27 February 2012
by Tom Dare
Asphyx have made more than a few comments on the state of death metal today since their latest (is this their fourth?) reformation. In a nutshell, they think it’s a bit sorry – too many bands forgetting that heavy metal’s most destructive subgenre is supposed to be enjoyable and have memorable riffs. They’ve even stated that Deathhammer, their eighth studio album, is so titled as to almost be a “How To” manual for death metal. If you’re going to make statements like that, you have to back it up. Deathhammer had better be something special.
The band’s previous album, 2009’s Death…The Brutal Way, was just that – a devilishly leering explosion of doom-laden devastation that more than held its own in a year when a number of modern DM classics came out (including Vader’s Necropolis, Behemoth’s Evangelion and Teitanblood’s Seven Chalices). It was the kind of album that leads to massive expectations – the kind that are invariably not lived up to. Except in Deathhammer’s case.
The first three tracks let you know in no short order that this incarnation of the Dutch destruction merchants is them at their hideous best. Opener, ‘Into The Timewastes‘, hares out of the traps like it’s been fired from a tank cannon, charging ahead into a thrashy no-man’s land of of bleakness and horror before dropping back into more mid-paced carnage, only to accelerate up to bastard-fast territories at the end.
And then we’ve got the title track. If you really want to make a statement about how you think this shit should be done, you should probably do it exactly like this. Opening with a shout of “this is for the death metalling bastards”, with a chorus of “bow down to the deathhammer!”, ending on a shout of “KNEEL! Dogs…” and with the kind of riffs that make smashing everything in sight into kindling an under reaction, it’s the most colossal kind of facemelter.
Watch the video to ‘Deathhammer’ by Asphyx:
The subsequent battleship-mass doom track ‘Minefield‘ lets you know how this album is going to work – fast as fuck fury is followed by genuinely slow, heavy-as-hell crush with very little crossover between the two within tracks – only ‘Of Days When Blades Turned Blunt‘ and ‘Der Landser‘ do it at all. It makes Deathhammer an arguable more intense album than previous work. There’s no room to breathe – the fast bits go on much longer and exhaust you before the tortuously reined-in pace flattens you into mulch.
The album closer, ‘As The Magma Mammoth Rises‘ (and there’s a fucking title for you), has a riff that sounds like Under The Sign Of The Black Mark-era Bathory – a comparison never to be made lightly – but as done by Asphyx. One of the most gargantuan riffs you’ll hear in your life yanks you up by the tender bits and drags you with agonising slowness across the hot coals of hell while Martin van Drunen’s horrible voice roars like an implacably rising Beelzebub.
Tracks 1-9 make Asphyx’s case that they really do know what they’re doing, and that they’re still sufficiently brilliant to get away with essentially saying “lads, this is how it’s done”. The final song is another matter entirely. It will indeed have you on your knees, bowing down to the Deathhammer. And banging your head into fucking pieces.
Sounds like: Autopsy, Bolt Thrower, Bathory
Standout tracks: Deathhammer, We Doom You To Death, As The Magma Mammoth Rises