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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Asphyx

Death The Brutal Way

Review by Mike Korn

In the 90's, no band on Earth was heavier than Holland's Asphyx. The demonic Dutchmen forged an absolutely crushing sound based not on speed, but on sheer weight and distortion. Asphyx focused on the doomier side of death metal, injecting medium paced and tortuously slow riffing into their attack. Their guitar sound was raw and ultra-metallic and the agonized groans of Martin Van Drunen (formerly of Pestilence) only added to the brutality of the Asphyx assault.

 

As death metal waned in the late 90's, Asphyx's fortunes fluctuated and the band went through a number of personnel changes. Around the turn of the century, they decided to call it a day and devote themselves to other projects. However, nothing stays dead in death metal for long and after a fun "reunion" show in 2007, the grisly juices of demise again began flowing, resulting in the current piece of putrid plastic.

 

Death The Brutal Way is no half-way reformation, but a full blast resurgence of the classic Asphyx sound of old. It is every bit as ferocious, gloomy and ghastly as in their heyday. Death metal is undergoing a revival, but I haven't heard any new wave DM  band that understands the true essence of heaviness the way these guys do. Here are ten punishing tunes that will crush your skull and scorch your gonads. They live up to the title...in spades!

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2009  Volume 5 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Scorbutics
No intro, no samples, just pure crushing death metal here...this is a perfect way to kick the album off. Martin van Drunen's vocals are suitably tortured as he relates a variety of gruesome physical symptoms of the dreaded maritime disease scurvy. Incidentally, "scorbutics" is another term for scurvy. This song is a musical piledriver.
The Herald
The punishment continues with this stomping cruncher. The riffing is simple but oh so catchy and zeroes in on your brain like a Russian sniper.  The mid-section brings some of the slow, suffocating doom that typifies Asphyx, as well a mournful guitar solo. It's definitely another killer!
Bloodswamp
These guys love their macabre tales of horror. Here, a band of escaping prisoners is slowly and horribly killed when they blunder into a swamp full of disease, quicksand and death. This song is just so friggin' heavy...it's like having a ten ton steel weight fall on you from a great height. The verse is ferociously groovy and the chorus has some really sickening string bending. "Face the Bloodswamp/This boiling pool/Steaming perversion/A bubbling brew".
Death The Brutal Way
The title track brings the mayhem with furious speed and van Drunen's rapid-fire croaking. A Level 5 Tornado couldn't pack more of a punch than this song and yet the band still finds a way to slow things down with some bone-breaking doom. The cut is meant to embody everything that Asphyx is...the lyrics tell the tale: "Eating away your dignity/Watch the blood pour out/As you lose integrity/We don't need no make-up/Slugs from armored stacks/Honest to the core/As we make you bastards crack."
Asphyx II (They Died As They Marched)
Here's where the doomy, atmospheric side of the band comes to the fore. This track relates the story of dying soldiers on a brutal retreat through an icy landscape. The ponderous, trudging riffs manage to convey the hopeless feeling perfectly and Martin's vocals are even more agonized than usual. There is a kind of melody here but a very sad and oppressive one.
Eisenbahnmorser
An Eisenbahnmorser was a gigantic cannon used by German forces in WWII.  It is unlikely the real thing packed more of a blast than this merciless barrage. This is another Asphyx song in the fine tradition of "M.S. Bismarck", paying tribute to a devastating weapon of war. This is one of the fastest tracks on show.
Black Hole Storm
Here's a very unique song for Asphyx, as it begins with a sedate piano motif. Don't panic, though, because ultra-crushing doomy guitar then enters the picture and mirrors that piano riff with its own brutal crunch. What's cool is that the piano stays in the song and creates a very interesting texture. Parts of the piece speed up to thrash tempo but the majority is in the doom vein...befitting a song about the black hole phenomena.
Riflegun Redeemer
If you are expecting a break in the mayhem, you better get to another album and band. This one starts with suffocating doom reminding me of the track "Into the Ossuary" from the classic self-titled Asphyx album, but it soon speeds up to another thrash blitzkrieg. Yes, the approach is very familiar by now, but the attack is so lethal, you can't help but be carried away by it.
Cape Horn
Here is a musical tribute to the nightmare of every sailor, the spot with the worst sailing weather in the world. It's another monolith of magnificent doomy riffing that really summons up the indomitable power of nature. There's the expected devastating speed up but really this song is all about the doom. "Looming up starboard/Monolithical form/Seafarers fall on their knees/As they behold Cape Horn".
The Saw, The Torture, The Pain
This trudging mid-paced instrumental is not bad, but seems kind of anticlimactic after the bruising "Cape Horn", which really should have finished the album.
 
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