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Asphyx, "The Rack" (Death Metal Album Review)

Ara is a journalism graduate from California State University, Northridge, who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.


Why Asphyx Is a Famous Death Metal Band

Asphyx is one of the oldest death metal bands in Europe, having been formed as far back as 1987. I always knew about this band, yet I didn’t start listening to their work until around 2018 or so. Their debut album The Rack was released in 1991, and it is in the standard death metal genre, taking its influences from the scene at the time. Asphyx may be best known for having the vocalist and bassist Martin Van Drunen. This is in spite of the fact that he is not one of the founding members of this Dutch band.

The Influence of Martin Van Drunen

From the way this debut starts, you wouldn’t think that this is going to be a death metal album. “The Quest of Absurdity” is an interesting atmospheric short instrumental song, which leads into the next song called “Vermin.” Stylistically you may notice the songs are influenced by the early Florida death metal scene of the late 1980s as there are many heavy, slow passages played.

When we really get into the full songs of this album, it is evident (at least to me) that Martin Van Drunen is the better vocalist compared to Theo Loomans. Martin is the more death-metal-sounding vocalist, whereas Theo’s voice was more suited for hardcore punk and thrash metal, but Theo’s voice was tough to understand. One noticeable quality that you will hear in this album is that Martin Van Drunen tends to let out these bellowing kinds of vocal growls similar to what the late Chuck Schuldiner would do.

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Musical Style of "The Rack": Part 2

The Rack sounds like old-school death metal combined with that Florida death metal sound. This album is stylistically similar to albums such as Scream Bloody Gore or Leprosy. The one thing that this album doesn’t have is the more melodic sounds and exotic solos that some bands in the genre have. However, in terms of maintaining that brutal death metal feel and having good songwriting, this album has both of those qualities.

“Diabolical Existence” is a mostly slow-to-mid-tempo song that is basically about the evils of human nature. Listening to the songs on here makes it feel like these guys are better musically than bands such as Morbid Angel. For an album that really doesn’t have any guitar solos, The Rack is a fine example of old-school death metal with brutal guitar riffs and sound.

Final Thoughts About "The Rack"

“Ode to a Nameless Grave” is the second instrumental song on this album and this one is heavier and slower than the first one at least in the first main section before it kind of builds into more of a blues style combined with death metal. The Rack is clearly superior compared to what would come just a few years later in 1996. “Pages in Blood” is a hybrid of doom and death metal as it sounds like what the band Theatre of Tragedy would do early in their career.

Ending this album is the 9-minute-plus title track. The first two minutes or so has this chugging kind of riff sound before the song transitions into the kind of death metal sound that was common at the time. The Rack is a really good death metal album by one of the best death metal bands in Dutch history even if there are few guitar solos in it.

© 2021 Ara Vahanian

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