Monday, March 18, 2024

Asphyx - Incoming Death (2016)

Three albums in to Asphyx's reunion with Martin van Drunen, and I feel like you know what you're getting to get when you spin one of these things. Crushing, basic death metal, straight from the early 90s in craftmanship, but blessed with the advancements in production that can make it sound absolutely enormous by comparison to so many of those seminal works. The Dutch act has long maintained a very workmanlike build to its material, the riffs don't really sound very evil or atmospheric or even that catchy, but they bring the brawn rather than the brains, and for that reason they're always listenable, even if I couldn't pick many of these tracks out from a selection of those on the surrounding albums. Another band that, like a Bolt Thrower or Obituary, are quite content following the same path without ever distracting themselves with some attractive side-trails.

Incoming Death is almost as predictably named as it sounds, but if I'm being truthful, there is no amount of redundancy that can't be overcome by how Martin's gruesome grunts interact with the mix on these guitars. He sounds just as fleshy as they do, and he's always been one of the more distinct throats in the field, even though my preference will always be for his presence on the first two Pestilence albums, because the music there was absolutely fucking perfect to support him. Asphyx doesn't always seem like they take a long time to put the material together, just stringing together a standard supply of chords and letting the enormity of that guitar tone do the rest of the work. You do get a variety, from the grindier sway of tremolo picked riffs in "Candiru" and "It Came from the Skies" to the more measured, doomed gait of "The Grand Denial" or snail-like grooves of "Subterra Incognita", and that goes a long way to curb off any monotony, especially with the nice occasional lead or melodic guitar line for an added dimension to the atmosphere.

The mix here, from a little-known Swedish musician and producer named 'Dan', is exactly what the material needs to fatten out its simplicity, so that the tones can district from the lack of technicality or complexity in any of the riff patterns. The bass throbs with a thick distortion, allowing it to pop out occasionally from the tank-tread weight of the rhythm guitars, and the drums keep things pretty simple, but rock out just right against the crush. The songs can get a little boring if you're expecting any surprises, but they do happen once in awhile, like the piano finale to "Subterra Incognita", or that HUGE bass groove in the depths of "Death: The Only Immortal". Overall, Incoming Death is another win for the band, though it not all that much more memorable than the two albums before it, Death...the Brutal Way and Deathhammer; marginally better recording, but the tunes don't dazzle beyond the superficiality of their massive crunch.

Verdict: Win [7.25/10]

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