Welcome to Death Metal 101
I remember first hearing and seeing an Asphyx album in my local metal store way back when. The Rack hit the shelves in 1991 and it was another in an impressive onslaught of releases from a flourishing Euro death metal scene, which as any metal nutter will know, was the Euro answer to the legendary Florida (U.S.A.) death metal scene. Whilst Asphyx formed three years prior to this formidable debut, it was only when former Pestilence vocalist/bassist Martin Van Drunen joined the ranks that the band really became known outside of their native Holland.
They asserted their unique blend of death metal and doom over the course of several albums but their career hasn’t been without incident including numerous break ups, reformations, line-up changes, further break ups and more reunions. Van Drunen eventually returned to front the group in 2007 but with no intentions of studio output as he was currently involved with Hail of Bullets. After recording a cover of Celtic Frost’s Death...The Brutal Way in 2008, it wasn’t long until word was out that new Asphyx material was on the way. It came in the form of a full length of the same name in 2009, and now three years on, the quartet are back with album number nine, brutally titled Deathhammer.
This is unashamedly old school in every freakin’ way. Then again, I’d expect nothing less and want nothing more from Van Drunen. Think Leprosy era Death. Think Consuming Impulse era Pestilence. Think The Eternal Fall era Morgoth. Think Warmaster ear Bolt Thrower. Fuck it. Just think old school Asphyx. It’s that simple. Buzzsaw guitars cut you down at every twisting riff, bludgeoning drums beat you until you can take no more. Van Drunen’s growling vocals, that still are as unique today as they were some twenty odd years ago, are as sinister and as guttural as ever.
Whether it be a blistering pace or a slow, death doom tempo, Asphyx’s Deathhammer is one hell of a strong release and a fantastic blast from the old school past delivered by those who lived it and helped shape it. Sure, there’ll be those who slam it for being ‘too much of the same’ or ‘boring’ or what not. No doubt, those are the trend hoping, brand new Hot Topic metal shirt and four size too small jeans wearing hair comb over freaks that get their kicks (literally) from the number of breakdowns in what many try to pass off as death metal these days. Well, for those who fit that scene, this ain’t the fuckin’ band for you. Asphyx already have an impressive back catalogue and Deathhammer could quite possibly be their greatest release since their debut effort all those years ago. This is as old school as it gets and hopefully not as good as it gets either, because as great as this album is, I can’t wait to see what they do next.
(Century Media Records/EMI Music Australia)