Death metal is one of those genres of music that’s a bit obscure, a bit difficult to understand, and hard for the average listener to get into, but for those who enjoy it, they are incredibly loyal to the bands that write and play it.
Suffocation happened to be one of the earliest contributors to death metal, and still has a beyond-loyal fan base, especially in their hometown area of Long Island, New York.
In support of their newest album, The Pinnacle of Bedlam, Suffocation kicked off the “Despise the World” tour at a small music venue in the town of Patchogue, 89 North. I chose to catch the band at this show, rather than the show the next night in Brooklyn for few important reasons; For one, it was their hometown show. Many members of the band live in surrounding towns, and much of their family, close friends and coworkers came out to support them. Second, being the first show of a new album’s tour, I was bound to hear some new songs played live for the first time ever. Third, it’s one of the few shows that front man Frank Mullen will be able to perform at, as prior commitments to a full-time job prevent him from fronting Suffocation for all of their tour dates.
The show revved up with a fiery opening from some local bands, then European metal band Adimiron, and self-proclaimed “Aliencore” band, Rings of Saturn, all receiving some mixed applause. Once death metal band Jungle Rot took the stage, the venue exploded in full motion. Opening song Voice Your Disgust tore the venue into a full circle pit, with very little let up for the band’s entire set. It was clear those in attendance were there to see some death metal, and Jungle Rot was the first band to feed the fans with what they desired.
As the main support act, death metal band Exhumed quickly showed their experience finishing their stage set up and sound checking with more than 10 minutes before they were set to go on. Once the lights dimmed for the bands intro, each member walked slowly out to their spots with a fresh beer in hand. Guitarist Bud Burke took his position, shirtless and leaning backwards, as they ripped in to their first song of the tour.
Much of the crowd were furious fans of Exhumed, spinning and kicking as fast as they could, as front man and band staple Matt Harvey barked away with his vocals, often peeling away to lean back to back with Bud Burke, or to chug away at cords alongside the well-bearded bassist Bob ‘BodyBag’ Babcock. Even working a bit of theatrics, roughly half way through the band’s set, a masked man covered in fake blood, looking similar to a doctor whom had a few too many botched surgeries, ran to the front of the stage. Cranking a live chainsaw over the excited crowd, the “doctor” would make more appearances throughout the set, at one point pulling out a large defibrillator to resuscitate Bud Burke, who had “fallen over dead” from shredding away far to furiously. Their set was spot on and a fantastic warm up for the headliners.
Once Exhumed exited the stage, the room filled up for the main band of the night, Suffocation. It was clear just by the smiles and attitude of the band as they set up their stage and did their sound check, that this night was more of a homecoming than a busy night. Many handshakes and waves were exchanged with those off-stage, even before Suffocation was ready to begin. Once they did however, it was a non-stop brutal assault from beginning to end, filling those hungry for more metal with opener, Thrones of Blood.
“It feels good playing new songs. It feels a little different, a little weird, but I like it,” front man Frank Mullen spoke after playing one of the bands newer tracks. These newer songs lined up the set, with As Grace Descends, Rapture of Revocation, and Purgatorial Punishment all sending the crowd into a frenzy.
The best part of the show, as many in attendance would certainly agree, was the band’s family on stage behind them. Most, in particular, was drummer Dave Colrous’ son, who stood behind guitarist Guy Marchais most of the time, all the while head banging, ripping away at air guitar, imitating Frank’s signature hand chop (a fast hand wave which he does mostly during a song’s blast beats), and just in general having a great time alongside his father’s band. A few times even, Frank invited the boy up to the front of the stage with him, head banging with metal horns in the air through a song.
Speaking of Frank Mullen, there is no question that Frank likes to talk. Prior to many of the songs, he would often take some time to address the crowd, sometimes mentioning how while he is committed to his full time job and he enjoys his benefits and 401k, whenever he can be, he’ll be up on stage with Suffocation. He also spoke about his time growing up near where 89 North rests, in Patchouge, New York. Recalling how the town had grown from a near-empty south shore spot, to a busy night life spot had him showing his age, but his love for the time spent there in the 1980’s and 1990’s was made very clear. Speaking of his age, “Not bad for a 43 year old eh?” Frank joked, after crashing through Pierced From Within.
I saw lead guitarist Terrance Hobbs actively speaking with fans throughout most of the night, always happy to offer up any information or insights he could. Once he took to the stage however, equipped with his custom BC Rich Warlock, Hobbs became a shredding monster. My Demise had him, fellow guitarist Guy Marchais, and even bassist Derek Boyer, fueling layered riffing and some bizarre soloing upon the cheering metal crowd.
“Let’s get one more circle pit before we get out of here!“, Frank addressed his hometown crowd, before finishing off the night with one of Suffocation’s oldest and most loved death metal tracks, Infecting the Crypts. While there were a few issues, technical and otherwise, with some of the opening bands of the tour, Exhumed and Suffocation both showed their experience and skill on the opening night of this fresh North American tour. For these guys, they may be getting older, but there is no doubt that they are still at the very top of the death metal game.