Tuesday, March 19, 2024

Asphyx - Necroceros (2021)

Along with Bolt Thrower, Asphyx certainly holds claim to its simple, churning death metal style, and obviously it's one that has some legs to it, since you're hearing new bands like Chainsword of Frozen Soul come along and do their best to impersonate it, often to great underground success. Necroceros doesn't really distance itself from the three albums before it, the entirety of the later Martin van Drunen tenure with the band, to the point that songs could hop between them without anyone noticing other than marginal details in the production, but it doesn't really need to. They've got a sound set in stone, their fanbase doesn't really want anything else, and I absolutely can relate to that dependability, since a large number of bands I listen to practice the same risk-averse approach to their material.

I'm not saying the Dutchmen are writing pop songs here, obviously, there's nothing safe about the loud, slow grinding bombast of these tunes, as it wasn't safe ever during their career, or on the three records from the very similar Hail of Bullets that Martin and Paul were also involved in. But having already been a fan of those three records, and some of the earlier Asphyx, I feel a constant craving for the band to try a little more on for size. Keep the grisly vocals, keep the enormous tones in the guitars, and the pudgy, distorted bass-lies, but screw around more with rhythmic dynamics, build some riffs that are a little beyond these assembly line structures that they've been cranking out for 30 years. I can only dream how cool it would be for some Slayer-like evil harmonies to bust out among these meatier rhythm guitars, or perhaps just imbue the basic chords with some more thrashing, slightly more involved sequences, just to change things up, striking the perfect balance like the German band Scalpture does on their amazing Feldwarts (very similar style also).

But much of Necroceros just sounds like what I've heard before. Bruising, efficient, loyal and maybe even stubborn to a fault. A couple moments stick out, like the majestic embedded melody of the chords that set up "Knights Templar Stand" and rocking "Yield or Die", or the slowly sinking wreckage of "In Blazing Oceans" with its little chugged triplets that don't always go where you predict, and end up a little warmer than you might be used to. The Dutchmen tip-toe into new waters where it might befit them to take a more direct plunge. Again, Necroceros is perfectly adequate on its own, because it will always have that massive wall of production to fall back against, which can cause even the most minimalistic riff progressions to explode ears, but it's simply never as great as it could be. Having said that, I'd pick it over a Deathhammer of Incoming Death, and anyone digging those records, or For Victory, or Crypt of Ice, or any of Memoriam's stuff, will feast on the fleshy guitars, but I'm still yearning days when I won't just consider Asphyx 'good', but mandatory. 

Verdict: Win [7.5/10]


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