Suffocation: Core Values

The masters of brutal technical death metal discuss their intense new album, Blood Oath.

While Suicide Silence, Job for a Cowboy and Whitechapel are undoubtedly the fresh new faces of deathcore, to find the true core of this style you need to dig a little deeper in the extreme-metal trenches. This is exactly where you’ll find Suffocation, the Long Island, New York, bruisers who have been deftly merging technical death metal with hardcore breaks for nearly 20 years (minus the time they disbanded between 1995’s Pierced from Within and 2004’s Souls to Deny).

It’s only fitting then that in the recent upsurge of deathcore’s popularity these old-schoolers have just released their sixth CD, Blood Oath (Nuclear Blast), as a declaration of their unwavering commitment to extreme metal.

“We took a little bit more time with the concept of this record,” says founding guitarist Terrance Hobbs. “Calling it Blood Oath is really about taking this oath to what we’re doing for ourselves and our music.”

One listen to the record reveals that the five-piece—rounded out by vocalist Frank Mullen, guitarist Guy Marchais, bassist Derek Boyer and drummer Mike Smith—has fulfilled its pledge by delivering a ripping, brutal and mammoth-sounding effort. The success of Blood Oath is due, in part, to the band’s level of preparation.

Hobbs says, “All the songs were written way before we entered the studio.” Adds Marchais, “So we spent a lot more time on Blood Oath perfecting our guitar sounds.” As a result, Boyer’s bass lines are heavier than ever, and Hobbs and Marchais’ relentless lines are raised in the mix alongside Mullen’s characteristically violent declarations, giving whiplash cuts like the title-track and “Cataclysmic Purification” their razor-sharp edge.

To pull off Suffocation’s signature guitar acrobatics, the guys keep it simple by employing fundamental techniques such as playing with a relaxed arm and using a small, circular wrist-picking motion. But Hobbs credits Eighties thrashers like Metallica and Slayer with inspiring Suffocation’s key technical aspects. “Downpicking, fast triple picking and palm muting are completely crucial,” he says. “Without those things, our songs wouldn’t even sound right.”

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