|Classic Review: Asphyx - Embrace the Death|
|Embrace the Death|
Label: Century Media
Year released: 1996
Genre: Death Metal
Review online: August 1, 2006
Reviewed by: Chaossphere
for:Embrace the Death
Rated 4.3/5 (86%) (20 Votes)
The thought that this album nearly became an unreleased casualty of some random label's dissolution is enough to draw a loud "WHEW!" from my general direction. Just in case you're unaware, Asphyx were one of death metal's pioneering bands, and probably the first to perfectly combine the violence of Possessed and Death with the crushing slowness of doom. Formed in 1987, they spewed forth a couple of demos and a legendary 7" (included here as a welcome bonus) before laying down this skull-fucking slab of pure darkness.
Unfortunately, the label they signed to folded, and the band then recruited former Pestilence frontman Martin Van Drunen to replace the freshly departed Theo Loomans, who later rejoined for one album, God Cries, in 1996 before apparently committing suicide. The result was a deal with the, at the time, small new label Century Media, and a completely new debut album, The Rack. While some of the material from Embrace the Death was re-used for that album and the subsequent Crush the Cenotaph EP and second album Last One On Earth, much of it remained exclusive. Finally, in 1996, the band decided to unleash it properly, at last.
And what a fucking great idea that was… this is pure, awesome death metal, almost too great to describe properly. Simple, leaden riffs driven by rock-solid drums and vocals vomited forth from the darkest abyss coagulate into a morbid sludge, sometimes speeding up, but more often than not dragging itself through an ocean of thick, clotted blood and filth. Asphyx never tried to break any speed records, rather they went for the absolute other extreme of the spectrum. However, this lacks the gothic melancholy generally associated with death/doom, instead sounding remarkably similar to Obituary's efforts of the same time, but much, much darker and more focused on atmosphere than groove.
This a thoroughly essential release and, if you must only own one Asphyx release, this is probably the best. Recorded during their purest era and with a much rougher, darker production than The Rack (which is also great, but a lot shorter and less rounded as a whole), this is a dirty, nasty album from an era where death metal was dominated by creativity rather than sheer athleticism for its own sake. Essential is barely a strong enough term to slap this with, but it'll have to do.
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