Thursday, 4 August 2011

Asphyx - Asphyx

Asphyx - Asphyx (CENTURY MEDIA - LP 1994)
This fourth Asphyx album brought so many changes that it's unbelievable it all happened so quickly, only within a year since the previous album. Martin van Drunen was no more in the band; that happened already when the band recorded "Last One On Earth" (he managed to finish his vocal parts, but bass was recorded by Ron van Pol). But to hear that Bob Bagchus left the Asphyx camp also, was a shock. The man formed this band and been its most important member! In that case, Eric Daniels was the last original musician left, which is weird. Of course he's the guy, who's responsible for so many great riffs on the previous albums, that the characteristic band's style should be present on "Asphyx", but anyway it is not true Asphyx without Bagchus. The line up for this LP was completed by Ron van Pol, from band called Malignant, on vocals and bass and Sander van Hoof on drums, who I think lasted just for the recording session. This new line up did one album, 1994's "Asphyx".
First thing a fan may notice is the dark front cover, with golden angelic figure descending into (from?) the black abyss. Man, I really like it, this artwork surely belongs to my favourite ones.
And what is this album like? Well, it is only slightly different to the previous recordings. It doesn't seem so rough and obscure and also it is more doom metal oriented in most of its time, while the occasional faster parts don't sound as brutal as the band used to play. But what I really like about "Asphyx" are the classic asphyxiated songs or certain parts, some of which easily could have been taken from any of the band's earlier recordings and would fit there perfectly - they're so great. For instance there's this opening song "Prelude of the Unhonoured Funeral", which is more of an intro or instrumental, but sounds so fuckin' brilliant. It is basically one slow, mournful riff, with some spoken words and wonderful, absolutely fantastic melodic lead on Eric's guitar... The atmosphere on it is truly creepy and dark and I love it. Similar thrills I get while listening to "Initiation Into the Ossuary". What a fantastic song!!!! It is again slower (but with some more mid paced riffing also), but when it starts and I hear the bells, choral chants and those doomy riffs, the atmosphere just freezes me and makes it the best song of the whole album. "'Til Death Do Us Apart" is also fine and it's another slow doom metal anthem, very depressing and sad, but with faster chorus part.
Songs like "Depths of Eternity" from the other hand are more varied - this one starts with mid paced, more aggressive part, which all of a sudden evolves into slow, depressive riff in classic doom metal vein and then again everything speeds up and the mood changes rapidly. "Emperors of Salvation" is also worth mentioning, it's mostly pretty fast, but the doom part of this track is just fuckin' killer, especially when Daniels plays his solo and the church bell tolls. It creates stunning atmosphere and for sure this is one of my favourite fragments of the entire album. Finally another instrumental, "Abomination Echoes", fuckin' headbanger, with very classic (almost thrash metal) riffs, really cool song.
To be honest, most of the musical content of "Asphyx" is fine, with so many fragments, where I think it's absolutely brilliant and killer. But some of these songs don't necessarily keep the Asphyx spirit and are a bit different to what we've heard on the previous albums and some of them are rather mediocre, like "Incarcerated Chimaeras" or "Valleys In Oblivion". My main complain would come on the fact that not always it all sounds as rough and brutal as it did on the old recordings. Maybe it's due to the more polished production or maybe the reason is different, I don't know, but sometimes this material doesn't have enough rotten energy to fully crush the maniac's head. Also, I think that Ron van Pol on vocals didn't sound as impressive and brutal as Martin or Theo did. Those other guys were growling like beasts, while Ron is somehow more soothe. But as I said, "Asphyx" is fine, very strong album, good listening, only not quite as killer as I would expect it to be. There are better Asphyx albums and this one probably is one of their more mediocre works. (Ha, I wish every band would be able to release such "mediocre" albums ha, ha as "Asphyx" is better than 90% of other death metal releases anyway).
I must say that finally, after years of having "Asphyx" on CD, someone released this album on vinyl. Night of the Vinyl Dead unleashed it in limited 500 copies pressing and I got it immediately before it's been sold out. Unfortunately the vinyl doesn't include "Thoughts of an Atheist", old song from "Embrace the Death" LP, re-recorded for "Asphyx", but still it is great addition to my collection.
Best songs: "Initiation Into the Ossuary", "'Til Death Do Us Apart", "Abomination Echoes"
Final rate: 73 / 100

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