Released: 2010, Xtreem Music
Reviewer: Luxi Lahtinen
This is great. Xtreem Music from Spain, is really doing something worth our attention as far as the past Finnish underground metal scene is concerned anyway. They have previously released old material from Finland´s Disgrace, Funebre, Demilich and Demigod under the so-called ´Cult Series´ - and this time it was the Finnish semi-legendary death/thrash band Phlegethon that deserved to get their old material released on a double compilation CD, titled DRIFTING IN THE CRYPT.
This double-CD, containing everything Phlegethon has released thus far recording-wise (6 demos from their past and present, 1 mini-LP and 2 rare bonus tracks – originally released on the CD version of the band´s ´91 mini-album, titled FRESCO LUNGS, as bonus), is pretty much the kind of collection Xtreem Music should have also done for some of their previous releases on the ´Cult Series´, i.e. to get them released with certain liner notes, rare photos, exclusive interviews, etc. This is how all of their other CDs on ´Cult Series´ should have come out in the first place (take f.ex. releases from the US Stormspell Records in comparison to see how much they put effort into their own releases).
When this young Finnish thrash/death band recorded their 1st two demos (VISIO DEI BEATIFICA in 1989 and NEUTRAL FOREST in 1990), skill and technique-wise they seemed to be milestones ahead of so many other Finnish metal bands back in the day with their kinda ´Slayer-ish´ tinged thrash, mixed with some elements of death metal. Both band´s demos got some raving reviews in media all over the world in the early 90s, and it´s kind of a pity they never really got a true chance to break through internationally, like even getting a couple of albums recorded as they so much should have deserved to get them done. Even after 20 years after these 2 demos were released, they still sound very enjoyable despite the production could have been much better on those 2 somewhat ´legendary´ Phlegethon demos. The times were very different some 20 years ago, so…
The band called it quits in 1992, until reforming again to record their 3-song promo in 1995. Lasse Pyykkö switched from playing drums to bass, and at the same time took over the vocal duties from Teemu Hannonen on that recording. This recording was very different what Phlegethon had done earlier – introducing Phlegethon as a more rockin´ and grooving act (back in those days many other Finnish grindcore/death metal bands were also changing their style drastically toward a more rockin´ direction – bands like Xysma, Disgrace and Convulse being good examples about this so-called ´death-rock´ thing). This change of musical style didn´t lead anywhere for the guys, so Phlegethon split up once again.
Disc number 2 introduces us the band´s 4-track mini-LP, titled FRESCO LUNGS, that was released on Swiss Witchhunt Records in 1991, that mini-LP (or 12” EP) meaning the end of one era of the band´s history. The music had evolved toward a much more death metallic direction; partly thanks to Jussi handling both bass and vocals on this recording. What´s also noticeable on this FRESCO LUNGS recording session, they had put keyboards for a more key role on this album, which was something unusual for death metal bands from those days, reminding me slightly of Nocturnus here and there for a couple of different reasons. “Encapsulation of the Ark of the Covenant” was kind of the centerpiece song on FRESCO LUNGS – offering a 10-minute journey in a creepy, unmatched heaviness and catchiness, reminding me oddly of one very well known Metallica classic tune here and there even. Again, the production left something to be hoped for on this Phlegethon recording. Those 2 bonus tracks, “Stone Me” and “Without Tea Waters” somewhat understandably worked out only as those bonus tracks, lacking dynamics and certain characteristics that Phlegethon´s songs usually contained.
Then we jump straight into the ´3rd coming´ of the band, having only Lasse Pyykkö left from the original line-up. The 4-song demo, TOTEMS WITHIN, from the year 2006, kicks in with its Pestilence influence (without forgetting the band´s roots for some obvious Slayer influences completely either), but a way more thrash-y version of the Dutch masters of death. Playing is much more mature sounding and tighter naturally, and it´s hard to recognize them as Phlegethon any longer. However, I can hardly complain as the whole band sounds so much better compared to their teenager times´ recordings. The riffing is intense and overall the guys had peeled off their previous skin in an admirable enough way music-wise.
The band´s 2-song demo, LAVA POETRY, from 2007, continued the band´s ´ass-kicking´ theme, both influence as well as quality-wise. Those Pestilence influences are undoubtedly even more present on the band´s 2-song promotional demo, whereas the last song, “Circle of the Hybrid Statues”, on this impressive compilation-CD - taken from the band´s ´08 1-track demo, adds a nice blend of early Dismember/Entombed vibe into their sound.
So what we have here altogether, are 26 songs and nearly 142-minutes of original (the old stuff) and tight (the new stuff) Finnish thrash/death metal that pretty well introduces the whole lifespan of Phlegethon from their early days - all the way almost to the current times. Just wished all their releases would have been in a chronological order release-wise on this nicely done set of 2 CDs.