Tuesday, 17 April 2012

SUFFOCATION - Effigy Of The Forgotten (1991)

01  Liege Of Inveracity
02  Effigy Of The Forgotten
03  Infecting The Crypts
04  Seeds Of The Suffering
05  Habitual Infamy
06  Reincremation
07  Mass Obliteration
08  Involuntary Slaughter
09  Jesus Wept

'Effigy Of The Forgotten' is the debut full-length album by New York-based death metal band Suffocation, released on October 22nd 1991 via Roadrunner Records. The band comprises vocalist Frank Mullen, guitarists Terrance Hobbs and Guy Marchais, drummer Mike Smith and bassist Derek Boyer.

There are certain albums that are more 'important' than they are 'good'. This is one of them. Suffocation's first full-length came in a year when death metal was really beginning to diversify and take on an identity of its own as a genre, apart from the thrash sound whence it spawned. In 1991; Dismember, Death, Atheist, Morbid Angel, Grave and Carcass all released classic albums that year. Each of these records represented different interpretations of a common core sound and ideology. Suffocation joined them with 'Effigy Of The Forgotten', an album that ventured to reconcile punishing brutality and cerebral sophistication - two seemingly disparate ideals.

This record sees the debut of a distinctive sound that would spawn a whole throng of imitators. but the fact is that substantively, this record wasn't all that amazing. The sound is instantly recognizable nowadays as 'brutal death metal' of the bottom-heavy, percussive nature of the guitar riffing. Conventional melody and harmony are mostly eschewed, so any riffs that aren't primarily composed of chunky chromatics are based on quick, often trem-picked progressions on the lower octaves. Occasionally, the band delves into more progressive territory, using unconventional time signatures and prompt tempo shifts, but that's far less common on this album than it would become later on in their career. It's not a sound that lends itself easily to those who aren't accustomed to it. The relatively narrow tonal range and lack of 'obvious' melody, combined with the murky Scott Burns production makes this a very poor gateway album to serve as an introduction to death metal.

The album's single-mindedness becomes its Achilles heel. On their own merits, "Involuntary Slaughter" and "Jesus Wept" are fine tracks, but placed at the end of 30 minutes worth of very similar sounding songs, they really fail to leave much of an impression. This album would've benefited immensely from a few more upper-octave melodies, something along the lines of what Atheist had going on 'Piece of Time' or Entombed on Clandestine. Throw a few real haymaker riffs in with the steady stream of body blows, and this may have been a real classic. But as it stands, 'Effigy Of The Forgotten's' place in history will always be that of an album from a band that hadn't yet reached its creative peak.

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