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Released in 1992 and just a year on the back of the USSR’s collapse, the only album of the Russian band Aspid comes after the the former Soviet nation brought the world metal bands that were and continue to be well known and respected within the former Eastern Bloc, but within Western Europe and the Anglophone world at large, continue to be relatively unknown except to a few.
Flawless musicians, and obviously the subjects of a classical training, Aspid exhibit a virtuosity that runs parallel with their fellow countrymen, especially the neoclassicist heavy metal of Magnit and Credo. Added is the swagger and aggression that defined Korrozia Metalla, and having a highly technical bent, Swiss legends Coroner also bear an obvious influence.
Songs are consonant and dynamic like the first Obliveon album, and some of the rhythm guitar technique is quite similar to Kreator circa ‘Extreme Aggression’. A parallel can certainly be drawn with the highly adept American bands Sadus, Atheist and Hellwitch in the use of oddball technique and fluidity of execution.
The production here is thin, yet it is crisp, sharp and linear. Aside from the dominant instrumental centrepiece of guitar, the bass is high within the mix, drum patterns are heavily pronounced and syncopated, bringing a nice juxtaposition to the rhythm section that keeps the songs engaging and engrossing as a musical experience. Solos are intricate, vibrant and heavily melodious. Vocals are distinctly Russian sounding, heavily accentuated and in their delivery give a further sense of polyrhythm to the arrangements.
Whilst most certainly a thrash band on account of their aesthetic, Aspid use technique like a death metal act would. The emphasis on breaks between riffs could easily fit with Suffocation, and the vibrant use of palm muting and melodic fretwork is as spiralling and enriched as what could be heard on classic Atrocity. Whilst death metal had since the late 80′s been a foundational genre within the West, it seems obvious that outside of that spectrum there were those familiar with it and able to apply it in terms of form and substance, as is the case with these Russians.
‘Extravasation’ is a great rarity. It is highly adept, never overindulgent, very well composed and manages to cultivate a distinctly national character to itself, where the influences are traceable but in no way imitative.
Russia is the home of many bands, one of these bands is, or was, the short lived Aspid or Аспид in Russian. They released a single album during their time, Extravasation or in Russian, Krovoizliyaniye. It sadly missed the mark, and did not receive much attention until the internet was truly harnessed and became a more resourceful tool. So now, over twenty years after initial release, what does it sound like? One of the most awesome bands from Russia. Lets start with the instrumentation.
First of all are the vocals, like with many thrash metal bands, sounds like a ten year old angry kid hoped up on steroids. These are both fun and energetic, with a good dose of conviction to them.
As for the bass guitar, there are few bands, of any genre really, that have such an audible bass guitar. It plays fast and frantic and is all over the place with its crazy finger picking technique. It is highly enjoyable listening to it. Then comes the guitar, it plays a lot of dynamic riffs with the occasional shift in tempo. And like with the bass guitar, it is fast, and it throws out some really awesome riffs and leads. Finally are the drums, these are catchy, fast, dynamic and use a lot of rhythm to drive the music forwards. Sometimes, they simply pound away before dropping into rhythmic assaults. Once again, highly enjoyable.
As for the production and and mixing, there is nothing to complain about here. Both may be outdated, but both fit the music perfectly. Everything is audible, and the music is overall clear, yet have a little raw grit to it that is not too overpowering. And now the songwriting. All of the songs are in general well structured and written. Naturally, there are sections here and there that are a little lackluster compared to the majority of the album. But these lackluster parts are easily drowned and forgotten by the more great sections on this album. As for the musicianship, the guys of Aspid is in tune and synch with each other and it is clearly heard.
All in all, there is nothing truly bad or horrendous going on here. Some quirks, naturally, but aside from those miniscule things, nothing at all to complain about, purely technically. Personal taste may of course create any problems. But the bottom line is, if you want good thrash metal, Aspid is what you need. If you want check if thrash metal is your thing, Aspid is definitely a good band to start with.
Stand-out tracks: The entire album.
This is easily what I would refer to as a perfect album. From start to finish these guys blend a flavor of old school thrash aggression with technical elements in ways that create the perfect CD! Down to the very basics of it, I love the riffs, the transitions, the vocals, and the overall production, if I may, of the CD itself.
Starting with the best feature on any thrash album, the riffs are the first thing I bring up in conversation about any great thrash album! They have a very nice blend of riffs in this CD, which is the perfect way to do it in my humble opinion. I hate it when bands get stuck up with how technical they are, or how "tr00 frash" they can possibly get. They have the aggressive Exodus esque riffs to the dark Slayer tone. And, that can easily be represented in every song. On that note, I also notice that they have techy elements it more parts than others when progressing through a song! There is just so many points on this album where I have to stop and click on my player to remember which part of the song that particular riff is located. There is just so many of them!
