Asphyx - The Rack

Production: Thick and hollow like the solidity of an old oaken room.

Review: Death metal bands streamlined riff salad into narratives that interrupted verse-chorus inertia with a circular evolution of repeated themes, as first seen in Hellhammer's Triumph of Death. Asphyx excel with a mix of doom metal theatre and death metal riffs that interjects dynamic phrase shape contrast in the midst of a meditative, droning repetition for a sense of primitive grandeur.

Asphyx abrade the listener through longer melodic motives sandwiched between elemental grinding riffs, dissolving the complacent atmosphere of muted-strum riffs with sudden rushing tremolo attacks that seem to rise as a whale breaches. Eschewing the emphasis of much American death metal on capping each phrase with a slamming rhythmic conclusion, as well as the percussive offbeat strum to anchor phrases, this music more like a film soundtrack than rock music rides a rigid motion with percussion calving variations into themes.

This attack from consistency and not the predictable unpredictable of rock and jazz lends a gravitas to this music which like the weight of the world, bears down onto us and melts our will to resist. 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 and expands upon it by placing it in a new context; some call this style prismatic composition.


1. The quest of absurdity (1:20)
2. Vermin (4:02)
3. Diabolical Existence (3:55) Heavy metal, death metal, speed metal, doom metal, grindcore or thrash mp3 sample
4. Evocation (5:32)
5. Wasteland of Terror (2:16) Heavy metal, death metal, speed metal, doom metal, grindcore or thrash mp3 sample
6. The Sickening Dwell (4:15)
7. Ode to a nameless grave (2:55) Heavy metal, death metal, speed metal, doom metal, grindcore or thrash mp3 sample
8. Pages in Blood (4:08)
9. The Rack (9:05)

Length: 37:28

Asphyx - The Rack: Death Metal 1991 Asphyx

Copyright © 1991 Century Media

Asphyx employ techniques that later became standards of death metal: repeating similar phrases at different speeds and with different right-hand techniques, as if enwrapping development within texture. Despite the outward appearance of simplicity, the contrast shown in the welding of these riffs reveals a facile intelligence underneath, like a model-maker creating a diorama to show us an experience that changed him, through the low detail of small toys. This deeply withdrawn viewpoint escapes the human-to-human perspective of most popular music, pervading the music with an epic atmosphere while still sounding offhand, organic and liberated from attachment to fears of biological survival.

At times the mixed heritage of death metal emerges in a few classic metal and punk figures, but otherwise these riffs define the creativity that both invents the new and makes it represent the recognizably familiar. Vocals are hoarse overdriven barks whipping forward the mixture of percussion and rhythm guitars that, with double bass and flickering of high-hat, sounds like a team of stallions at full gallop crossing a plain after valleys. While the rudimentary and relentless nature of this music makes it enigmatic, its honesty and evocative songwriting guarantee it a place in the legions of metal bands that shaped the underground.