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Smooth and dark, but under-caffeinated - 63%

autothrall, January 4th, 2014

There are exactly three things I liked more about the eponymous 1994 Asphyx record than either of its predecessors, which I'll get into further on, but ultimately it's just too easy to forget amidst an era in which a lot of younger bands were creating more exciting, unique, volatile sounds and taking risks to further intensity death metal as a whole. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm a sucker for an old school album that 'gets it right' through tremendous riffing quality, atmosphere, production, and vocals with some charnel character to them, but Asphyx falls flat in two of those specific categories and its strengths do nothing to compensate. That this album was even possible two years after Last One on Earth, with 2/3rds of that core lineup gone (van Drunen and Bagchus) to other pursuits, is not lost upon me as a relatively impressive feat, but any 'magic' the Dutch trio might have garnered from their earlier momentum seems to have ground to a halt. The Century Media deal persisted, there was plenty of visibility and thus every chance to expand their following, but this music hardly seemed vital or inspired.

There are positives, of course! Firstly, I find the production here richer and more atmospheric than either The Rack or Last One..., which is suited to this more structured approach to songwriting. Granted, most of that songwriting is a 'drag', but not because the instrument levels or off, or because the vocals stand out too much or too little against them. Asphyx has a fairly resonant appeal to it, and that's important because this leads to my second compliment: the death/doom elements are far more pervasive, and they sound far more grandiose, morose and downtrodden than where they popped up on the older material. Not that they're Lost Paradise or Gothic in quality, but you feel like you're trapped among abandoned columns in some ancient space that few people will ever see, and there's a sense of loss here that wasn't manifest on the older works, where the doomier passages were often just a dry breakdown groove. Lastly, the fucking leads on this thing absolutely rip, the greatest of Eric Daniels' tenure with Asphyx and especially successful when they're tearing out against some Scream Blood Gore/Leprosy-style tremolo picked progression as in the song "'Til Death Do Us Part". No, they're not remotely unique or inventive, but exciting and so well performed that the remainder of the s/t tends to suffer by comparison. Sadly, there's no other praise I can really heap upon this beast, because it's the sort of disc that feels ineffectual even upon first exposure...

The bass tones are appreciably repulsive, distorted and loud, especially during the faster and heavier sequences, but this was something they had already been ramping up with Last One on Earth, on which Ron van Pol had also played the bass, but he never really deviates from van Drunen's practice of aping the rhythm guitar line without contributing any depth beyond reinforcement (which is often just lazy). Of course, he's also providing the vocals as well, but here is where Asphyx suffers slightly, since van Pol's guttural Chris Reifert impression just doesn't have that manic, gruesome presence that van Drunen had already mastered in the 80s. This guy isn't a bad choice, per se, and thanks to the production he's able to build up a cavernous consistency over the riffs, but it's just one more reason this disc would never stand out against something like Demilich's Nespithe or the punctuation of Frank Mullen on the older Suffocation works. The new drummer, Sander van Hoof (aka Roel Sanders), could genuinely be considered an improvement over the performances on the older Asphyx outings, and it seems the trio was keeping with the times by hiring on a harder hitter, but apart from some double bass and energy this is just not in the same realm as where much death metal was headed by the mid-90s. Still, he's damn solid, and if you've heard his work with God Dethroned or Inhume then you'll know he remained that way.

When you're going the route of the eponymous record, it's supposed to be a 'statement' of sorts, and the only one I received after revisiting this example was to put it back on the shelf (with most of my Asphyx stuff, unfortunately). There's a good balance of material, the band still splitting their creativity between the death and doom halves of Daniels' imagination, and I through the funereal touches like the organs (in "Back Into Eternity") or the 4-minute instrumental intro "Prelude of the Unhonoured Funeral" were some of the most atmospherically compelling over the hour-long run time, but this album just repeatedly confronts me with excessively plain and plebeian chord patterns that render tunes like the nearly 10 minute "Initiation into the Ossuary" almost unbearable; and that's one of the tunes that focuses heavily on Death and Obituary-like riffing almost exclusively! Other tunes, like "Thoughts of an Atheist", contain passages so mind numbingly bland that I thought I had accidentally replaced my daily multivitamin dose with a sedative. Overall, it's not the worst they could've done, due largely to the strength of the production, the decently scripted lyrics, and those nasty leads, but unless you're the sort whose standards translate into every death metal disc pre-1995 being TRUE and/or PERFECT, I can't imagine it's going to leave you with much more of an impression than it left me.


