REVIEW: Asphyx – Necroceros (Album, 2021)

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There are some bands which, when announcing a new album, make their fans anticipate in sorrow of the release being a mere shadow of the former glory. Asphyx is definitely not one of those. With more than 30 years in business the band has stayed true to its roots and sound, yet not stuck in the sound of the 80s and has evolved together with the genre.

And just a couple of weeks ago the band has announced their tenth studio album Necroceros to be out in the world on 22 January, 2021. And while there is still some time to go, we’re ready to get you pumped and take a detailed track by track look at what’s inside the record. So here you go!

The album’s opener A Sole Cure Is Death starts with a heavy blast with all instruments going all in from the very first notes. No acoustic intro, no soft guitar riff in the beginning, the band shows from the very first notes that they are delivering a no-compromise record full of heavy and straightforward riffs and will stay true to their own sound. The slow-tempo breakdown in the song’s middle adds heaviness to its sound and then grows back into the high-speed main theme after doing its job.

The following song Molten Black Earth starts at a much slower pace. Several tempo changes add diversity to the song’s sound and attribute to its dynamics. Both Stefan Hüskens and Alwin Zuur work well in synergy to create a powerful and vigorous rhythm section on this composition. The variety of structural and rhythmical changes created by the two allow Paul Baayens to mature the song’s main theme and expand on it without the song sounding too repetitive and monotonous.

Mount Skull could easily be a marching song for the Army of the Dead out of the Lord Of The Rings. The steady and repetitive guitar riff with a clock-like drum beat make up the song’s musical line in its first half. Yet by the song’s equator the line grows in both its weight and speed, and develops into this killer bash with every musicians going in with all guns blazing. And the simple guitar solo concludes this head banging breakdown just to lead into the main marching theme once again.

The following track Knights Templar Stand opens with the catchy guitar riff which gets interwoven into the melody through the entire track. If not to take vocals in consideration, the song’s music is somewhat reminiscent of the early thrash metal era. Heavy bass part contributes to the guitar line, similar to what has been masterfully done by the legendary Lemmy for years, not allowing for any empty spots in the sound.

The epic intro in Three Years Of Famine gives you shivers from the very first notes. It becomes clear right away that this song’s melody will get stuck in your head for hours to come, making your mind reflect on the horrors nations may encounter and the boundaries of people’s cruelty. A wonderfully executed sorrowful guitar solo, which get later mimicked by a very unusual for Asphyx acoustic break leading to a powerful culmination, together with multiple riff changes make this probably the most structurally complex song on the record. The track’s lyrical theme is inspired by Mao’s Great Famine in China of which Martin and I have spoken extensively during our chat last week. And together with the song’s melody it pants a desolate picture of sorrow and devastation in your head. And especially to me, as a Ukrainian, who’s been told the sorrowful stories of Holodomor, this is by far the most powerful track on the album.

The following track Botox Implosion was released as a single to the album. This rapid and roaring song with simple yet very aggressive guitar riffs is probably one of the most dynamic ones on the record. It is definitive of the classic death metal sound, and yet it has this modern feel to it. And together with Martin van Drunen’s voice, which by the way sounds as strong as it did thirty years ago, the instruments evoke a vision of a violent Brownian motion, with every element moving chaotically in a random direction, yet working together to create a vivid and agile entity.

Slow and steady In Blazing Oceans is simple in its structure. On this one, the band stuck to a known and familiar formula that seems to be working for them for more than 3 decades. It is heavy and purposefully monotonous, with a memorable melodic guitar bridge and solo which add flavour to the tune. The Nameless Elite which follows right after starts with a catchy guitar riff and is coherent in its intro pace to the predecessor. Masterful rhythm section allows Paul to experiment with the guitar sound and lean towards a more melodic loop. With every beat of the first verse its rhythm gets speeded up only to slip back into the original pace and culminate in a vigorous breakdown by the song’s equator. A powerful and memorable track.

The following song Yield Or Die builds upon the foundation laid before. The band once again leans towards a more catchy sound, with several memorable guitar riffs and a sturdy bass line. The guitar line resembles the 80s heavy metal sound, although with much heavier sound due to the rich rhythm section. I already see this track, and especially thanks to its chorus, being a great sing-along for any future Asphyx concerts.

The album’s title track Necroceros opens with a haunting intro and a desperate warning scream by Martin. In the recent interview I did with the frontman he did mention that imagined Necroceros (word-play on «Necro» – death, and «Rhinoceros») as a deadly entity from distant and forgotten galaxy heading towards the Earth, ready to destroy our world. And this is exactly the image painted by the track’s music. The bass guitar has been purposefully placed on the forefront of the song’s sound, thus adding to its richness and making it significantly heavier. Repeated guitar riff creates a gloomy atmosphere, and several musical bridges and melodic offshoots only amplify the above anguished imagery.

Overall this is a very coherent and consistent record. The band delivers a powerful material to their fans, with an archetypal mix of slow-tempo Doom Metal and fast and aggressive riffs at the same time. And yet Asphyx is not afraid to explore new musical horizons while staying true to its own sound. This will definitely be enjoyed by any long-time Asphyx fans and will be a great intro point for the new ones.

Verdict: aggressive, powerful and vigorous, a great album to start the year.

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