Asphyx are a band that need no introduction. If you’re an avid Death Metal fan, then you’ve probably listened to them at some point, and most definitely have heard of them unless you’ve been living under a rock. Having formed in 1987 in the Netherlands, the band released a slew of classic albums (and line-up changes) throughout the 90’s that shaped the Death-Doom sub-genre, including 1991’s ‘The Rack’ and 1992’s ‘Last One On Earth’, before splitting up in 2000. They eventually reformed in 2007 as a live act, before deciding to record another full-length, resulting in 2009’s highly praised ‘Death… The Brutal Way’. This started a trilogy of critically acclaimed albums, with ‘Deathhammer’ released in 2012 and then followed up by 2016’s ‘Incoming Death’. So that leaves us here, in 2021, staring into the yearning mouth of ‘Necroceros’, Asphyx’s fourth monolithic album since their reformation and, according to vocalist Martin van Drunen, also happens to be a cosmic entity that loves to consume planets. Does ‘Necroceros’ continue Asphyx’s streak of stellar, world-destroying albums, to create a tetralogy of Death-Doom perfection? Let’s get to the riffs and find out!
The album starts off with a bang, with ‘The Sole Cure Is Death’. It’s a furious frenzy of brutal riffs that blend all the elements that Asphyx are known for. There are mid-tempo riffs that can snap your synapse in two, frantic fast-paced sections that could force a circle pit to summon a hurricane and slow, atmospheric sections that paint pictures of doom and gloom, even during the brightest days. It’s the perfect way to start an album, letting you know that they’re here to kick you in the arse with ferocious brutality, but also to make you feel a bit sad and depressed at times too.
‘Molten Black Earth’ brings us riffs that would make any self-respecting Bolt Thrower fan blush, crushing craniums with its sense of doomy, epic, melodic catchiness that still somehow manages to be heavy. There are faster sections for those pit dwellers to salivate over, and Martin’s anguished howls providing a vivid image of the horrors of war. ‘Mount Skull’ pummels the listener with its slower paced riffs that have a stomping, marching feel to it. It’s not hard to imagine a war march descending upon an unsuspecting town, with the increased speed upping the intensity. There’s also an incredibly frantic guitar solo that sounds like the guitars wailing in agony, a suitably apt addition that heightens an already monstrous song. The fourth track is one some of you would have already heard, as it was released as the first single. ‘Knights Templar Stand’ has superb riffage that elegantly switch between bouncy, catchy headbanging fun, to dark, oppressive doom affair, and bruising up-tempo savagery that has some wonderful hardcore flair to it. It’s easy to see why this was chosen as the first choice to promote the album because it provides you with everything you could want from Aspyhx.
We are four tracks in and have experienced a variety of different ways in which Asphyx can assault our senses. However, if you think they’re done throwing curveballs at you then you are dead wrong (or should that be necro wrong?). ‘Three Years Of Famine’ is a sludgy affair of suffocating bleakness that would feel right at home in any Crowbar album. The murky, thick guitar work drags you down into the mud and grips tightly, with some beautiful melodic work added to give a sense of woeful desperation. There’s harmonized clean guitars and it reminds me of Metallica’s ‘To Live Is To Die’ for a moment, a big plus in my book. There are still the brutal riffs mixed in, but I feel it’s to help contrast the different emotions, between the depressive sorrow and the white hot anger. There’s a melodic outro that gives me chills every time I hear it, a testament to the bands ability to do whatever they like, and do it better than most out there. I have no doubt this will be a strong contender for song of the year and will be a highlight for most listeners.
The next track is another single they released and it’s a much-needed change from the previous track. ‘Botox Implosion’ is a barrage of rolling thunder raining on the listener that wishes to pulverize all who dare stand in its way. Its riffing is aggressive and hits like an unstoppable force of nature. Expect pits to explode and necks to be wrecked when this is played live. The slow heaviness returns with ‘In Blazing Oceans’, that decimates with it’s slow riffs. The chorus has some wonderful melodic texture to it that balances out the heaviness, with a melodic guitar work that soars through the song, like winds through ship sails. The song is monolithic in scope and paints images of ferocious waves clashing against war faring ships. ‘The Nameless Elite’ provides the mid-tempo brutality once more, upping the speed midway through to ensure maximum destruction. It’s got solid riff work that will make even the most shred obsessed people out there crack a little smile. ‘Yield Or Die’ brings us catchy, anthemic riffs that are as catchy as they are heavy. It’s the ultimate song to smash beers and headbang with your friends that should be a part of every Metalheads party playlist. In short, it’s great fun!
We’re now at the end of the album, and you think that surely Asphyx can’t offer possibly have anything more to offer? But they’re Asphyx, so of course they do. The final track is the title track, and it is as heavy and foreboding as you’d expect a song about a world destroying cosmic deity to be. The melodic aspects bring a sense of misery and impending doom, with the heavy riffs providing the destructive nature of the cosmic behemoth. The song switches between tempos on a dime, adding to the sense of dread and mass confusion. It works wonders to help create a visceral image of the devastation ‘Necroceros’ causes upon unsuspecting worlds. It’s constantly building, then letting up before hitting us with unrelenting vitriol. This is an anthem worthy of such a formidable cosmic terror and once again proves that Asphyx’s song writing isn’t just confined to just one particular style, rather they can do anything they see fit. It’s an incredible way to end an album as monolithic as this and will leave jaws dropped before making you want to press the replay button once more.
So where does this leave ‘Necroceros’? It’s a gargantuan album that I believe surpasses all the hype. If you’re a fan of the band then you’ll love this, and if you aren’t then there’s no better time to start exploring them. It’s potentially their best work to date, blending so many different elements seamlessly. It has plenty of the speed and aggression that Death Metal is known for, and it utilizes different ways of playing Doom styled riffs to create different emotions. Sometimes it’s nothing but dread and terror, other times it’s epic and grandiose, and it’s often melodic and sorrowful. It’s a Death-Doom album that has emotional weight behind it and is a rollercoaster experience. There is something for everyone in here if you’re willing to listen, and there are multiple layers that makes this more than just another Death Metal album. The performances are solid with great riffs, stellar drum work, excellent leads, gritty, disgusting bass and Martin’s agonizing howls that add a different dimension to the material. The production is another highlight too, as it makes this album sound gigantic. Every element is clear but there is still that organic rawness to it all that allows the different contrasts to blend well together but also have their own space to breath. This is an album that towers over all, and the production plays a big part in that. Each song is worthy of repeated listens , with the structuring of the album being something that makes the experience seem shorter than it actually is, adding to the replay value.
To conclude, this is an album that will please Asphyx fans of old, but is definitely worth checking out for anyone who has been interested in the band but never fully listened to them. It has a lot of different elements that blend well together, providing some brilliant contrasting moments and lends ‘Necroceros’ a heightened sense of grandeur. It has high replay value and I wouldn’t be surprised to see it end up on many AOTY lists, because I know it’ll end up on mine. If you want you’re Death Metal with extra depth, then this is a must have. It’s nothing short of incredible.
Asphyx Necroceros is released on Friday the 22nd January via Century Media