the band is getting a tad too technical in its composition? “We weren’t too technical on this album. We actually tried to veer away from that, as we felt we were too technical on our last album. This album is faster than our last. When writing for this album we were on our guards against becoming too technical.”

The obvious improvement over the last album is the great production the quintet has gotten. “Last time, due to discouragement by our label Roadrunner, we didn’t go to Morrisound Studio. That experiment was a failure. Morrisound is the best. Producer Scott Burns is the best to work with. It’s moderately expensive, but it’s worth it. I don’t know why the label was so anti-Morrisound last time. It was a stupid mistake on their part. Roadrunner kept us away from a studio where we can get a good sound! They said that studio is trendy. How can getting a good sound be trendy?”

On another front, what did the band think about Nuclear Blast approaching Roadrunner Records to buy Suffocation’s remaining album rights? Well, turns out the band is ignorant of the above. “We don’t know anything about this. Neither does our manager; I am sure, because he tells us everything. Perhaps they kept us out of it because the deal didn’t go through?”

In conclusion, let’s look ahead. What is next? “Um... I don’t know,” the six-stringer ponders. “The promotion for us and Deicide has been lacking so we will go on tour. We were looking to open for someone, but many bands don’t want to tour with death metal bands. Even bands like Death or Morbid Angel want to tour with other styles of bands to reach new people.”

Suffocation’s trek will see them on tour with Deicide and Broken Hope in some areas and with Crowbar in others. Seeing that the fans are the bread and butter of the music industry, here’s a question: which leg of the tour would you prefer to see? Enough said!

This interview initially appeared in Pit Magazine No. 15.

If you enjoyed this, read Amon Amarth