ALBUM REVIEW: Asphyx – Necroceros
Surviving in the music industry for over three decades is no small feat. Surviving in a world as extreme and diverse as the death metal scene for that period is even more impressive, especially when your band is from a country that is not very renowned for creating bands of this ilk. Asphyx formed in eastern Holland all the way back in 1987 and have been made a name for themselves as legends within the genre, without ever selling their souls and becoming a mainstream act. Since the wheels of the touring side of the music industry ground to a halt, the band decided to use their collective time positively and have written, recorded and released their tenth full-length record, entitled Necroceros.
From the very first notes of The Sole Cure is Death, it becomes apparent that the band have no desire to take their feet off the accelerator at this point in their career. The mid-tempo, stomping riffs are paired with bludgeoning, technical drumming to create the perfect contrast for the rest of the band to spring from. The way Asphyx manage to shift the pace throughout the songs, without it being too jarring, is a skill that can only be achieved with the wealth of experience that they possess. A perfect example of this is the way the band come out of the gates at full steam before throwing on the brakes and shifting into death/doom territory in the latter stages, to create an aura of despair that is as unsettling as it is intriguing.
With a plethora of young and upcoming bands embracing the old school death metal vibe of late, it takes a band of Asphyx’s pedigree to raise their heads above the crowd and show the way. That is exactly what they do here, whether it is with the mid-tempo Molten Black Earth, with its overflowing cauldron of intricate riff work, or six-minute opus Mount Skull, that sees the band wading through swamps of heavy distortion, emotive vocals and sonic battery in equal measure.
Knights Templar Stand was one of the tracks that the band released prior to the album dropping and it is clear to see why. This is the perfect example of what Asphyx are about in 2021; with its infectious grooves and snarling attitude, it’s a song that is bound to get the crowds whipped into a frenzy when we are all allowed back into a live setting.
It’s in the song Botox Explosion that we find an unexpected highlight. This is the sound of a band cutting loose and just enjoying themselves. The plan here is seemingly to play their instruments as violently as possible, to burn up as much of the pent-up frustrations that they have been harbouring since being confined to their homes at the start of the lockdown. The result is a tirade of heavy riffs and break-neck speed that will create some serious spectacles in the crowds when they get to add it to their already stacked setlists. The complete contrast to this track is the closing song on the release and the album’s namesake Necroceros, a sprawling, seven-minute long epic that is arguably the most expansive and all-encompassing track that the band have recorded in their illustrious career. In the first half of the song, we have moments of funeral doom inspired dirge, as well as traditional metal gallops that creep in as the pace picks up from a crawl to a laboured, trudging walk, all the while maintaining the sinister mood that is matched only by the mammoth sized hooks created by the instrumentals.
Leave it to the old guard to show the way in these bleak days. Reminding us all that despite the fact we may be looking down the barrel of another year of turmoil and a lack of live music, we at least will be privileged to the highest quality output from metal bands the world over. The gauntlet has been well and truly laid down for other death metal acts to pick up, and we look forward to whoever feels they are worthy enough to go toe-to-toe with this Dutch juggernaut.
Standout Tracks: Mount Skull, Botox Explosion, Necroceros
For Fans Of: Bolt Thrower, Morbid Angel, Frozen Soul
Written by: Richard Webb