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.
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)
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.
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 This deeply withdrawn viewpoint escapes the human-to-human perspective of most popular music, pervading the music with an epic atmosphere while still sounding offhand, organic and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.
Production: Warmer production with fuzzier, roomier sound.
Review: This short release shows us Asphyx in Slayer emulation mode, including a nascent track from the album that followed it. While it shows insight into the infamously inscrutable "Asphyx method" of gluing riffs together into an amalgamated cryptogram bigger than the sum of its parts, it also represents an evolutionary detour in style.
Despite its short duration this EP remains a favorite because the voice used is so familiar and unconscious that Asphyx are able to express themselves clearly without getting sidetracked by the power of their style, adapting the patterns of Slayer songwriting and even its rhythms, where the bulk of their work veers more toward the Metallica/Exodus style of percussive muted power chords and recursive discrete rhythms, not phrasal ones as Slayer used.
The version of "The Krusher" on this disc lifts a riff directly from Reign in Blood; the opening moments of the title track sound like they came straight off Show No Mercy; the ambitious "Rites of Shades" demonstrates what a cross between classic Slayer and Destruction might sound like. Although this EP varies the Asphyx formula, it also emphasizes it by showing parallel ideas from which it derives much of its compositional language.
Production: Overdriven tympanic distortion and hasty but loud sound creates an ambience of casual violence.
Review: Asphyx stands out among death metal bands for combining two sets of things: European melodic sensibility and American-style thunderous, simple, rhythmically-compelling riffs; doom metal's dramatic presentation and death metal's organic fusion of protean, tortuous and wiry riffs into a narrative in which cycles of repetition expand the context in which the next riff will be interpreted, creating a changing topography and sense of vast inner space.
On their second full-length, Asphyx focus less on melody and more on repetition of powerful rhythm riffs in songs that gradually expand from two complementary riffs to include others, then reduce themselves to the bare minimum, and then find a concluding processional-style riff that drives the song home to a more advanced version of its originating riff. The result sounds random at first, and like a techno song keeps up the rhythmic intensity at near uniform levels until it can break it and transition to another stage of ritual.
1. M.S. Bismarck (5:03)
2. The Krusher (5:51)
3. Serenade in Lead (3:28)
4. Last One On Earth (7:09)
5. The Incarnation Of Lust (4:46)
6. Streams of Ancient Wisdom (3:35)
7. Food for the Ignorant (4:49)
8. Asphyx (Forgotten War) (5:27)
The muted strum that speed metal made distinctive finds a use here as an anchor to otherwise flowing death metal riffs, hooking a rhythm and then possessing it by overstatement, such that a constant surging sound fills the ears like the echo of car noise as the car passes through a tunnel at high speed. With the torn throat vocals of Martin van Drunen whipping these rhythms toward excitation, and understated drums stretching fills to offset an elemental form of cadenced pocket drumming, these songs charge forward with a mechanical interpretation of the organic as exhibited in the abstractions that unite their riffs in the mind of the listener.
The hookish rhythms of chorus vocals suggest early Destruction, Pestilence, Obituary or Master, but many influences blend smoothly in this muscular and purposeful voice. While this album backs down from some of the more epic moments that Asphyx delivers during its length career, it compensates with a form of militant intensity that allows raw collision between its ambition to soar and its pathology of cudgel-sculpting the skulls of its listeners.
Production: Bass-oriented resounding solidity.
Review: Asphyx push old school death metal -- funeral heavy metal mixed with raw hardcore riffing -- into thunderous music of charging chord progressions that possessed of an ambience that silhouettes melody as completion to grinding rhythm. With the riding rhythms and emphatic resolutions of epic battle music, the resulting orotund music expounds upon the death metal tradition of recombining fragmentary motifs in successive expansions of perspective.
On this album, an almost entirely new lineup (resurrecting a founding member on lead guitar) imitates the style of The Rack, but blurs the ragged edges and simplifies the riff salad to give the music an atmosphere in which each element has its place, resulting in a spacious but hard-hitting hypnotic immersion in the language of death metal. At the same time, the band play up the more theatrical, Celtic Frost-influenced parts of their music to make what sounds like a hybrid between Dead Can Dance and the first five years 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)
Echoing song structure, downturning riff avalanches rumble into entropy and dissipate as melodic riffs emerge to complement their direction with an ascendent greater context, producing a sense of clarity from decay and transcendence of destruction. Drums roll and flicker under bass doubling the surging, undulating riffs periodically cleated by seizure of rhythm in a full stop; then, inexorable like the flow of rivers or erosion of mountains, the pattern repeats until tension exhausts us, at which point an immanent melody slips out and dances over it before the flow resumes.
Riffs leap between tempos and reappear, guided by emotionally impassive vocals that announce a structural rather than colorful doom. Although Asphyx is basic, repetitive music, it is shaped from the aesthetic symbolism of phrase and rhythm, and so tells a story in the juxtaposition of seemingly radically different forms that, in the contrast of afterimage, briskly make sense and expand upon the previous meaning like a story in which each action leads to involvement in a larger plot through the architecture of its change.
