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Standard death metal. - 65%

SpecialPerson, May 1st, 2009

Truthfully, I had not heard of Asphyx until about two years ago, which perhaps is a little late for a death metal listener of eight years. However, having said that, I feel like I haven't missed much upon actually listening to the album in question. It simply doesn't offer as much of a rewarding experience as "Last One on Earth". If I may say so, the aforesaid album is truly magnificent, and receives a prolonged period of headbanging on my part, in recognition of its creativity and brilliance. On the other hand, "The Rack" is not able to hold even a candle to "Last One on Earth", for lack of sturdy songwriting, dynamics and memorability. Granted, “The Rack” was Asphyx's debut, and room for growth was still available; room which was later wisely utilized, as can be heard on "Last One on Earth" and all other subsequent albums.

With "The Rack", Asphyx present themselves as a primitive death metal band with doom/thrash influences. On a side note, I'm not much of a fan of death metal with doom influences, however, since the album in question reminds me of Autopsy, I can attest to being considerably affectionate towards the material (despite my seemingly harsh criticisms). Getting back on track, the general atmosphere of the album reeks of morbidity, desolation and of barren wastelands, where only the dead lie awake in perpetual torment. The agony is indeed exacerbated by Martin Van Drunen's horrifying vocals; a testament to his powerful work done in both Asphyx and Pestilence (another mighty contender to the death metal throne). The malevolent fury in his voice is undeniable and quite frankly speaking, is also one of the most original death metal vocal styles that I have ever had the pleasure of hearing.

The production leaves little to the imagination, since all instruments are well represented, with particular attention paid to the electric guitar. The tone is very raw, gritty, rotten and with a buzz-saw quality. At times, the riffing comes across as choppy and muffled, but I believe this only adds to the album's charm. The riffs are never able to discern themselves from the general creeping/droning fashion in which the band presents its music. This is due to them being of generic quality, almost akin to Massacre's material. However, the latter was able to imbue their riffs with more fervor and done so in a speedy manner, which improved their situation and prevented their songs from becoming stale. However, that is not to say that all the riffs/material found on "The Rack" are entirely mediocre.

I found that tracks such as "Evocation", "Pages in Blood", and even "The Rack", have moments of ingenuity that can be later found in abundance on "Last One on Earth". The other tracks have their moments, but at times, they came across as being directionless with a jigsaw-puzzle approach to riff phrasing. Cohesion and natural flow seemed to be stunted during certain parts of some tracks, however, it can still be forgiven, as "The Rack" was and is just a debut album. Their songwriting abilities improved vastly on "Last One on Earth", which I would recommend tenfold over "The Rack". Still, if anyone wishes to hear the unrefined beginnings of a band that would go on to create some splendid albums (everything following "The Rack"), then be my guest. Just don't expect greatness, because you simply won't find it here.

On a final note, I chose not to comment on the bass or drums, since they did not contribute anything of great significance to the recording, or employ any ambitious techniques and the like. I will say, however, that the bass did provide a steady, pulsating rhythm that essentially followed the lead of the electric guitar. As well, the drums came across as average with no other purpose than to keeping time. Overall, nothing special, yet not entirely mediocre.