Like most bands in their genre and of their longevity, Dutch doom/death crossover crew Asphyx have enjoyed/endured their fair share of upheavals in their 25-year career – numerous line-up changes (only drummer Bob Baghus has remained a constant), splits and reformations (three of each at the last count) and a death (bassist/vocalist Theo Loomans in a car crash in 1998). Nevertheless, over the course of this quarter-of-a-century, which has also seen them release a total of nine full-length studio albums, of which this is the latest, they have developed a reputation as one of the most respected and admired bands of their ilk on the European underground circuit…
‘Deathhammer’ certainly cements that reputation. The opus opens with the classic death metal salvo of ‘Into The Timewastes’ and ‘Deathhammer’ before the first of the album’s seven-minute-or-so epics, ‘Minefield’ lives up to its title, as you enter with a sense of ominous foreboding and dread anticipation before the soundscape quickly becomes pock-marked with moments of explosive ferocity. ‘Of Days When Blades Turned Blunt’ is another short-shock to the system, combining brutal death metals riffs with doomy crustiness, a trick repeated on ‘Der Landser’, although the emphasis on the latter is more on the grinding doom side of the band’s sound.
Side Two repeats the premise of side one, kicking off with two ferocious blasts of dynamic death metal, in the shape of ‘Reign Of The Brute’ and the swelling riffs of ‘The Flood’, before another of the albums standout moments (or six minutes 56 seconds to be precise) in the majestic and utterly brilliant ‘We Doom You To Death’. ‘Despa Crabro’ is a riotous, almost punky piece of chaos, its feet only kept in the doom metal camp by (latest recruit) Alwin Zuur’s bombastic bass lines and Martin van Drunen’s characteristic Tom G Warrior style death growls.
The album finishes in epic style, with the suitably monstrous ‘As The Magma Mammoth Rises’ – a dark, brooding masterpiece, with Zuur’s bass interlinking with Paul Baayen’s swirling guitar lines to superb effect.
A great album. If you haven’t come across these Dutch old school masters before, and you’re a fan of the likes of Candlemass, then this definitely should be top of your shopping list.
‘Deathhammer’ is available now on Century Media.
Check out the band’s official website, www.asphyx.nl, or follow them on Facebook at www.facebook.com/officialasphyx