Dark and doomy, but not as good as it should be - 73%

dismember_marcin, August 4th, 2011

This fourth Asphyx album brought so many changes that it's unbelievable it all happened so quickly, only within a year since the previous album. Martin van Drunen was no more in the band; that happened already when the band recorded "Last One On Earth" (he managed to finish his vocal parts, but bass was recorded by Ron van Pol). But to hear that Bob Bagchus left the Asphyx camp also, was a shock. The man formed this band and been its most important member! In that case, Eric Daniels was the last original musician left, which is weird. Of course he's the guy, who's responsible for so many great riffs on the previous albums, that the characteristic band's style should be present on "Asphyx", but anyway it is not true Asphyx without Bagchus. The line up for this LP was completed by Ron van Pol, from band called Malignant, on vocals and bass and Sander van Hoof on drums, who I think lasted just for the recording session. This new line up did one album, 1994's "Asphyx".

First thing a fan may notice is the dark front cover, with golden angelic figure descending into (from?) the black abyss. Man, I really like it, this artwork surely belongs to my favourite ones.

And what is this album like? Well, it is only slightly different to the previous recordings. It doesn't seem so rough and obscure and also it is more doom metal oriented in most of its time, while the occasional faster parts don't sound as brutal as the band used to play. But what I really like about "Asphyx" are the classic asphyxiated songs or certain parts, some of which easily could have been taken from any of the band's earlier recordings and would fit there perfectly - they're so great. For instance there's this opening song "Prelude of the Unhonoured Funeral", which is more of an intro or instrumental, but sounds so fuckin' brilliant. It is basically one slow, mournful riff, with some spoken words and wonderful, absolutely fantastic melodic lead on Eric's guitar... The atmosphere on it is truly creepy and dark and I love it. Similar thrills I get while listening to "Initiation Into the Ossuary". What a fantastic song!!!! It is again slower (but with some more mid paced riffing also), but when it starts and I hear the bells, choral chants and those doomy riffs, the atmosphere just freezes me and makes it the best song of the whole album. "'Til Death Do Us Apart" is also fine and it's another slow doom metal anthem, very depressing and sad, but with faster chorus part.

Songs like "Depths of Eternity" from the other hand are more varied - this one starts with mid paced, more aggressive part, which all of a sudden evolves into slow, depressive riff in classic doom metal vein and then again everything speeds up and the mood changes rapidly. "Emperors of Salvation" is also worth mentioning, it's mostly pretty fast, but the doom part of this track is just fuckin' killer, especially when Daniels plays his solo and the church bell tolls. It creates stunning atmosphere and for sure this is one of my favourite fragments of the entire album. Finally another instrumental, "Abomination Echoes", fuckin' headbanger, with very classic (almost thrash metal) riffs, really cool song.

To be honest, most of the musical content of "Asphyx" is fine, with so many fragments, where I think it's absolutely brilliant and killer. But some of these songs don't necessarily keep the Asphyx spirit and are a bit different to what we've heard on the previous albums and some of them are rather mediocre, like "Incarcerated Chimaeras" or "Valleys In Oblivion". My main complain would come on the fact that not always it all sounds as rough and brutal as it did on the old recordings. Maybe it's due to the more polished production or maybe the reason is different, I don't know, but sometimes this material doesn't have enough rotten energy to fully crush the maniac's head. Also, I think that Ron van Pol on vocals didn't sound as impressive and brutal as Martin or Theo did. Those other guys were growling like beasts, while Ron is somehow more soothe. But as I said, "Asphyx" is fine, very strong album, good listening, only not quite as killer as I would expect it to be. There are better Asphyx albums and this one probably is one of their more mediocre works. (Ha, I wish every band would be able to release such "mediocre" albums ha, ha as "Asphyx" is better than 90% of other death metal releases anyway).

