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First time I've ever heard about Asphyx was in 1992, when I found an article about them in Polish Metal Hammer (the same issue presented also such bands as Grave, Comecon, Autopsy... That was a real death metal feast to read for me). I loved band's logo and photo and discovered they just released an album titled "The Rack". Man, I can't believe it was already 20 years ago! Anyway, I got the album soon after and I must say I haven't enjoyed it as much as I liked Pestilence or Death then he, he. I think it seemed too obscure to me at the time. But now it's all different, the album got better with the passing years and nowadays I consider it to be one of the best and immortal death metal classics of the European scene of early 90's.
The intro that opens the album creates the horror atmosphere immediately and here we are. "Vermin" blasts in with enormous power, at the same time surprising me, as this probably is one of the fastest songs the band has ever composed. Of course it's not as fast as say Morbid Angel, but surely faster and different to the slow and epic "Embrace the Death" LP. And from the first second, I enjoy this song totally. And this is not the only faster tune on the album, as there's also "Wasteland of Terror" and the fast ending in "Pages In Blood".
Yeah, "The Rack" really concentrates on the mid paced or even fast riffing slightly more than its predecessor, "Embrace the Death". But of course here also you'll get hit by massively slow and heavy doom / death riffage, "Diabolical Existence" being the most obvious example, but no wonder, as this song appeared on the previous album under the title "Denying the Goat". It's slow, but how brutal and vulgar, with amazing, harsh vocals of Martin van Drunen. Cult. The same I can say about "The Sickening Dwell", another crushing song that also has been recorded on "Embrace the Death" album first.
Then there's the title song, "The Rack", which starts with riff slowly crawling, like something horrid was coming out of the dark... and man, this is one of the best riffs of the millennium to me!! So simple, but so effective and dark! It's so great that it sticks in the head immediately and won't leave it until I die. And what about the cult of "Pages In Blood"(new version of "Embrace the Death" song from previous LP)? The melodic line in the beginning, combined with crushingly slow, monumental riff, also belongs to the masterpieces in the asphyxiated discography. I like also the fact that it fits so well with "Ode to a Nameless Grave", brilliant doom metal instrumental song, heavy, mournful and dark as hell (oh, listen to that great guitar solo by Eric, what a genius). Side B of the vinyl also contains another old anthem, "The Sickening Dwell". Is there anything more I can ask for?
Martin van Drunen... Well, let's be honest; Theo Loomans did amazing job on "Embrace the Death", vomiting his lyrics in furious way, but Martin is much better. He's got very specific voice, no other growler sounds like he does and that's something I find as incredible. His growls are very raspy and savage, he must have spitted out his lungs while recording the album and what can I say... This may be the best vocal performance he's ever done, although the brilliant comeback album "Death the Brutal Way" is not far behind. His voice completes the morbid atmosphere of the music perfectly.
What else can I write about "The Rack"? It probably isn't the best Asphyx album, but still one that I think is killer and absolutely necessary for every old school collection. Not many LPs will have so many memorable tracks, so amazing and catchy riffs like "The Rack" does. There's only one thing that I don't really like here... It's the front cover. Man, I have the original pressing of the vinyl on the gatefold, but it doesn't matter how many times I was looking at it, I just couldn't get what the hell is that on this picture? Is it some kind of alien creature or what? How should I look at it, from which side...? Fuck knows. I don't like it at all, which is weird, as I like the graphics on all other Asphyx albums. Anyway, don't judge the book by its cover. Everything else about "The Rack" is simply great and the album deserves its cult status like not many others.
Best songs: "The Rack", "Pages In Blood", "The Sickening Dwell"