Impressionistic appraisal: Suffocation’s Pierced From Within (1995)
From a previous post: “Pierced From Within…is the music of an age where humans have ceased to exist or, at the very least, have been reduced to a pathetically subservient role before a boundless, unfeeling power. This music is callous, but in the way of a superior, calculating intelligence to whom we must seem as little more than ants, a pestilence to be cleared on the path to recolonization. There is no joy to be found here, no ebullient strain of optimism, and no Terminator-style resistance; the sun of the future is a dull and smeared orb that struggles to find its way through ashen skies, while remnants of human kind cower in caves from the acid rain.”
Analysis: Suffocation’s Pierced From Within (1995)
Chopped up into extra-small portions with no head, tail, or middle, the individual phrase on vast portions of Pierced From Within is drained of all melody, conventional or otherwise, assuming an almost exclusively transitional role serving song motion. When one makes allusions to New York death metal borrowing from grindcore and hardcore, it is this severely attenuated nature of the individual phrase that is being hinted at, along with more obvious shared traits like breakdowns. Because of this, chances for developing a traditional melodic narrative, even as death metal goes, are relegated in favour of a jackhammer-like percussive take on the genre.
Which should not be taken to imply a lack of continuity. Far from it; Pierced From Within, and indeed all of Suffocation‘s output before reformation in ’04, presents the finest example of progression in the brutal death metal field. Strange as it may sound when said about the dissonant paradigm in which Suffocation work, theirs still is a very lyrical sort of death metal; this lyricism, however, has nothing to do with expression in melody, but rather evokes a primal, subconscious body-rhythm of sorts. The stellar lead guitar work of Terrence Hobbs and Doug Cerrito tries to coax some vestige of humanity out from the gears of this machine, but Suffocation‘s real contribution to death metal is in delivering a muscular and internally nihilistic variant that has become a fundamental pillar of the genre. Try as one may, it is hard to imagine this band’s best material sounding any other way than how it does. Its cohesiveness remains hermetic and inaccessible to criticism.
Impressionistic appraisal: Demigod’s Slumber Of Sullen Eyes (1992)
A fellow metalhead friend is endearingly titled Le Professeur for his encyclopedic knowledge of the genre. Many have been the occasions when this personage has slipped into meditative trances while hearing this music, states that have always seemed eerily reminiscent of the metalhead yogi found on the cover of Slumber Of Sullen Eyes, levitating with eyes open finally to the mysteries of the universe. An album for the connoisseur of death metal if ever there was one, the music contained inside lives up to the pretensions found in the artwork.
Analysis: Demigod’s Slumber Of Sullen Eyes (1992)
Finnish band Demigod‘s music is the polar opposite of Suffocation; long chains of tremolo-picked, minor scale/tentatively chromatic melodies over simple, in-time drumming form the foundation to this album. Innocuous though that description may sound, Slumber Of Sullen Eyes is one of the most exquisitely crafted collections of songs in death metal, its latent genius becoming evident only, but with near-unrivaled impact, as the album progresses and the various pieces fall into place.
That genius is one of self-composure and conviction in what is being attempted. The effort here is one of a master jeweller who takes a precious stone hewn from the rough, and polishes it to a shine. Demigod extract every last ounce of vitality from the bosom of these riffs – and it must be said that these are some of the finest metal hieroglyphs to have found their way out of frozen Scandinavia – before moving onto the next of succession. The less experienced fan may find this sort of deliberation taxing, but in time will surely come to appreciate the message that is progressively disclosed in an assembly of layers.
I may have once enjoyed Pierced From Within more, but with time, I find myself gravitating more towards the song-writing prowess of a band like Demigod, so unassuming on the exterior yet communicative of a musical meaning that death metal as a genre desperately needs to embrace going forward in time. Demigod win this round.