Saturday, January 4, 2014

Asphyx - The Rack (1991)

For me, one of the all-time worst moments in metal history came when I discovered that Martin Van Drunen was no longer in Pestilence. After the the godly 'Consuming Impulse' I was beyond stoked to see what the band would come up with next. See, in those days I wasn't nearly as jaded as I had become throughout the years since as death metal was still in its infancy, so I figured that whatever Pestilence released would at the very least be on par with 'Consuming Impulse'. Well... we'll never know as MVD got the boot and Pestilence decided to write death metal versions of Air Supply songs for their next few releases.

I remember breathing a sigh of relief upon learning that MVD was now fronting Asphyx, not only because he was back in action but also because death/doom is a musical style perhaps closest to my heart than all others.

I'll admit, I had slightly mixed feelings once the music got going. The drummer certainly wasn't the greatest in the world (think a sloppier yet more outgoing Lars Ulrich) and some of the riffs came across as being simply amateurish, which was a puzzle in itself as there are sporadic moments of genius sprinkled throughout in regards to riffery and the occasional lead. Van Drunen himself sounded a bit higher in pitch compared to his work on 'Consuming Impulse', something that I was rather unsure about. Sure, I was weened on the "witchier" sounding vocals of German thrash as those were something of a "prototype" for what would come in the form of standard death metal "singing" but I have to say, once the pitch was deepened my interest was piqued. That's not to say that I turned my back on those who employed the more "traditional" rasp, but I admittedly paid closer attention to those with a deeper "command" (ie Covenant era David Vincent, Glen Benton on Deicide's debut, etc).

As previously mentioned, the riffing ranges from fast to mid-pace and all the way down to doom. The album's slower moments are the draw fro me as I was never terribly enthusiastic over fast paced death metal and the mid-paced sections sound wobbly and uneven due in no small part to the goofy drumming which sounds like someone practicing on a kit made out of pillows and garbage cans. Fake "true schoolers" can whine all they want about triggers but I'll take a nice Morrisound setup over this ANY day of the week.

'The Rack' is an album that I quite enjoyed (despite some of the more skippable material) upon first listen and for a while since but twenty or so years later and it's apparent that it hasn't aged well. In truth Asphyx were really nothing more than a couple of amateur musicians whose ranks boasted that of a name brand vocalist who himself was nothing more than a rookie bassist.

If there's one thing that I have to give credit to Asphyx for, it is their knack for bad ass album covers

Friday, January 3, 2014

My Dying Bride - Like Gods of the Sun (1996)

For a while I passed up listening to this album along with 'The Angel and the Dark River' as I had erroneously figured that since Aaron had completely dropped the death metal vocals the band's music must somehow suck now. Then one day it dawned on me that "you know what? 'Turn Loose the Swans' was largely (though not entirely) devoid of Aaron's growls and that album is one of my favorites", so I decided to check this out after all and once I had I began to feel rather stupid for having written them off.

'Like Gods of the Sun' actually reminds me a bit of Celtic Frost. The pace is picked up a bit from the previous two albums though not considerably so as there no blasts or anything of the sort. Hell, 'As the Flower Withers' had faster songs.

To a degree this album could be viewed as the band's "Black album" as you can tell that they were more interested in writing shorter, catchier tunes than ever before. There are no drawn out riff sequences here and the band rather successfully manages to string together a great bunch of memorable licks and lyrics to boot.

Album closer 'For my Fallen Angel' is easily one of the saddest and most depressing songs you'll hear in your life and I mean that in the best way possible.

Overall a great album and a rather welcome break from the band's usual snail's pace, though in all fairness "The Bride" are hardly a one trick pony and really haven't released a bad album in their twenty something year career. Bravo.

Amorphis - Tales from the Thousand Lakes (1996)

Before Amorphis decided that they had had enough of the heterosexual lifestyle and shoulder-blocked their way from out of the confines of the closet, they were actually a somewhat decent death metal band from Finland.

There are many ways of looking at 'Tales From the Thousand Lakes'. One can be to interpret it as the band "dipping their toes" into one of many vast lakes of homosexuality (that are apparently located in Finland) before deciding to cannonball into its "depths" as they eventually did with 1996's 'Elegy'. Another is to see it as the natural progression from 'The Karelian Isthmus', or more accurately, 1/2 of that album as the other half merely consists of spiced up versions of demo and 'ep' tracks.

I actually really like this album. The band somehow manages to take the softer, melodious aspects of the riffing and bring them to the brink without ever actually falling into the lake of homosexuality. More than a few times things come close to that horrid scenario but are thankfully reeled back in and the sounds of ice cold majesty continue on their wintry path.

The vocals have always reminded me a bit of Barney from Napalm Death which is fine by me as I've always thought he had a killer voice.

The guitar sound is of the Skogsberg/Stockholm/Sunlight variety and fits the music perfectly.

Depending on how "daring" you consider your musical palate to be, this may or may not be the last good Amorphis album as 'Elegy' is the point where the band decided to go full retard what with all of the branching out and such. With TFTTL Amorphis were still safely entrenched within the confines of being a death/doom band.

Obliteration - Black Death Horizon (2013)

I've got mixed feelings on this one. Most of the time I hate it when bands do their best to emulate Autopsy as I've never been the biggest fan of that band. I didn't mind their initial run (Severed Survival-Shitfun) but I was hardly fanatical about them and since the inception of the whole "New Wave of Old School Death Metal" I've actually grown to despise them, so naturally I'm not very fond of those Autopsy cock-boys who jock their style at every turn. Obliteration is one of those rare Autopsy worship bands that I can sort of give a pass to as their albums are without a doubt a chock full interesting and grimy riffs.

Small wonder that that trendiest of trendies, Fenriz, has gotten (ahem) "behind" Obliteration as not only are they from Dark Throne's hometown but are also one of the more successful copy-cats of Autopsy, who are one of the few American death metal bands that manage to get respect from Scandinavians openly as it is apparently safe to do so without one losing credentials in the eyes of other Europeans.

Again, there's not much to say about Obliteration aside from the fact that they're an Autopsy clone that can actually write good riffs and rhythmic sequences. That and they have killer album covers, which for me, counts!