Early years and the 1990s era (1988–1998)
Suffocation was formed in 1988 on Long Island, New York, by vocalist Frank Mullen, bassist Josh Barohn, guitarists Guy Marchais and Todd German, and Barohn’s friend on drums. Guitarists Terrance Hobbs and Doug Cerrito, along with drummer Mike Smith, former members of a local band Mortuary that disbanded at the time, joined Suffocation and created a new lineup with Mullen, Hobbs, Smith, Cerrito and Barohn. The quintet was mainly influenced by fellow American death metal bands as well as the British band Napalm Death and Brazilian Sepultura. Smith commented on meeting Hobbs for the first time: “That’s where I first noticed, ‘Wow, theres another black guy playing this kind of stuff’.” The band’s first EP, Human Waste, was released through Relapse Records in 1991. The full-length debut album, Effigy of the Forgotten, recorded by producer Scott Burns at Tampa’s Morrisound Studios and released by Roadrunner Records the same year. In July 1991 bassist Josh Baron was replaced by Chris Richards, as the album became substantially influential in extreme metal music.
After the following album, Breeding the Spawn, was released in 1993, Smith left the band and was replaced by Doug Bohn. The 1995 release Pierced from Within, which received better production than the previous release, was followed by extensive tours in Europe, Canada, Mexico and the United States. In 1998, Suffocation released the EP Despise the Sun via Vulture Records and disbanded soon after. The EP was re-released later in 2000 and 2002 by Relapse Records.
Reunion and later (2003–present)
Suffocation in 2010 (from left: Hobbs, Boyer, Mullen)
Mullen and Hobbs reformed in 2003 with Smith, Marchais and Derek Boyer of the bands Deeds of Flesh and Decrepit Birth on bass. In April 2004, Relapse Records released Souls to Deny. After the band played more than 400 shows in the United States and Europe including the Wacken Festival in Germany, playing to over 33,000 fans, Suffocation released their self-titled album, Suffocation, in 2006. In 2007, the band was featured in The History Channel’s promotional video for The Dark Ages documentary, playing the song “Bind, Torture, Kill”.
In 2008, the band signed to the German Nuclear Blast Recordsand released their album Blood Oath in 2009. The album charted on the US Billboard 200 at number 135. In 2009, Relapse released the live album entitled Close of a Chapter—Live in Québec City, that was previously self-released by the band in 2005. The release of a documentary film Legacy of Violence was set for 2010, but has since been delayed. In May 2010, Suffocation toured with Napalm Death in South America and Mexico.In February, 2012, Smith left the band again, to be replaced by Dave Culross.
In 2012, the band was inducted into the Long Island Music Hall of Fame and released Pinnacle of Bedlam in February 2013.
Since after the release of Pinnacle of Bedlam in 2013, Lead vocalist Frank Mullen announced that he will retire from full-time touring with the band due to his new job. He has since been replaced by various live vocal stand ins, including Bill Robinson, John Gallagher, and, currently, Disgorge (US) drummer, Ricky Myers.
In January 2015 Suffocation began making posts revealing that they were in the process of recording demos for a new album with a potential release date of late 2015.
In April 2016, the ensemble toured with Soulfly, Abnormality, Battlecross and Lody Kong.