Japan's COFFINS, the band everyone loves to… well, pretty much that everyone loves. It certainly seems that way and for damn good reason, at least if you are a connoisseur of death metal that is primal, doom injected, and boiled down to its essential ugliness — like Ernest Borgnine ugly; the kind of ugly only a fan could love. Point made, point taken; you've caught the drift. Now how about a couple of hours of it? That's what you'll get on "Ancient Torture", a two-CD, 21-track digipak that gathers songs from COFFINS splits, compilations, and vinyl-only releases. And this is a band that has contributed to some terrific split releases with the likes of CIANIDE, XXX MANIAK, and SPUN IN DARKNESS, among others.
As such, "Ancient Torture" is a pretty good place to start your COFFINS experience, unless you'd prefer a formal full-length, such as the stupendous "Buried Death" release. Either way, it's not like the trio changes with the tides, experiments, or releases inferior death metal; we're not even talking demo tracks here. "Ancient Torture" is 21 songs and 21 reasons to hurl headlong into the muck and stay there, the eventual inability to breath notwithstanding. Forget about the buzzing, dread-crawling and general grotesqueness of the damn thing; the monolithic movements of Disc 1 alone are enough to make scientists rethink the Richter scale as an accurate measuring instrument for tremors of this kind. There is something about the way that COFFINS makes its two gears — misery trudge and up-tempo thud — that resonates, no matter the limited variation involved. "Eat Shit", "Corpse Parade" (lawdy, that's a heavy sucker), "Countless Grave" and "Evil Infection" are all roost-rulers, but someone else could easily pick a handful of others. The quality is consistent and even the audio aspects don't vary quite as much as one might expect for a compilation album.
What really makes this one fun are the cover tunes, including treatments of songs from ASPHYX ("Wasteland of Terror"), CARNAGE ("The Day Man Lost"), PUNGENT STENCH ("Bonesawer", vocal twist and all), GOATLORD ("Acid Orgy"), CATHEDRAL ("Ebony Tears"), and VENOM (studio and live versions of "Warhead"). Let's face it; it takes a band like COFFINS to make cover tunes worth the time invested.
If you've already collected said splits, vinyl releases, and compilations, then there is little reason to snag "Ancient Torture" too, unless you are a diehard collector, and COFFINS is the kind of band to which those folks tend to gravitate. Any way you look at it, "Ancient Torture" is a tasty, oversized serving of cinnamon-death bagels and sludge 'n guts oatmeal. Who would pass that up?