God Cries (Century Media, 1996)
A common mistake in modern art is to confuse symbolic popularity with truth. In this case, a lack of any real direction caused the reformed band with new lineup to seek a crowd-pleaser, choosing self-pity because any form of compassion, empathy or commiseration appeals to those who have given up on themselves. However, for art to endure it must express something larger than the sum of its parts. God Cries cannot do this: it wallows in a one-dimensional emotion, and underscores it with death metal riffing infused with chording and melodies from the emo movement that was gaining momentum contemporarily. Doom metal riffs mixed with surprisingly light heavy metal choruses while a half-crying voice carries it along, this album has nowhere to go so its starting and ending states are the same. Personnel shakeups and death of a beloved father wracked this band, but this excremental album put their career on hold despite being universally praised by labels and the press for its "sensitivity."
Production: Organic and thick but dense sound.
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.
1. Intro (1:21)
2. Embrace The Death (4:00)
3. The Sickened Dwell (3:58)
4. Streams Of Acient Wisdom (3:24)
5. Thoughts Of An Atheist (4:59)
6. Crush The Cenotaph (4:24)
7. Denying The Goat (3:48)
8. Vault Of The Vailing Souls (5:02)
9. Circle Of The Secluded (5:35)
10. To Succubus A Whore (1:56)
11. Eternity's Depths (3:40)
12. Outro (0:49)
13. Mutilating Process (4:26)
14. Streams Of Acient Wisdom (4:29)
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.
Production: Steely modern sound preserves precision and tone.
Review: As if reaching into the past to the Crush the Cenotaph EP, this later album shows Asphyx -- after a jaunt as Soulburn in which a faster melodic style appeared -- taking a Slayer-style approach to speed, but carrying influences from newer material such as the black metal and faster death metal of the later era.
Since speed gains a somewhat uniform intensity, variation is decreased and with it goes much of the distinctiveness of Asphyx, but this remains an energetic, inventive album. Citations from earlier heavy metal of the type closer to hard rock, and even lifts from the riff lexicon of older proto-underground bands like Venom, compete with influences from Greek black metal, early Darkthrone, Demoncy and ripping death metal bands like Vader.
1. Summoning The Storm (5:18)
2. The Scent Of Obscurity (2:56)
3. For They Ascend ... (2:50)
4. On The Wings Of Inferno (4:25)
5. 06.06.2006 (2:26)
6. Waves Of Fire (2:04)
7. Indulge In Frenzy (2:56)
8. Chaos In The Flesh (3:12)
9. Marching Towards The Styx (3:02)
While this album propels itself with the grainy high-intensity sound of nearly constant tremolo strum, most of its riffs are not melodic in the sense most would recognize; they are chromatic or whole interval, and tend to flow together without much differentiation in shape or tempo until it is time for the song to run into a riff that changes chord more slowly but keeps tremolo speed high, creating a feeling of sand flowing over a rigid geometrical shape.
The problem with this approach is that it standardizes too much while keeping intensity uniform, which blurs the contrast between riffs and makes the entire album feel like a variation in texture, but it also encloses some imaginative riff-writing. However, the demand for distinction in texture squeezes the need for variation into vocals and drums, creating a more chaotic approach, which while powerful fragments the unity of approach that made Asphyx unbeatable for many years.
Production: Stolid and loud, crisp without losing the metallic overdrive of the classic Asphyx sound.
Review: Several different varieties comprised the death metal genre: the flowing phrase-motif kind (Massacra, Morbid Angel), the percussive kind (Suffocation, Malevolent Creation), and finally, the strangely ambient kind that Asphyx makes from recursive strumming that bypasses the offbeat for a military cadence, suspending reality by over-writing it with a brain-infecting rhythm.
Despite the European melodic sensibility that produces the theatrical epic moments which develop these songs, the bulk of each are American-style thunderous basic rhythm riffs without the offbeat bombast that makes death metal revert to hard rock. What emerges is mostly repetitive power chord riffing interrupted by epic soundtrack-styled melodies that tie it all together. As a result, songs take on a ritual nature, where repetition occurs in different contexts and builds to great intensity.
1. Scorbutics (4:26)
2. The Herald (3:33)
3. Bloodswamp (3:56)
4. Death The Brutal Way (3:52)
5. Asphyx II (They Died As They Marched) (6:40)
6. Eisenbahnmörser (5:42)
7. Black Hole Storm (5:35)
8. Riflegun Redeemer (5:40)
9. Cape Horn (6:53)
10. The Saw, The Torture, The Pain (3:10)
With Death... The Brutal Way, Asphyx take the simplified and more direct version of their music from the last album and focus more on rhythms that ride like a galloping horse passing under bridges: a sensation of vertigo in the whipping by of immovable objects. The price of this simplification is that epic moments are fewer and more streamlined, losing the erratic nature that creates an aura of esoteric wisdom, but the album works together more thoroughly like the tightly integrated speed metal classics of the past.
Although this album updates the style and feel of the first two Asphyx albums, it more resembles the past two in that it is increasing refinement in the restatement of known themes. However, its power increases through concise assemblages of riffs into tightly coherent songs that contrary to most music theory make an ever-expanding context of adventure arise from the simplest origins, and transport us from these mortal lands.