I must say that finally, after years of having "Asphyx" on CD, someone released this album on vinyl. Night of the Vinyl Dead unleashed it in limited 500 copies pressing and I got it immediately before it's been sold out. Unfortunately the vinyl doesn't include "Thoughts of an Atheist", old song from "Embrace the Death" LP, re-recorded for "Asphyx", but still it is great addition to my collection.

Best songs: "Initiation Into the Ossuary", "'Til Death Do Us Apart", "Abomination Echoes"

Perfect Sound, Awesome Vocals - 100%

optimuszgrime, March 26th, 2008

Ok, let me state this once and for all. I like the vocals. I think these vocals fit this type of sorrowful, painfully slow, torturous music excellently. Now on with the review.

This is excellent doom/death metal, a genre with few albums but many great ones. Perhaps this is the genre of death metal with the fewest slip ups, although I might be wrong, my knowledge of doom proper is very limited, a mistake I am working on, to be sure. My knowledge of doom/death is something that is not so limited, and has yet left me with about an 80% of decent and above albums. Asphyx is the fucking king of the doom/death genre, in my opinion, along with Winter. This album is their masterpiece, their best, the equivalent of Sinister’s ‘Hate’. The riffs are slow, mournful, and heavy as fuck. The main emphasis on this album is heaviness, to the detriment of everything else. This is slower the their previous albums, so slow it barely even moves at times, slowing down to merely a pulse, and that pulse is the beat of someone dying of heart failure.

The album sounds bass oriented and down tuned. The vocals, which are great, do not let them fool you, sound like someone who is dying or constipated, I will warrant, but they fit the music. They are also tortured and low. Perfect for this music, and his little outbreaks and screams are so heart felt they make my hair stand on end. The drums just keep time, this genre of death metal, unlike all genres of it (except death/thrash) are not about the drums. If you want virtuoso drumming, check out other genres of death metal, but not this one. There is double bass, and there are some double time, Incantation like passages, but mostly he just keeps time in the background. Even the rolls are slow motion, which make the album sound great. The bass is dominant, just under the guitars, every note can be heard crystal clearly. What I really enjoy though is the guitar sound. it is grainy, and low. This is a combination seldom used, for grainy distortion generally implies high pitch squealing and high pitched riffing in general. Also grainy distortion generally implies fast riffing, but not here. It is slow, grainy pummeling of down tuned goodness. Even the trem picked parts are almost like you can hear every single note separately. I bet this guy either had a revelation that made him use this guitar sound, or he labored for years on finding it and adjusting it. They sound just perfect, too good to be true. I think that sums up the album, get this by all means necessary. Kill if you have to. I personally stole it, and would give my left arm merrily in return for it.

Ah well, I can live with the vocals - 85%

morbert, May 8th, 2007

Nope, Ron van Pol’s vocals weren’t the most exciting vocals in Asphyx history. Of course it’s not easy to replace Theo Loomans and Martin van Drunen (unless you’re Karl Willetts). Still they were nothing more than adequate. And that’s simply not good enough for a band with this status. But to be honoust, that was the only thing to complain about regarding Asphyx’s third full length album.

‘Depths of Eternity’ picks up where ‘Last One On Earth’ had left us: Dynamic and brutal death metal with some excellent doom thrown in. Same goes for the album as a whole although the quality of ‘Last One On Earth’ remained unequalled. The compositions weren’t as blunt as earlier recordings. This time they didn’t always stick to basics. The production was less heavy (though still great) and in a way more ‘mature’. It was more transparent but without losing intensity.

The highlight on ‘Asphyx’ is - of course – the recording of their classic demosong ‘Thoughts Of An Atheist’. They even called in original member Tonny Brookhuis to play the intro and solo. The result is simply the best version ever recorded. Too bad Theo didn’t sing on this recording because musically it shatters the ‘Embrace The Dead’ version (which was sloppy and lacked the Brookhuis parts, Blasphemy!). And what about the other demosong, ‘Abomination Echoes’. Now all the classic songs from their ‘Crush The Cenotaph’ had finally been re-recorded and released on regular releases. Thank you Asphyx!

