REVIEW: ASPHYX – “Necroceros”
Dutch legends Asphyx have been around for over 30 years now and their early 90s gems are still considered to be among the best and as landmarks in death metal. Asphyx’s style of doomy pulls before the nasty grimy death metal punches have been a trademark that many bands have tried to emulate. Martin van Drunen’s agonized vocals have also been a standout feature of the releases he’s been a part of. Personally, among their albums after their break in the naughts, I would say that ‘Deathhammer’ was their strongest release, with some of the classic Asphyx sound albeit with a more polished production quality. Their upcoming offering ‘Necroceros’ (out on January 22, 2021) will be their tenth full length release.
‘Necroceros’ is not a lot different from Asphyx’s usual approach to death metal. The buzzing guitars here are tools to construct the audio-narrative of tension and release, the melodies adding depth to the flammable riffing. Production-wise, the mixing is not bad, although I sometimes felt it to be very clean for the intended potency of the guitars. For this album, Martin decided to not continue with Dan Swanö, and considering recent Swanö works, Necroceros isn’t too far from that sound. Maybe a little oomph in the drum sound, or airy/echo-y, would have worked well.
Necroceros peaks when it decelerates. When it’s fast, it takes a risk of being a little one-note in parts, while when it takes time, the punches are very well placed. Not to say that there aren’t fast-paced tracks that are galvanizing. Tracks like “Botox Implosion”, which was also the first single released, and “The Nameless Elite”, bring in the spirit of energetic death metal into picture. “Mount Skull” has some of the best bursts of blistering batterings in its midsection, while it is padded by fantastic doom pieces around it.
As mentioned earlier, the slower doomier tracks stand out to me the most. “Three Years of Famine” has a beautiful melodic hook that, while appearing in the very middle of the album, tints the whole album in a fragrant colour, and in a way begetting a re-synchronization to what came before and what would come after. “In Blazing Oceans” is another death-doom track, this time sounding more sinister and with immediate purpose, with the melodic guitar work in the middle accentuating the brutality surrounding it. The title track, which is also the final track of the album, again takes a patient and controlled approach to viciousness. A measured build up leading into heavy plodding climax wraps up the album wonderfully.
With ‘Necroceros’, Asphyx continues to play to its strength, resulting in many hits and some misses. The hits are powerful in their ability to display their might and control, while the few misses did not really stand out. I wouldn’t say there is a drastic departure from the style and sound of ‘Incoming Death’, and if you liked that one, there are more chances that you would like this than not. Several highlight tracks here the style of which I would like to hear more of.