ASPHYX - NECROCEROS
Updated: Apr 10, 2021
Dutch. Death. Doom. Win.
Occasionally there is something gloriously reassuring and ineffably life-affirming when a band from the old guard, detached from trends and oblivious to tropes, strap themselves into their rusted armour and stride out of the obscurity of time to bang out music that is so infectiously uncaring, so unpretentiously authentic you remember why you got into this. It has the familiarity of your favourite old pair or boots and is as liberating as dancing like nobody is watching. Dutch death metal veterans Asphyx have been going - in one form or another - for three and a half decades. With ten full-length studio albums, countless hiatuses, and probably more personnel changes than songs - yet here they still are undeterred and up for it.
The opening salvo of The Sole Cure is Death is a demolition job of battering double pedalling and urgent, furious riffs. It is a ballsy, unequivocal statement of intent, uncomplicated and infectious. When Asphyx crank up the gears like this it is with unvarnished thrashy glee and arresting conviction. Despite having the lyrical content of something that fell out of Steve Harris's old notepads, Knights Templar Stand is a real stand out track; a rattling crunchy belter with throttle and guts. Likewise, the beautifully titled Botox Implosion - a tirade against superficial, media-conscious, self-image culture - is a snare clattering piece of vintage, top drawer death thrash that would cause a pit explosion when played live. Even the pulsating gravelly doom crawl of Mount Skull erupts into rabid high-velocity thrashing and brilliant Slayer-esque soloing.
Yet much of Necroceros is an exercise in deceleration. Molten Black Earth eases into a mid-paced punchy bounce while the regal doom of Three Years of Famine has traces of Raging Speedhorn and perhaps Sabbath; it is meditatively heavy with a wobbly bludgeon, classy melodic hook and a windswept triumphal solo. At this slower pace, Asphyx are relentlessly heavy with writhing doomy sludge yet focus and compactness prevents this slipping into boredom or ponderousness. This is demonstrably the case in the title track and finale which is a colossus with a corpulent, slow-moving primordial gait and flabby, planetary, hulking heaviosity. It bookends the album in glorious world-imploding doom.
With more than a smattering of Bolt Thrower and, perhaps, early Obituary this is back-to-basic heavy stuff that is played by instinct. Generally mid-paced yet not monotonous thanks to sheer gutsy attitude, old school honesty and inventive, enervated riffs. It goes without saying this is unoriginal but it is exceptionally good quality. The delivery of veteran vocalist Martin van Drunen (ex-Pestilence and Hail of Bullets) is an invariable demented, tormented raspy howl and he gives it big licks throughout the album. By revelling in the ridiculous (such as a theme of a mammoth cosmic entity that eats worlds), the lyrical content would cause PJ Harvey or Leonard Cohen to develop a blood clot. But that is, indubitably, the intention as this is a celebration of loud, uncaring noisy music without an ego. It isn't the soundtrack to having a bath in the dark after a break-up; it is what you would play while driving a tank in your work place while naked. Hail.