Hailing from Holland and led by legendary front man Martin Van Drunen (Pestilence, Bolt Thrower), Asphyx were formed in 1987 and quickly became one of the leaders of the European death metal scene with their first two records The Rack and Last one on Earth, now genre classics. Like many of their peers, sadly the band disbanded in 2000 only to get back together for what was supposed to be a one-off gig in 2007. Momentum thankfully gathered from there and led to a full blown reunion as fans lapped up Asphyx’s brand of traditional doom-laden grooves and unstoppable riffage. Three albums later, the band haven’t looked back much to the delight of old fans, and the burgeoning legion of new converts.
Incoming Death comprises eleven songs of punchy and crushingly good death metal. The opening salvos of the excellent “Candiru”, with its insanely catchy riff in the middle, sets the scene for the remaining ten tracks. Dirty and heavy guitars, pounding drums and Martin’s trademark vocals (which are “proper old school” in that they are welcomingly legible) are the key themes throughout as is the aforementioned riffage. There is a refreshing mix of pace at work here from the wonderfully frenetic title track to “It Came from the Skies” which launches straight into a prehistorically stomping riff before notching up the pace further, to the slower and more groovy “Wardroid” and “Division Brandenburg”. While the band stick to their proven recipe throughout most of the album they prove that they can throw up a surprise or two and showcase their considerable talents on the brilliant “The Grand Denial” with its brooding/melancholic intro which builds into a wonderful mid-tempo almost thrashy riff before slowing right back down in the style of the intro and ending with a haunting acoustic outro. The listener is left mesmerised!
The weakest song on the album for me is probably the final track “Death the Only Immortal” which while certainly catchy and almost anthemic fails somewhat to maintain the darker ambience of previous tracks and seems to lose its way towards the end. If it was a track in its own right I may not draw the same conclusion but the rest of the album is really that good.
The production is excellent, managing to sound tight and polished but yet retaining that old school dirty feel which helps add to the broody atmosphere on the record.
All in all, this is a record to be celebrated and showcases a mature band at the height of their metallic power. Those that forlornly recall the halcyon days of death metal should listen to this, and with some their fellow old school peers also back on song, believe all is not lost!
Incoming Death is released 30 September on Century Media.
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