Asphyx – Necroceros Review

I warned you all this would be a year of Steel on a mean death bender and here we are. Let’s kick it off in grand fashion with the brand new offering from death metal royalty, Asphyx. After shamefully overlooking 2016 release Incoming Death, I found myself needing to get my phyx of new material from a band I’ve enjoyed since my college days. Necroceros is the Dutch devils’ tenth album and the first written and recorded during a global pandemic. How much these unusual circumstances informed the sound is tough to gauge exactly, as all the trademark Asphyx elements are present, but the doomy, downtrodden vibe running through the material is more pronounced than usual. You still get the burly, brutalizing, Both Thrower-ing riffs served with thick OSDM gravy, but at times Necroceros isn’t all that far removed from the classic Candlemass albums in sound and mood. Does this mean the days of wanton death hammering are behind them? Not necessarily.

If you’re a fan of Asphyx’s past work you’ll feel right at home with nasty, bulldozing cuts like opener “The Sole Cure is Death.” Those classic Asphyx riffs will activate your dental plan and Martin van Drunen’s vocals sound ferocious and timeless. It’s thrashy, angry, and delightfully heavy, and it includes an obligatory breakdown into slow, ugly doom riffs which accentuate Drunen’s raspy roar perfectly. In short, it’s everything I desire from this wrecking crew. “Molten Black Earth” is nerve tonic for those with Bolt Thrower withdrawal and the hefty riffage will oppress you into the muck and filth. At the album midpoint we’re greeted by the 7-plus minute saga “Three Years of Famine,” and it’s a mammoth tune that plucks at both death and doom strings for maximum impact. The ugly, driving riffs are vintage Asphyx, but there are more than a few leads and harmonies that would fit on any classic doom opus. There’s even a soothing melodic segment with soft guitar twiddling. It’s quite the tour de force for the band, though it does have the unintended consequence of disrupting the album’s momentum somewhat.

Wisely, the band segues directly into the fastest, most aggressive cut with “Botox Implosion” to get things moving in an ass-kicking, headbanging direction. While it’s not what I’d call an essential moment in their catalog, it serves to get the blood pumping nonetheless. Many of my favorite moments arrive on the album’s back-half, with killer cuts like “The Nameless Elite” taking classic doom riffs and hammering them into a death metal motif. I hear traces of Avatarium and Candlemass in the leads but the overall impression the song leaves is that of a tank tread. “Yield or Die” is direct and aggressive, going for the throat without preamble or artifice and it hits that deathy sweet spot. The 7-minute closing title track is another example of the band’s death-doom predilection, full of dark and ominous tidings, and it’s good, but could stand being 2 minutes shorter.

There have been whispers around the AMG hobo wine cooler that Necroceros is too “one tempo” and lacks sufficient diversity across its 50 minutes. While I don’t share this sentiment, I can understand where it’s coming from. There’s a noticeable shortage thrashy outbursts, with much of the material grinding along at a “World Eater” mid-tempo with diversions into doom dirgery. This makes the occasional uptick into high gear sound all the more powerful, and while I would appreciate a bit more of that kind of change up, I’m not unsatisfied with the album’s overall mood and pacing and most of the songs hit hard. The riffs by Paul Baayens (ex-Hail of Bullets) are uniformly solid and often great, and there’s a dense, irresistible weight to the album. Vocally, Martin van Drunen is a living death metal archetype and he’s been savaging his vocal cords for nearly 35 years. He’s still got it though, and his hoarse, raspy bellows are instantly recognizable. He sounds tremendous here and gives the music a vicious kick in the ass. I can’t believe the guy is still capable of these kinds of vocal abuses, and he’s got all of my respect.

Necroceros is yet another high-quality release from Asphyx, sure to appeal to fans of Bolt Thrower and Hail of Bullets. Could it stand a tad more speed and aggression? Sure, but for a band approaching 30 years of age, they still sound full of piss, vinegar, and bloodfever. Crank this and give yourself a lovely case of Necroceros of the liver. Doctor Steel has spoken.

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 5 | Format Reviewed: 320 kbps mp3
Label: Century Media
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: January 22nd, 2021

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