You know what sucks about the new ASPHYX album? Abso-fucking-lutely nothing, that’s what! I mean, you’ve got the inimitable Martin Van Drunen back in the vocal seat, the riffs lunge at you like a pack of rabid wolves, and God (a.k.a. Dan Swanö) helmed the mix, so if you had any doubts over whether these Dutch Death Metallers’ reunion album would be an ace effort go and step in front of an oncoming train immediately.
“Death... The Brutal Way” has to be one of the most fitting album titles ever, since the album delivers just that – gigantic riffs, Van Drunen’s trademark vocal howls, and a ten ton heavy production job that is truly Death Metal... the brutal way! It’s been a so-so year for Death Metal, at least in my opinion, which makes an album as unabashedly heavy and true-to-roots as this one such a welcome surprise. “Death...”, the band’s first new album in nine years (and first to feature the inimitable Martin Van Drunen since 1992’s “Last One On Earth”) is an exercise in pure Doom-tinged Death Metal mastery – one that strengthens the wheel rather than reinvent it. As soon as Van Drunen’s trademark moan/growl joins that hammer-smashing main riff on “Scorbutics” you’ll be taken back to the glory years of Death Metal. Intensely heavy yet packed with enough groove and subtly textured drumming this is just about the perfect way to kick off the album, even though the Pirate theme of the lyrics seems a bit out of place. The Doom elements creep in with more significance in “The Herald” and “Bloodswamp”, the latter being a great example of how sluggish Doom can be used to compliment a catchy Death Metal riff. They do chuck in a few surprises along the way – the title track is perhaps the fastest, most Thrash-based thing they’ve ever done (same goes for the BOLT THROWER-on-crack “Eisenbahnmörser”), while “Cape Horn” features a very laid-back intro melody, stomping mid-paced riffs and some great leads that sound like an ace combination of CANDLEMASS and HAIL OF BULLETS (also featuring Van Drunen on vocals).
With the exception of “Asphyx II (They Died As They Marched)” the quality never drops below very good, and as an extra bonus the whole band sounds revitalized in perfect synchrony. They are still able to switch back and forth between blistering Death Metal and creepy Doom with ease, the lyrics are as visceral as they are adventurous (covering everything from pirates to war to the cosmos), and the Midas touch of Dan Swanö ensures that the guitars buzz and grind ferociously, while also giving a nice punch to the low-end rumble. It’s basically an album that gets all the basics right, which in this day and age is quite commendable. OBITUARY and SUFFOCATION’s latest albums were middling affairs, so all eyes on ASPHYX, CANNIBAL CORPSE and BEHEMOTH for Death metal album of the year!
(Online September 1, 2009)