OK, but not great - 65%

demonomania, March 11th, 2005

Well, this is the first Asphyx I picked up, after hearing "The Krusher" on Texas Hard Time Radio. I was surprised by the more heavy vocals, and realized later that they had switched singers, apparently for a very short time.
This is not too bad, but not too good either. Just doomy death metal, with some pretty awesome moments here and there, but some monotony as well. I think this vocalist is a bit more suited to the music than the other one, but then again the only other Asphyx I have is God Cries (terrible) and Crush the Cenotaph. He has ultra-low deathy vocals, not quite gurgling like Dying Fetus, not quite clean like Bloodbath. I think he does an OK job, though some variation would be appreciated. He keeps it up at an impressive rate, and it doesn't sound like there are any effects on his voice, so I guess I like his growling.
The music goes from mid-paced death to slow, doomy parts - and again a bigger variation in this theme would be appreciated. The second, third, and fourth songs just kind of blend into one another. Was this on purpose? I like the riff and solo on "Til Death Do Us Part" though, it is cool. "Incarcerated Chimeras" is pretty sweet as well, if only for the distorted part where he sings the title. Perhaps the most awesome track on here is "Initiation Into the Ossuary." Damn, some sweet Benedictine chanting, slow bells, a brutal, doom riff, this song has it all. If only they could match the atmosphere and power of this one throughout (though the chanting and bells are pretty generic elements in metal). That is all I have to say. Pick it up just to own some metal from Holland and for "Initiation," otherwise, leave it alone.

Kill the vocalist and you have a decent album. - 62%

Reaper, October 4th, 2004

This bands biggest drawback is the god-awful vocalist. It’s not even Death Metal vocals anymore. For the most part he sounds as if he wants to puke, yet there’s nothing to puke, so all you hear is the empty exhausted throat sound. Annoying as hell. This band has potential, but the vocalist during 75% of the album ruins it. His Death Metal growls aren’t too bad, but once he tries singing faster he messes it all up. The slower parts are akin to Acheron both in the Doom/Death styled melodies and in the vocal style. Yet once the beat gets faster, and the vocalist tries to sound more brutal the whole album goes to shit.

The introduction is a simpler track, without any Death Metal. It’s a man talking, while undistorted guitars are played in the background. This is nothing new, as many bands, for some unknown reason, try using this formula. Perhaps, so the remaining tracks sound more brutal in comparison. Nonetheless, the introduction doesn’t impress me. The Doom influence is very evident as the guitars are more down tuned and the melodies for the most part are slower. Acheron does this well, while this band lacks depth and gets pretty boring, especially with their longer songs.

The third track is a bit more Death Metal oriented. Upbeat guitar work a relatively faster drumming, although the vocalist still blows. The track alternates between faster and slower melodies and between down tuned and higher pitched guitars, which is a welcome deviation and highly appreciated as most of this album is dull.

I’m a fan of Doom Metal, which is arguably the most “boring” type of metal; therefore I can appreciate atmospheric and entrancing music. However this band does not combine the two to fit my taste. Perhaps if the vocalist didn’t sound like a dying cow, maybe then this album would get a better score, but he is the biggest drawback on this album.

The other tracks pretty much fall in place with what I’ve said thus far, deviating only slightly from the same tired formula, most specifically “Initiation Into The Ossuary.” The last track is also a pleasurable and welcome deviation as it has some killer solos, which would have been appreciated throughout other parts of the album. Perchance this is good background music, for the most part, but definitely not something to pick up in a store to enrich your collection.

Chances are if you enjoy Acheron, you will probably enjoy this band, although this isn’t a worthy album. Try some of the other albums in their discography, specifically the ones without this dreadful vocalist. This is a mediocre album at best. Perhaps if you’re into badly executed Death/Doom Metal with a sub par vocalist, you might enjoy this album, although I recommend against it, although a better advice would be to pick up some Acheron and stop wasting your time with mediocre bands.