Genre: Death / Doom
Label: Century Media
Release: January 2021
Asphyx have made their comeback and this was probably one of the few good things that happened in January. I was deliberately late in writing my thoughts about the band’s tenth album, mainly because the reactions I saw in my peer circles and the ones I personally had were quite mixed, so I gave plenty of time to “Necroceros” to “communicate” everything it wanted to say.
I place Asphyx amongst the bands that hold on tight to their roots and successful “recipes”. Amongst the bands that follow a certain course with certain structures and certain types of compositions, without deviating just to please the masses, however their respective offers have always something good and fresh to show. You can take for example Bolt Thrower. At the same time, lately I have been thinking intensely that the whole epidemic situation and the swamp we’re crawling into – spiritually, emotionally, financially, interpersonally, professionally and so on – may be the right opportunity for the whole Death Metal idiom to flourish again. The conditions are ideal, don’t you think? I’m saying all this to point out that Asphyx have actually gave a new impetus to their musical idiom, from which I repeat I’m expecting to see many things during this year, while at the same time stepping on the familiar modus operandi, releasing a record that does not change the path of their brilliant course, yet does offer something fresh.
As expected, “Necroceros” consists of a weave of Death and Doom compositions, with many alternations between them, creating an atmosphere that’s claustrophobic and at the same time monolithically primitive; therefore, fast rhythms follow slow and back from the start. However, this time Asphyx show us another aspect of their face, adding new elements to their structures, such as several melodic guitar passages, thus renewing their character. An illustrative example is the eight-minute (!) track “Three Years of Famine”, where we meet a calm, almost comforting melodic passage that surprises the listener (for better or worse, that’s for you to decide according to your tastes) somewhere in the middle of the track, while before and after Asphyx bombard us with their well-known pummeling style. The guitars are characterized by a sequence of fast and slow riffs, which in fact are too many, if you try to count them down. One could say that Paul Baayens has a jam – packed warehouse somewhere in his house and every morning he chooses which riffs to deal with. Martin van Drunen, timeless like Homeric values, is as barbaric and crude as he should be, with a plethora of emotions (yes, seriously, he goes through the whole spectrum of negatively charged outbursts) and especially with that characteristic hoarseness and harsh tone that awakens your deeply repressed nightmares. The backbone of the album is enthusiastic and hyperactive Alwin Zuur with his bass having a strong presence in all the tracks, while Stefan Huskens on the drums is equally technical and bungler; exciting! So technically we are talking about perfect orchestration and performance, framed by people with real talent and experience, with a tendency to restore the aesthetics of the early ‘90s while avoiding the dry and meaningless retro – lust. They know what they are doing and they do it well.
Beyond all that, it’s business as usual. It is a highly anticipated album, despite the addition of new elements and I dare say I would like “Necroceros” as a whole shorter in duration. Yes, they have released other long lasting records, such as “Embrace The Death” for example, but I personally would have preferred the logic of “Last One On Earth” and “The Rack”; half an hour is ideal. Mainly I’m saying this because there were moments in “Necroceros” that felt foreseeable. Could it be because i visit their albums more often that i admit? Does this mean that older fans of the band wouldn’t be as excited as newer ones? I really don’t know. It’s been two months and i still haven’t figured that out. Technically the album is perfect, but it lacks that element of surprise that will leave you speechless. Not the brightest moment of their career, but certainly necessary for your collection.