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Asphyx - Embrace the Death
Review: Like heavy metal itself, death metal originated in reverberant detuned sound at a funeral pace, which Asphyx translate into this doom/death hybrid that because it thinks more like death metal, uses its slowness for contrast to both raging phrasal tremolo riffs and contemplatively glacial melodic culminations that sound like a Lord of the Rings soundtrack rendered in guitars and barely present drums.
Emerging from the chaos of early heavy metal, the first album Asphyx record -- which did not see release until 1996 -- emphasizes this potent mixture as the language of death metal. Faster riffs mix the tempos of punk with the elaborate riff shapes of heavy metal, and songs develop like anarcho-primitive progressive rock, using structures that fit the content and the contrast between riffs, then as the song builds it flowers into strikingly mature summations that capture the dynamic topography through which it leads us as if on a sonic adventure both outside and deep within our selves.
Instrumentation follows a path of less precision and more of an organic feel, as in how the distortion crumbles between drawn-out chords, and the vocals of Theo Loomans while possessed of more bass than those of Martin van Drunen to follow lack the forceful delivery between beats that escaped a sense of plodding on later works. Nasccent, the alert sense of writing songs by uniting obliquely similar riffs into a passage of discovery that uncovers slowly what a song describes, and the glacial texture which suddenly rips into motion, show their power as much as potential.
While this work is in style comparable to early Incantation, Obituary and Infester, it requisitions a niche for itself in the ability to build far-reaching compositions from riffs of two clotted chords which unfold into an explanation of primal conflict. Mostly overlooked because its later release pitted it against more instrumentally mature contemporaries, Embrace the Death shows Asphyx as their most imaginative and foreshadows the ripening of this potent doom/death mix.