• Review: Asphyx "The Rack" 1991 (

    29 Jul 2007, 15:23 by Th4nn7

    The Rack
    Century Media, 1991
    Production: Thick and hollow like the solidity of an old room.

    Review: In creating the oldest school of death metal, Americans turned toward punk song format with metal riffs, and Europeans adapted the riff salad of later death metal into simple narrative constructions that interrupted a verse-chorus tendency with discursive passages that returned to previous themes, often quoting them in basic counterpoint of rhythm or melody, in the style first seen on Hellhammer's "Triumph of Death." Asphyx labors within this style, creating music that is as much doom metal as it is death, with basic patterns wearing themselves into the listener through variations of repetition and layers of emphasis from bass and drums and keyboards, breaking up this meditative atmosphere with sudden rushing tremolo riffs and seizures of rhythmic motion into poised expectation.

    Missing are the slamming conclusions common to much of death metal, as well as most use of percussive muffled strum to anchor phrases; where rigid sounds occur, they are in a riding rhythm that melds with percussion to form a cadence just ahead of itself, leading by consistent pattern instead of the predictable "unpredictable" offtime work of the jazzier death metal. Evenly-falling moribund rhythms, like an acceptance of inexorable death after exhaustion on the battlefield, lead into sudden changes of direction that once accepted as axiom, permute through intercessory riffs into a pattern that complements the original, even if at twice or half speed. Unlike many bands, Asphyx know the wisdom of reusing notes in the course of a phrase, and thus avoid the excesses of progressive bands; indeed, one amazing attribute of this death metal band is their outsiderness: songs are complex stories told through primitive musicianship that periodically breaks facade to reveal a facile ability underneath, and while an epic sound of doomy heavy music prevails it manages also to sound careless and spontaneous.


    1. The quest of absurdity (1:20)
    2. Vermin (4:02)
    3. Diabolical Existence (3:55)
    4. Evocation (5:32)
    5. Wasteland of Terror (2:16)
    6. The Sickening Dwell (4:15)
    7. Ode to a nameless grave (2:55)
    8. Pages in Blood (4:08)
    9. The Rack (9:05)
    Length: 37:28

    Problems abound, mostly from the mixed heritage of death metal, such as times when variations on heavy metal and punk hardcore cliches emerge and disrupt a flow of otherwise immaculate although rudimentary riffcraft. Vocals are hoarse barks whipping forward the mixture of percussion and rhythm guitars that, with double bass and flickering of high-hat, sounds almost like a team of stallions at full gallop. While this album has some highly visible flaws, and lacks the slickness of conceit ("unique" instrumentation, sound and concept) that adorned later bands, its honesty and evocative songwriting guarantee it a place in the legions of metal bands that shaped the underground. AsphyxThe Rack
  • Review: Asphyx "Asphyx" 1994 (

    29 Jul 2007, 15:19 by Th4nn7

    Magic Arts, 1994
    Production: Bass-oriented resounding solidity.

    Review: One of the oldest styles of death metal merges doomy heavy metal with raw hardcore riffing to make thunderous and direct music with charging chord progressions and, while possessed of a sense of ambience and mood change within theme, a savage alacrity for the basic churning earthmotion of cavernously resonant tone-centric chord slinging; of this style is Asphyx, who make booming death metal with the riding rhythms and resolution emphasis of roadhouse music hybridized in the direct recombinant fragmentary association of death metal.


    1. Prelude of the Unhonoured Funeral (3:54)
    2. Depths of Eternity (7:03)
    3. Emperors Of Salvation (5:00)
    4. 'Til Death Do Us Apart (6:18)
    5. Initiation Into The Ossuary (9:50)
    6. Incarcerated Chimaeras (5:03)
    7. Abomination Echoes (2:44)
    8. Back Into Eternity (6:44)
    9. Valleys In Oblivion (7.16)
    10. Thoughts Of An Atheist (5:24)
    Length: 59:18

    Echoing its own structures downturning noise rumbles into its own entropy and dissipates, leaving emergent melodic riffs in the intuitive structuralism of death metal which violates sense of place in favor of context-defining phrasing. Drums roll and flicker under bass doubling the harmonic enumeration of mostly basic power chord shapes in four-beat elemental phrase fragments, and themes as tempos leap rapidly between narrative functions in juxtaposition direct their focus toward reduction and granularized, exacting patterning. Larger attention spanning emerges from the use of shape of tonal progression to define the aesthetic symbolism of an event, and from that placement this faculty develops narrative significance arising from the harmonic expectation generated by the architecture of its change.

    Classic death metal rhythms and riff forms are here textured with undulating double bass and explosive guttural vocals emphasizing the cadence of each phrase unravelling, pulsing with the energy of interchange in confrontation. While heavy metal elements in rhythm and tonal progression (scalar modality of pentatonics) are present alongside use of interruption for continuity, these are techniques which serve the more chaotic songwriting model of the death metal genre. Doom and drone riffs define space for more symbolic elements of theme, and tune mood to a sense of endurance, exhaustion and loss.

    Lead guitar and clean playing is well executed as are all instrumentals in the context of music at this level of complexity. Resurgent themes bring energy even in chromatic riffing and dead rhythmic structuralism and energy bearing conceptual drive keeps alive the collection of motion riffs silhouetting the melody within each song. In the spirit of the origins of death metal, Asphyx create the primal art of structure. AsphyxAsphyx