Review: Asphyx “The Rack” [Century Media Records]

Review: Asphyx “The Rack” [Century Media Records]

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Score 70%
Starting point
70 %
User Rating : 4.6 (1 votes)

Long-lasting doom/death metal veterans Asphyx were one of the earliest bands from Holland that slowed the hell down once speeding up became the norm. Quickly joined by Martin van Drunen, The Rack represents the start of a band that would release many albums to come. That’s quite a different take than the bands that would just release one record before vanishing into oblivion. I won’t name anyone here, but you should know who I’m talking about.

Asphyx has never settled for the slow atmospheric take of Winter and clearly different from the romantic doom/death metal variant, it’s easy to see why death metal fans are fond of them. In other words; this band wouldn’t be a bad band to start with once you’re on your quest to discover doom/death metal. However, I can’t be the only one who’s able to tell that the band was just starting out at this point. The Rack is simplistic alright, but simplicity should never result into a plodding bore and that’s something I’m partially reminded of every time I spin this album. The slower bits rarely make my skin crawl; more often revealing a lack of creativity with their lazy progressions, whereas the faster sections sound more energetic, if not too original for 1991’s standards. This may not result into filler songs, but it does result into filler moments and that’s my main issue about The Rack. ‘Diabolic Existence’ eventually turns into this slow and lifeless track of nothingness once it slows down and although the parts in between sound hot and heavy, I’d rather not bother with tracks that are partially well-written. ‘Evocation’ sounds like an improvement at first, with a nasty riff that repeats itself at the start and I’m also fond of the mid-paced death metal motives halfway through. Yet again, the track loses its appeal once it slows down; making it hard to sit through the entire thing.

It’s annoying, because once the highlights make The Rack worth revisiting at least. ‘Vermin’ introduces a whirlwind of a death metal riff and from here, alternates between some military-marching chugs and Celtic Frost-esque stomps. It makes a good introduction, but things become even filthier and more effective, once The Rack progresses. ‘Wasteland of Terror’ is a surprisingly brief, yet effective assault that features some of the most sickening guitar grooves between the decent slower and violent faster bits. ‘The Sickening Dwell’ briefly makes progress without any sense of direction, but quickly picks up with a thundering guitar rhythm and some striking riffs that follow. ‘Pages in Blood’ conjures a feeling of hopelessness at first, only to take these weird twists and turns with some jammed out riffs spreading out of the hellish void. Most amusing of all, Asphyx somehow manage to pull off a nine-minute long album finale with conviction and based on the inferior cuts, this almost seems too good to be true. Functioning as a summary of the band’s strengths, the tune finds the ideal balance between vicious riffs that resemble landscapes of the hellish inferno and atmospheric bits of substance; resulting into a perfect introduction for a doom/death metal newcomer.

Writing-wise, The Rack isn’t that great, but I should admit that you can’t beat two of its main features. Martin van Drunen’s howls of agony sound absolutely sickening and whereas they appear in a completely different musical environment than that of early Pestilence, they work just as well as here as they did with that band. Oh, and who could forget that distinctive guitar tone? It sounds like a flamethrower that has been made by zombies who plan on using this as their weapon to conquer earth.

While the aforementioned features are an obvious plus and certain tracks leave a lasting impression behind, The Rack marks the start of a band that was rather inexperienced at this time. It’s decent in the end, but records such as Last One on Earth and On the Wings of Inferno are quite superior.

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