In 2007 we saw the return of Dutch Death/Doom legends Asphyx, nearly 20 years after their original formation. In 2009 they caused an aural assault with their studio album 'Death... The Brutal Way' and now 2012 heralds an even more brutal assault in the shape of their newest studio offering, 'Deathhammer'.
These days the band consists of founder member Bob Bagchus on drums, Martin van Drunen on vocals, Paul Baayens on guitars and AlwinZuur on bass. 'Deathhammer' is the band's eighth full length and considered by them as their best, heaviest and most brutal album to date and it certainly lives up to their claim.
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It's no compromise Death Metal at its best. The album title is derived from 'Witchhammer' a book from the middle ages on identifying and dealing with witches and heretics. This is Asphyx's album for dealing with the heretics in Metal, demonstrating how Metal should sound and how it should be made. Stand before the Judge and Jury that is Asphyx. Are you righteous enough?
The opening track 'Into The Timewastes', has you pinned to the wall within seconds with it's crushing chords and Martin's Death Roar. This is swiftly followed by the powerful 'Deathhammer',a tale of the decline of Death Metal. No decline on this album though. The album varies between face ripping Death Metal and slower Death/Doom Metal but don't expect any mercy for your ears as there is none. It's ten tracks of relentless brutality, end to end.
My favourite track, 'Minefield', is slower, doomier and harrowing. It's the combination of Martin's terror instilling vocals and the chugging chords, combined with the war themed lyrics;
"Trapped in this minefield, invisible death, desolate wasteland, corpses without heads."
This will have your hair standing up on the back of your neck. You can sense the terror. You are there, in that minefield!!
The other, also excellent, war themed song, 'Der Landser' (The Soldier) is equally as slow, doomy, chilling, a tale of conscripted child soldiers and how too few of them return from battle.
Further into the album 'Vespa Crabro' with its twists, turns and tempo changes, is a hideous tale of a carnivorous, giant, wasp like creature that paralyzes and dismembers its victims; no one is safe.
Ending with the epic 'As The Magma Mammoth Rises' which portrays the volcano as a living entity, bent on the death and destruction of humanity, the repeating riff unwinding and building into a screaming guitar solo, a finale of epic proportions!
At times this reminded me a little of Bolt Thrower but that's just a personal observation not a complaint. I love Bolt Thrower and I love Asphyx. I can't fault this album. With it's mental riffs, brutally harsh vocals and machine like drumming this is a truly excellent album and one I would recommend.
Recorded at Harrow Studio in the Netherlands, 'Deathhammer' is available now on Century Media.