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9 out of 10
I have long awaited the return of Asphyx. Arguably one of the finest old school death metal bands out there and yet relatively unknown, numerous line-up changes and ten years in hibernation would have sent most bands to the grave. Yet here they stand, with their first release since 2000's 'On The Wings of Inferno'.
’Death... The Brutal Way’ sees Martin van Drunen back on vocal duties, a welcome return since his pummelling efforts on Asphyx classics ’The Rack’, ’Crush the Cenotaph’ and ’Last One On Earth’.
In an era where death metal is becoming increasingly sterile, the old school sound of Asphyx is ironically refreshing. For me, death metal was never meant to sound crisp, technical, and clean. This is old school death metal the one and only way it should be done: raw, dirty, and genuinely uncompromising. Whether immersed in doom-laden drudgery or in an all-out blistering assault, Asphyx always did hit the nail on the head, or rather, hammer the nail into your head.
The ’Asphyx sound’ is something that caught my attention the second I heard it. The monstrous distortion, however they achieve it, is something of a focal point not just for the band, but for all of death metal. On ’Death...’ the production levels are raised considerably higher than on previous albums, while still managing to retain that classic Asphyx sound. The vocals are as deliciously harrowing as ever; Loomans’ vocal duties on ’God Cries’ are a favourite of mine, but van Drunen does an equally good if not better job, enveloping the music with raw, hate-filled bile that could tear the very flesh from your face if you were standing too close.
’Scorbutics’ opens the aural mauling and grabs you by the throat from the very first beat. The standard is hereby set and the relentlessness continues throughout, until the very last scream is dragged from its lurid cave and the very last riff fades out of its tortured existence. The focus on simple riffs and the consequent impact is what Asphyx are all about. Coupled with the astoundingly tormented sound and the atmosphere they manage to capture on record, Asphyx create music that so many of their peers must surely aspire to.
The title track stands out like a really fucking good death metal song amongst other, merely very good, death metal songs; an assault on the senses with a gargantuan riff that will leave you reeling. Being surrounded by nine other slabs of brutality, it remains undaunted as it scrambles above them kicking and screaming, to stand tall upon a mound of skulls and claim its unholy crown. ’Asphyx II’ is an ambitious idea; an attempt at a sequel to their 1992 classic. Even without the production that left the original sounding like it was birthed in a medieval dungeon, it holds up as a worthy successor.
The interspersing of breakneck death metal and tar pit doom always keeps things interesting, and the strength of the music is further catalysed by the depraved sound that Asphyx can proudly call their own. Every album I listen to conjures certain images in my head. This particular one involves dragging a corpse through a pit of mud in some fictional hellish nightmare world, which gives you some indication of what the band have achieved here.
This is Asphyx doing what they do best, with a modern twist. It’s not 1991 any more, The Rack has been done and it stands proudly by itself as a flagship for death metal, but they have now brought their sound into the present day while managing to compromise nothing. Comeback albums don’t come much stronger than this, and death metal doesn’t get much better than this. Perhaps they haven’t topped themselves, but with ’Death... The Brutal Way’ they top pretty much everyone else. Essential.
2. The Herald
4. Death The Brutal Way
5. Asphyx II (They Died As They Marched)
7. Black Hole Storm
8. Riflegun Redeemer
9. Cape Horn
10. The Saw, The Torture, The Pain