By Laina Dawes
The appearance of Asphyx at this year’s Maryland Deathfest was more of a treat than probably many of the young ‘uns realized. After finding this out, I silently cursed my financial status for not allowing me to make the trek, because after one listen to their latest full-length Death….The Brutal Way (out August 19th on Ibex Moon, available for order now from their website) being late on the rent might have been worth it.
Formed in 1987, the Dutch metallers had just recently regrouped after a 7- year hiatus, bolstered by the response to the a newly written single. MDF ’09 was a cool opportunity for new fans, not only because they rarely play to North American audiences, but earlier incarnations of the band and albums like 1992’s Last One on Earth are regarded as important albums in the foundation of the death metal genre.
The overall sound of their eighth album (third with vocalist Martin van Drunen) is professionally executed, old-school death metal with heavy flourishes of thrash, especially on the title track “Death The Brutal Way.” On awesome cuts like “The Herald” the band delves into a bottom heavy, gravelly doom interlude and the opener “Sorbutics” is a great encapsulation of the band: grizzled and meaty; finely aged but still ambitious as hell.
Speaking about grizzled….check out “Asphyx II (They Died As they Marched).” Holy shit. To watch the ex-Pestilence vocalist perform that live would have been a treat….to see whether he actually collapsed on stage or not. His voice, ranging from a raspy bark to an asthma-influenced phlegmatic wheeze, sounds like it – and he – are on their last legs, his liver soaked in whiskey and bile, his throat ravaged by years of tobacco. But it is so fuckin’ cool that I’d pay to watch him replicate the pain he is enduring on that song, live. Does Lemmy Kilmister have a younger brother?
Death….The Brutal Way is simply an awesome death metal album. I’m tempted to put in the word ‘traditional’ or ‘classic’ because Asphyx ‘keeps it real’ with no trendy genre-bending attempts. And besides the seemingly pointless instrumental closer, “The Saw, The Torture, The Pain” there are no real missteps. This is chug-chugging, head-banging metal for those who wear their metal button-emblazoned, cut-off denim jackets with pride.