Another thing that stands out to me, that I notice not many other bands do, is having the right connection between verses, and verse to chorus, and so on. But, above that! However, I notice that they go beyond and don't do quite the same thing every time. Granted they do in some songs, but this is the easiest way to show one how creative and just how much time you spent on these songs; it's incredible. One song in particular is "It Came (Aspid)" in the end where the vocalist holds out that scream.
And, speaking of the vocals, these are amazing! I've never heard anything like it! I don't know if it is the Russian, or the speed and tonality. I hardly ever mention the vocals, because I am so instrument driven. But, I love the tone and the structuring of the vocals so much that I had to give them a shout. I just love it when vocals throw a different pattern into the mix that the guitars may not be playing; and to hear that match up just really catches my eye. On a personal note, I just think that’s a good way to have things in a style of music that doesn't depend on the vocals to carry the song. And, coming from a guy that plays bass and does the screaming in a band, this is something that will always catch my eye!
Lastly, before I bring this to a close, I wanted to mention how I see this as damn near perfect production quality. If it is an album from 1989 or 2011, this is how I want an album to sound. I love hearing the guitar so loud in the mix. Riffs always need to catch your attention, and what better way to go that by having a great guitar mix but, not overpowering. I can still hear the drums perfectly, I love the snare sound. I may have brought the bass up just slightly in the mix, but I definitely would not take away points for this, being a bass player, my opinion is bias. That and I love this bass tone! I love how the highs are brought out; it’s something that I think is HUGELY underrated with bass players. I love how you can hear the tone with the treble and the highs before you get some overpowering vibration, by someone just turning up the bass all the way.
There is not one thing I disliked about this album. A wordy review to say the least, but in all fairness I could go on and on about this album forever. Everything is just stunning; the riffs, transitions and structure, the vocals, and even down to the basic mix and mastering. Certainly a classic in any thrashers book, and if you haven’t heard of them; YouTube them immediately!
Favorite tracks: It Came (Aspid), Where the Night, and Extravasation
Let's cut to the chase. What are the arguments for Aspid being quite a forgotten name outside the thrash incrowd? Two things really. They're from Russia and secondly their 'Extravasation' album came out about 3 to 4 years to late to leave an everlasting imprint at that moment in time. The scene was already evolving into the second wave of black and death metal just got another techoboost from Death's Human album. So who was still interested in technothrash in '92? Only the real fanatics and die-hards.
Had the group come from Germany and therefor more promotion worldwide, they might actually have gotten more fame. Because it's not because of their music, which is remarkably high standard, musically, compositionally and productionally for early nineties Russian standards.
If one listens to 'Comatose State', which in my opinion would have been the best choice as an opener, one can hear this bands really loves their Sodom and Destruction but throws in more technicality, rhythmically. Same could be said about the amazing thrasher 'Towards One Goal' which really explodes into quality full speed thrash after a minute of building up. Aspid are musically very impressive on the 7 minute titletrack which has Destruction-meats-Coroner written all over it.
Musically Aspid borrow heavily from the German scene with hints of Brazilian proto-deaththrash thrown in. And if the technical breaks and such are just too much for some straight forward thinking thrashers, the band find time to break your necks once more with the ultra speed monster 'Where the Night' which at times combines technothrash with almost grindcorish blasts without becoming a racket nor actual grind.
This aggressive yet well performed technothrash gets more character because it is sung in Russian, giving it its own specific charm. I will hold the album dearly. A true forgotten gem.
Highlights: 'Comatose State', 'Towards One Goal' , 'Where the Night'
Album artwork is a big part of what you think of an album before you get the chance to listen. After all, the album cover artist is responsible for representing the visual aspect of a musician's work. When your album cover consists of a demonic dragon ripping it's way up from underneath a sprawling city, the music is expected to be aggressive, fast and pure fucking metal. Fortunately, this group of Ruskis match and exceed those expectations, and prove to the world that the Iron Curtain was pulled for a reason.
Starting off with a neat synthesizer intro, you are lulled in to a false sense of peace before the pummeling riffage of It Came (Aspid). I came right alongside it, because that guitar solo is absolutely orgasmic. The aforementioned synth shows it's face only three times (the intro, a little bit before It Came (Aspid)'s guitar solo and at the beginning of Give Me (Play for a Ballet)). It's a shame, though, because they could've easily boosted my rating up to a 98 with more well placed usage.
