February 18, 2012
Review and live pics by InfamousButcher
23 years into their career, New York’s Suffocation is still blasting out brutal death metal and destroying everything in its wake! Formed in 1989, Suffocation (Suffo for short) is known primarily for 3 things: powerful, inhuman guttural vocals delivered by Frank Mullen, insane blast beats and breakdowns, and being one of the very best live metal bands EVER. My first exposure Suffocation was in 1992 when a friend of mine bought a used copy of HUMAN WASTE from Repo Records in Ardmore, a store from which I amassed a considerable death metal collection. It was the heaviest piece of music I had ever heard at the time! Then, in June 1993 I saw Suffocation at the Cell Block in Bensalem with Vader and Dismember. I was completely blown away and to this day 19 years later it remains one of the best concerts I have ever seen! The albums do not do Frank and co. justice – a live Suffocation show is like taking one of their albums and multiplying it by 10!
Tonight’s show was at Jimmy’s Place in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It’s basically a big local bar with pool tables and sports bar décor. The stage was small and was less than a foot off the ground, so there would be no stage diving tonight! Jimmy’s reminded me a bit of a larger version of the Raven’s Nest in Quakertown or a smaller version of Scarlett O’Hara’s in Bethlehem. The show was not sold out; I’d say there were probably between 100 and 200 people there, hardcore death metallers to see the legends!
Doors opened at 6 but we did not arrive until 10:15 as I figured Suffo would be on late since it was Saturday night and Jimmy’s was open until 2 AM. There were 5 opening acts on the bill, all of which were local death / thrash / grindcore bands. We missed I Am the Trireme, Limb by Limb, and Apocryfiend. Hailing from Lancaster, PA, March to Victory took the little stage at 10:30 and proceeded to crank out some half decent death metal. Crowd eventually got into it and a pit broke out. Highlights were a cover of Death’s “Lack of Comprehension” and the closer, a cover of Iron Maiden’s “Wasted Years”. At 11:30 Strong Intention came on LOUD! They had kind of a grindcore sound with clean yelled vocals. It got redundant after a while though as people began to get antsy waiting for the death metal gods.
After various sound checks, Frank, Terrance Hobbs, Derek Boyer, Guy Marchais, and Dave Culross took the stage to screams and growls from the audience! Frank addressed the crowd and said Suffocation probably hadn’t played a place like Jimmy’s since 1989! Then Suffocation tore into Thrones of Blood and proceeded to obliterate us! Frank’s “vocals” were subhuman and vicious throughout, really haven’t changed much in 23 years which is amazing! Death metal vocals are very strenuous and difficult to reproduce after years of touring, but Frank is an exception. The band was tight and together. Terrance’s leads were powerful throughout the night and Derek’s bass rumbled through your chest. The audience responded with moshing and headbanging and even a little crowd surfing!
Early in the show Frank mentioned that blast beat machine Mike Smith was not able to be here tonight so Dave Culross was filling in on drums. Dave has played with Suffocation in the past and he has also played for Malevolent Creation. Despite this, I found the drum sound ordinary tonight. I’m not sure if that was due to the poor sound quality of the venue or Dave’s style or some of both. Dave’s blast beats weren’t as fast or as sharp as Mike’s were when I saw Suffo in 1993 or on the 2005 live album CLOSE OF A CHAPTER – LIVE IN QUEBEC CITY or on the LIVE DEATH compilation from the 1992 Milwaukee Metalfest.
Frank is a great frontman, constantly moving and interacting with the crowd. Twenty years ago almost all death metal performers were dead serious on stage (an exception would be Cannibal Corpse’s former lead singer Chris Barnes). There was no audience banter; this was brutal music that portrayed a certain world view. Today, it seems that more acts portray death metal as entertainment and an art form, which it is, not a way of life. Frank shared his views on being a musician (this is a good outlet for my anger and aggression, if it weren’t for music I would be in jail), drinking (when I start drinking Frank the Tank comes out like in OLD SCHOOL – Let’s go streaking!), death (you end up one of 3 ways, buried with the worms, cremated, or Infecting the crypts!) and religion (I hope nobody is going to waste their time going to church tomorrow!). He seemed very genuine and was a riot!
Despite the inadequate sound the show was awesome, a fan couldn’t have asked for a better set list. Highlights included “Catatonia” (first Suffocation song ever written and my personal fave), “Breeding the Spawn” (most brutal of the night, wow),” Effigy of the Forgotten” (LOW pitched growls),” Liege of Inveracity” (crazy pit time), the classic “Jesus Wept” (place went completely nuts), and of course, the first song that comes to mind when pondering Suffocation, “Infecting the Crypts”. All of the fans in attendance were satisfied and pumped afterward! After the show I spoke to Frank, thanked him for a killer show and talked briefly about my 1993 experience. Frank was friendly and gracious. Anyone out there who likes death metal, grindcore, black metal, or any type of extreme music, you MUST see the kings of death metal live if you haven’t already! Suffocation never disappoints! I will be seeing them again in May at the Maryland Deathfest and I just can’t wait!
Thrones of Blood
Effigy of the Forgotten
Pierced From Within
Liege of Inveracity
Breeding the Spawn
Suspended in Tribulation
Infecting the Crypts