Asphyx

The Rack

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While many death metal bands headed in a more technical direction in the early '90s, Asphyx were instead purposefully primitive. The Rack follows in Celtic Frost's tradition of chromatic, punk-influenced riffs blended with crawling doom passages. Asphyx have three identities on this album: a fast-paced hardcore punk band; a stomping, backbeat-happy thrash band; and a doom metal band with a penchant for epic melody. Songs are created as collaborative efforts between these personalities and flow intuitively like a conversation. Parts are made up of bending single strings and moving fifths taken directly from Tom G. Warrior's vocabulary. While The Rack's inhuman vocals and thick, chugged guitar riffs are aesthetically abrasive, themes are immediately hummable. The narrative of the album is tied together by a melodic thread, culminating in the title track's extended intro and outro. Song structures tend to follow approximate verse/chorus patterns by alternating variations of two main ideas. On "Vermin," a Discharge-esque riff is used as the main vocal verse, before a backbeat is laid over a palm-muted passage. This pattern of fast riff then slow riff is repeated several times to make up the structure of the song, while individual musical ideas evolve in the primordial muck of downtuned guitars. The Rack also marks the introduction of former Pestilence vocalist Martin van Drunen's unmistakable howl. This recording is from a time before there was an established paradigm for death metal singers, and van Drunen's technique sounds nothing like the uniform grunts of later death metal vocalists. While vocals in extreme metal take on a role as a secondary rhythmic instrument, they can be a key element of the aesthetic package. Van Drunen so effectively channels a deeply animalistic voice that The Rack becomes a longing ode to the darker sides of human nature.

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