Now it's time to get in to the individual musicians, starting with guitarist Alexander Sidorchik, undoubtedly the star of this show. From extremely headbangable (for tech/prog thrash) riffs flowing smoothly in to each other to guitar solos that are amazing no matter what genre of metal you prefer, this guy just rips and shreds and I love every second of it.
Next up is drummer Vasily Shapovalov. Although he is blasting away most of the time, it's the little things he does, like the plentiful fills, creative cymbal work and double bass bursts (with a touch of bell tree in the title track) that make him so great. Screw Gene Hoglan, this guy is the king of thrash drummers (and silly last names. Just try and say it without smiling. I dare you).
Vocal duties are handled by Vitaliy Hlopov, with lyrics in Russian. His range seems to be wide, from occasional borderline death growls to standard thrash screeches, but he sticks to his predominate in between style. However, his delivery is convincing and suitably snarly and aggressive. His style fits the music spot on.
And finally, we have bassist Vladimir Pzenkhov. Pretty standard metal bassist, doubling the guitar for damn near the whole duration. Unlike 99% of other metal bassists, though, his tone is very present and VERY unique. From the sound of it, it's pickstyle with the treble so high that it's almost fuzzing out. He also gets a little bit of the spotlight in the final song, Extravasation, exploring a lot of harmonics right alongside regular notes. Nothing extremely special, but, like Vitaliy on vocals, he fits really well into the overall Aspid sound. More non-guitar-following passages would've been greatly appreciated, but that is my beef with most metal bassists anyway, so he is partially forgiven. Besides, the title track shows him doing his own thing more in one song then the aforementioned stereotypical bassists do in their entire careers.
Destruction will always be the band these guys are compared to, because they are the closest sounding band to the Teutonic thrash masters (to my knowledge, discounting cover bands). If you think Destruction would kick more ass with more technicality, listen to this album ASAP. Even if you don't, this album is a must for any fan of tech thrash.
This is what Destruction would sound like had they been a full-fledged technical thrash metal band.
First of all, the vocals sound quite similar. This vocalist, though, sounds harsher (so, these are fully harsh vocals). There are some high-pitched screams (see: beginning of Towards One Goal), but most of the time the vocals remain mid-pitched. And he sings in a Russian accent or in Russian language (I cannot be sure, because my version does not have a lyric sheet and the lyrics are not on the Archives either; probably the lyrics are a combination of English and Russian), creating an exotic feeling by his speech itself.
The guitar tone is where it really shows the similarity with Destruction. Total buzzsaw. Along with Eternal Devastation, the guitar tone on this one is the most buzzsaw guitar tone I have ever heard. And, you know, buzzsaw guitars can be awesome if done right, especially with great riffage. This is such a case.
And the riffs are great. Somewhat in the vein of Destruction, too, are the riffs. Long-winded and complicated, and yet they retain the headbangable nature of thrash riffs. And these are, as these are teched-up, more complicated than Destruction riffs (at least on a general level), and less headbangable (but still has plenty of headbangabiity; just less than Destruction). There are a lot of tempo changes and odd time signatures, too, as will be expected from a technical album. The chorus of It Came features a deceleration. There is a good balance of more upbeat riffs and darker sounding riffs, and each riff morphs into another through smooth transitions.
The guitar solos are one of this album¡¯s high points, if not the absolute pinnacle. These solos are some of the best, if not the best, solos in thrash metal, up there, or above, the solos from Rust in Peace, Rigor Mortis (s/t), and Time Does Not Heal. These solos are like Trey Azagthoth and Randy Rhoads combined. That description alone should be enough to tell how awesome these solos are, but it sounds like an oxymoron. Azagthoth and Rhoads, that¡¯s almost ironical! And yet, that was the feeling I instantly got when I first heard the solos of this album. There is an excellent usage of the tremolo arm finger tapping to create the unorthodox sound a la Morbid Angel, and at the same time, they are highly elaborate, beautiful and smooth. But, you really need to listen to these to fully comprehend the meaning. Just remember: these solos are the best in thrash.
The intro track is actually worth a mention, because it is actually one of the best songs on the album, despite it being an ambient synth track. The spacy atmosphere and beautiful melodies with a bit of gloomy mood are all there in the two-minute ambient piece, and this is such a great track that I was genuinely disappointed to find out that the rest of the album did not make use of the synth. Had they incorporated some synths of the quality of this intro, this might have been a revolution. Anyway, this is one of the best intro tracks in any genre, metal or not.
This little known Russian work of technicality deserves more attention. If you are a fan of technical thrash, do not miss this out. More so if you like the more brutal side of thrash, too. Oh, and of course, this is a must for Destruction fans.