First-rate Japanese miscreants Coffins have racked up quite the reputation for a consistently excellent output of utterly filthy and punishing death metal that flirts with the same smattering of skullcrushing doom that launched early greats of death like Autopsy and Asphyx into the zombified stratosphere. Ancient Torture is a wide-ranging compilation of a whole mess of non-album material taken from splits and compilations spanning the years 2005-2009, with the bulk of the material culled from ’07-’08, splayed out on either side of Coffins’ third full-length, the tremendous Buried Death. Included here are covers of Venom, Carnage, Asphyx, and more, giving a clear wink and a nod to some of the band’s influences. The sound quality varies across this compilation, given that the songs are culled from such a large number of sources. Still, we’re talking about the slightest of variations here, from the filthy to the disgusting to the disgustingly filthy. At times it’s almost as if Coffins knew that Autopsy would totally wimp out and include some acoustic guitar on Macabre Eternal, and thus spent the four or five years before that album’s release churning out the most monomaniacally Paleolithic death metal dirt anthems in hopes of keeping the universe in balance.
Coffins’ modus operandi is pretty simple, then: heavy-as-shit death metal, tar-thick streaks of sludgy doom, and an overwhelmingly scuzzy, can’t-wash-the-muck-off-your-hands-with-steel-wool production. There are plenty of nods to other classic early death-crawlers like Obituary, and while the closest spiritual match in modern metal is probably Hooded Menace, every now and then there’s a bit of d-beat rhythmic throbbing, or a Celtic Frost proto-black thrashing (hell, there’s even a Tom Warrior-ish “eugh!” to be found on “Mortification To Ruin”). Sound is everything, of course, and throughout Ancient Torture the greedy listener is treated to a bounteous feast of bowel-moving low grunts, perfectly simplistic drum-rattling, and riffs, riffs, riffs. Oh, and the blown-out bass tone on a song like “Offalgrinder” is like emptying a bucket of molasses in a wind tunnel.
A few highlights include the loping groove of “The Cracks of Doom,” the faithfully melodic yet infinitely grimy cover of Cathedral’s “Ebony Tears,” the gloomy stomp and twisty riffing of “Cremated Remains,” the harmonically ill-fitting guitar psychedelia of “Countless Grave,” the deliciously slow grind and crush of “Torture,” and the aforementioned Celtic Frost-iness of “Mortification To Ruin.” To be honest, though, pretty much everything included here drips with the same satisfying putridity that has long since set Coffins apart as a special proposition. That having been said, two hours of this is probably a bit too much to barrel through in one go. Since the songs are of near-uniform quality throughout, though, one needn’t feel too badly about diving in selectively here, or dropping in for a quick cuppa there. Just be warned that these flesh-bags play for keeps, and chances are, they’re hungry for souls.