January 18, 2021 Asphyx – Necroceros (Album Review)
During the glorious 1980s, Heavy Metal music branched into several different theaters of extremity. One of those styles, Death Metal, entrenched itself in the underground and became its own monster. Though scenes and bands sprung up all over the world, one of the pillars of the entire movement established itself in the Netherlands way back in 1987, and persists as a Death Metal superpower to this very day.
The name Asphyx very quickly came to mean both extremity and quality, and following a multitude of the usual lineup changes and hiatuses, the Dutchmen are starting 2021 off in proper form, transporting us to the realms of death with tenth full-length studio album Necroceros. Coming to the masses on January 22nd, 2021 via Century Media Records, how will this new slab stack up against their storied and celebrated career?
With Vocalist Martin Van Drunen (ex-Pestilence, ex-Hail of Bullets) behind the mic, like the very wretched throat of death itself, opening salvo “The Sole Cure Is Death” features a variety of tempos in its delivery, conjuring not only the specter of old classic Death Metal, but even a few sections reminiscent of very early My Dying Bride. Mid-paced groove abounds on “Molten Black Earth.” Paul Baayens (Thanatos) has the riffs and guitar tone which pierces to the very heart of the genre.
The subject matter of the album is not all morbid odes to lifelessness and war, though. Almost Hardcore Punk in its delivery, the brief barrage of “Botox Implosion” hits you squarely over the head. This right here is the fuel injection of the circle pit (if we ever get ‘em back), featuring a mid-section of glorious guitar rhythms underpinned by Stefan Huskens’ precise percussion. The bottom end on this song, as with the collective sound of Asphyx, is done quite a service via the bass guitar tones of Alwin Zuur.
Asphyx does not just pummel the listener either, which keeps Necroceros from descending into a shiftless listen. “Three Years of Famine” is a grinding slow-burner, replete with excellent solos and tortured vocal lines. “Mount Skull” follows a similar path, but halfway through comes that speed, which is not only essential (to these ears) for this kind of music, but it suits Van Drunen’s style a bit better. The latter half of the song completely rips.
Redundancy is avoided on the slower “In Blazing Oceans” with a regal guitar solo midway through. It adds a little bit of sauce to what is otherwise a more run-of-the-mill song. The solo pops up again at the end – it is these touches which separate and elevate Asphyx from the pack and shows that these experienced vets know their way around the songwriting carousel.
Whether purposefully done or not, the placement of songs on Necroceros reminds us of the importance of running order. An often overlooked detail, it can make a difference in the listening experience. Asphyx seems to bookend their slower, more monolithic creations with blasting assaults, such as placing the aforesaid “In Blazing Oceans” between “Botox Implosion” and the wrecking ball that is “The Nameless Elite.”
Just before that closing title-track, the album culminates in the powerful anthem that is “Yield or Die.” Built on direct and effective riffs, it is a song to march to war to, and shows the enthusiasm and authenticity Asphyx has steadfastly exhibited throughout their career. As usual, in this latter day of internet saturation, trends within Metal seem like an obsolete thing – at least as far as consumption of albums is concerned.
To that end, Asphyx wields the scythe of Death Metal as they always have – steadily and true to their style. This is quality Death Metal done with old school sensibilities, and zero fluff. For that reason Cryptic Rock gives Necroceros 4 out of 5 stars.