The first thing you notice about Asphyx is that their only goal in life to create pure, old school death metal.
Not the kind of ‘classic throwback’ music that many modern bands attempt to write, but genuine, traditional music with very little modern influence. With their latest album Deathhammer, the Dutch four piece are back to show the supposed ‘brutal’ kids of today how death metal veterans do it, and they do it well.
It’s the driving mix of thrash meets death metal riffs, backed up with mid range gutteral vocals that makes Deathhammer so unique. There are no technical solos, no sub harmonic vocals, and hardly any noticeable licks and hooks, just good old fashioned headbang-inducing tunes. But Asphyx make it pretty clear that variation isn’t the point here. Their goal is to write a few riffs and beats, rehearse them to the point of absolute perfection, then play them as fast and intensely as possible. That is, except for their trademark doom/death tracks, all of which really showcase the creativity of the band. Not only are these much more musically imaginative, they are equal to, if not greater than, the straight up death tracks in terms of intensity and emotional impact. Still, the overall repetitiveness of the music is hard to ignore.
While a lot of well deserved praise has been directed to vocalist Martin van Drunen, at times he seems to forget that he is performing with other musicians. While the rest of the band keeps the music tight, Drunen will throw time signatures to the wind and start singing without any sense of the beat. Not only does this make him sound like a lazy vocalist, it also breaks down the intensity and flow of the music. Fortunately, this only happens on a couple of tracks, but impact is evident.
What’s most impressive, is that Asphyx are able to convey this level of intensity, without ever relying on the same overly loud, speaker-destroying production of many modern death outfits. It’s all perfectly balanced, with no instrument or voice becoming stupidly dominant in the mix, or turned down so low that they are barely audible. This is death metal production done right, making Deathhammer a pleasure to listen to. The special edition includes a second disk of six bonus tracks, but these will only appeal to the most hardcore of fans who want to hear a couple of demos and covers.
Deathhammer is the kind of album that aging musicians wish they could release this long into their career. It does a great service to old school death metal, without trying to be anything but the kind of album that makes you want to bang your head. For newcomers, it’s a great introduction to the extensive career of a talented band. For long-time fans, it’s a testament to Asphyx’s desire to keep great, old school death metal alive and kicking for a long time yet.
1. Into the Timewastes
4. Of Days When Blades Turned Blunt
5. Der Landser
6. Reign of the Brute
7. The Flood
8. We Doom You to Death
9. Vespa Crabo
10. As the Magma Mammoth Rises