Sound — 9
In 1991, Suffocation released their debut full-length album "Effigy of the Forgotten." It was a hallmark in death metal for a multitude of reasons, such as the heavily detuned technical riffing, the absence of influence from thrash metal (an influence quite often found in old death metal), and Frank Mullen's vocals, which took the death growl to a whole new level.
This album is written with a riff-salad approach, which is basically just sticking a bunch of riffs together one after another for those of you unfamiliar with the term. It definitely works, and in my opinion, there is nothing more satisfying than hearing one brutal chromatic riff after another. There are solos too. Although these aren't particularly amazing by themselves, they fit with the gestalt of the album perfectly. In my opinion, if this album contained Vai-like soloing or whatever, it would have been overkill.
"Effigy..." was the album that pioneered slams in death metal. In fact, the slam found at the 2:50 mark of opener "Liege of Inveracity" was apparently the first slam found in death metal music. Suffocation know when to use these to good effect. The slams will usually be found straight after a really fast section of a song, to give a feeling of suddenly slowing down dramatically. Unlike the terrible breakdowns in today's metalcore and deathcore, the slams found within "Effigy..." always have meaning and interest to them. Metalheads worry not (although if you're kvlt and all that, you should've listened to this by now).
The guitar tone is interesting and rather different than what is often heard in today's metal. Guitars-wise, Terrence Hobbs used a B.C. Rich (I think), not sure about Doug Cerrito. The amp used was an Ampeg VH140C solid-state head that had tight lows, fizzy highs and sounds fairly scooped yet managed to cut through the mix (on this album anyway). Personally, I rather like the sound of the Ampeg, but for those used to hearing more audibly pleasing amps such as 5150's or whatever, it might take a bit of adjusting to.
"Effigy of the Forgotten" was produced by the famous (in death metal circles) death metal producer Scott Burns. His mixing on the album is of high quality overall, but not perfect, although the good outweighs the flaws by far. First, I'll go over the good things about the production: the guitars are spot on for death metal, being tight, distorted and harsh. One of the guitars recorded sounded fizzy and scooped (in a good way), while another had more body. Frank Mullen's monstrous growls also manage to cut through the mix, and the ferocity of his vocals is produced correctly.
However, as mentioned above, the production is flawed in places. For one, the album is overall mixed to be bass heavy (not a problem), yet the actual bass guitar is inaudible! Also, the drums, while generally, powerful sounding, do sound a bit like typewriters, a flaw commonly found in death metal recordings of this era. I highly recommend Suffocation's third album "Pierced From Within" for any of you that like this one but want better drums and bass (But hey! That's another review.)
Lyrics — 7
Frank Mullen's vocals on this album are wall-shattering growls that sound like they come from a vicious wild animal opposed to a human! I mean that as a compliment. However, they are incomprehensible because they are so distorted, but that doesn't ruin anything for me, as I treat the vocals as if they were just another instrument and enjoy them in that respect.
Looking inside the album sleeve, the actual lyrical content seems to be mostly made up of anti-religious statements, along with a couple of songs just about gore and death, like all those good old fashioned death metal bands did songs about back in the day. However, these lyrical subjects don't seem to be handled with satanism or over-the-top gore present, unlike contemporaries Deicide and Cannibal Corpse respectively.
Overall Impression — 10
Technically, this album actually contains very little original material, as the majority of content on this album is made up of re-recordings of material from previous EP's, demos, whatever. However, I would still recommend you buy this if you already have the "Human Waste" and "Reincremation" EP's, as the mixing is different. Basically, I guess it's like buying HD remakes of old videogames: there's room for both in your collection, as together, they present the same material successfully in a different light
Overall, I reckon every second of the 37 minutes, 25 seconds "Effigy..." has to offer is worth listening to. I highly recommend this album if you are a fan of grindcore, death metal or other extreme metal. If the CD were to be stolen, lost or broke, I would replace it at once. Even though I have this on my MP3 player, it still deserves to be blasted out loud for everyone to hear. But hey! Hurry up and buy the album already!!!