Thursday, 28 July 2011
Asphyx - Embrace the Death
I think that everybody knows the weird story behind "Embrace the Death" album, if not let me remind you it. Initially recorded in 1990, it wasn't released on CD until 1996 (LP in 2009!), because the guy (from CMFT Records), who was about to release it originally, has disappeared with all the studio money, before the band even finished the recordings. As Bob Bagchus wrote in the booklet for the vinyl: "we found out about it when we were still in the studio (1990) a few days before mixing! We just recorded the album and only did a rough mix on "Streams of Ancient Wisdom"... we were in the studio and without a label to pay for all! So we took off with only a cassette tape with an intro, outro, a rough mix of "Streams of..." and with some movie samples in "Denying the Goat" and choir in "Vault of the vailing Souls" and that was it!". Sounds weird, but the most important thing is that this album hasn't vanished and Asphyx managed to release it finally, even if it took them few years to do so.
Another important thing about "Embrace the Death" is that major part of it was later re-recorded and re-arranged on future Asphyx albums, like the title song, which appeared on "The Rack" LP as "Pages In Blood", "Denying the Goat" as "Diabolical Existence", etc., while "Streams of Ancient Wisdom" was recorded for "Last One On Earth" LP. As far as I know some of the old lyrics of these songs have been rewritten for "The Rack" album, as new vocalist Martin van Drunen didn't like their occult matters and decided to write his own texts. Some of these original, old lyrics that Theo wrote for "Embrace the Death" album have been lost.
I must say "Embrace the Death" is the most evil and obscure sounding Asphyx album. It sounds almost like a demo, with this awfully unpolished and rough production, but that only gives and extra feeling to already damn dark and heavy album. Skipping the intro, it begins with "Embrace the Death", one of the best songs Asphyx ever written, it just blows my mind and that mournful melody in the opening part is one of the best ever to come up in death metal history. When listening to this song and also those, which follow, like "The Sickened Dwell" or "Streams of Ancient Wisdom" it surprises me how brutal and extreme you could sound, without playing mercifully fast. Much of the Asphyx music is slow, in the vein of death / doom metal, but notice how heavy and obscure it is... Like "The Sickened Dwell"; it's opened by mid paced riff, but then there's this sloooow part, which just kills and it still amazes me how well it all sounds. Or "Denying the Goat", which is all about the slowly crawling riffage (from hell).
Bur for instance, "Thoughts of an Atheist" is slightly faster, although it also starts with doomy part, but then it develops into one of the fastest songs on the album. Or "To Succubus a Whore" - fuckin fast song (in the archaic death metal standards of corpse)... So, as a whole "Embrace the Death" is much more varied than you may imagine and that's another great thing about that album, as thanks to it the atmosphere, even if sometimes the production fails, is truly one of the darkest and most morbid you'll witness on death metal album and there's no doubt about that.
Sadly "Embrace the Death" is along with "God Cries" the only album that features Theo Loomans on vocals. The guy did fantastic job here, his voice is vomited in furious way, impressively brutal and rough, and so is his bass. Sometimes his vocal arrangements are bit doggy, like in "Thoughts of an Atheist", which is a bit faster song and maybe that faster tempo is the reason why his vocal parts seem not be perfected in this particular song. I think he felt better, more comfortable in these slower tracks like "Crush the Cenotaph". I also love the leads that Eric Daniels plays. They're all fantastic, but especially the ones in "Streams of Ancient Wisdom" and "Circle of the Secluded" are emotional and memorable. The guy rips!
Summing it up, "Embrace the Death" is amazing album. Despite its troubles and even some weaknesses, I can only be grateful to Century Media for exhuming it in 1996 and recently also From Beyond Productions for releasing this ultra limited vinyl. It was worth doing so. I realise it isn't the most technical or perfectly recorded album, but that's not the point here. Asphyx delivered some great, memorable songs here, some classic and cult riffs and for all that "Embrace the Death" deserves its place in the history of death metal. Yeah, classic it is.
Best songs: "Embrace the Death", "The Sickened Dwell", "Crush the Cenotaph"
Final rate: 89 / 100