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Asphyx - "Incoming Death" (CD)

Asphyx - "Incoming Death" CD cover image

"Incoming Death" track listing:

1. Candiru
2. Division Brandenburg
3. Wardroid
4. The Feeder
5. It Came From The Skies
6. The Grand Denial
7. Incoming Death
8. Forerunners Of The Apocalypse
9. Subterra Incognita
10. Wildland Fire
11. Death: The Only Immortal

Reviewed by on October 24, 2016

"The hair-raising chords Sabbath perfected nearly fifty years ago have descended deeper into a whole other circle of hell."

Asphyx is one of the oldest and most prominent death metal bands in the Netherlands. For that matter, the group is one of the earliest death metal bands, period, spending most of its career on Century Media and helping build one of the greatest metal labels in the world today. Asphyx returns to said label for ninth studio full-length, “Incoming Death.”

Tradition is very important to Asphyx, so don’t expect the group to throw a curve ball with “Incoming Death.” The band has a death/doom formula that works and the guys are sticking to it. The hair-raising chords Sabbath perfected nearly fifty years ago have descended deeper into a whole other circle of hell. The guitars are tuned down and the rhythms are both faster and slower, all the while writing the catchiest riffs metal has to offer. Of course, the vocals are scathing. When these elements are added all together, Asphyx’s music sounds sweet to the Reaper’s ears.

Albums consisting entirely of either straight-forward speed or crawling down tempos can get boring, but the diversity of “Incoming Death” keeps the album moving forward and interesting. “Candiru” pushes the pace from the 0:00 mark, while title track “Incoming Death” is both the fastest and shortest song on the album. Drummer Stefan Hüskens doesn’t blast like modern drummers, but his beat is hard and fast on this track. The song really takes flight during incendiary tremolo picked parts, which have a classic DM sound that never seems to get tiresome. Speaking of classic DM, songs like “It Came From the Skies” and “The Feeder” present mid-tempo romps in the tradition of Celtic Frost. When they’re at their best, though, is during doom-filled tunes like “The Grand Denial” and Wardroid” that slowly spread through the air waves like an atomic explosion.

Diversity of tempo alone doesn’t make “Incoming Death” a great album in itself; it also rests on the ability to write good songs. There are guitar parts that really stand out on each song: just listen to the joint-popping string bends on “The Feeder” and “Wildland Fire.” “The Grand Denial” shows the band building a colossal riff, and this song also bids the listeners a melodic adieu. “Subterra Incognita” even ends with a piano passage. “Death The Only Immortal” then ends the album with a mournful harmony, truly saving the best for last. It’s the album’s longest and most epic track featuring a massive bass line and echoing vocals that transition into a dramatic riff that will force listeners to bang their heads.

No discussion about Asphyx is complete without mentioning vocalist Martin Van Drunen, who has fronted some of death metal’s most vaunted acts such as Pestilence, Hail of Bullets and even the war masters themselves, Bolt Thrower (live). His voice is unique in that it is higher pitched than death metal’s common, subterranean growls. He has a torturous, diseased quality that gets under your skin. Speaking of getting under your skin, his tones have the coarseness of being dragged across asphalt.

While his voice is unique, there are similar vocalists like Johnny Hedlund of Unleashed and former Morgoth vocalist, Marc Grewe. This especially rings true during screams like those heard on “Forerunners of the Apocalypse” and “Incoming Death.” Lyrics often stand out, too, such as the refrain on “It Came From the Skies” and “Wardroid.” One of the more memorable lines comes during "The Grand Denial" when Van Drunen says “Tens of thousands died from disease or suicide. A life of constant pain."

Asphyx doesn’t unveil any new elements here. You won’t hear warm clean vocals or industrial dance beats. The death/doom formula that is tried and true has worked for nearly thirty years and Asphyx does it well. Martin Van Drunen’s voice still rips and tears while the guitars are nothing short of monstrous. One thing is for sure, they won’t get any complaints from long-time fans. Asphyx deserves to be in the conversation about the who’s who in death metal’s carnage-strewn fields. In fact, “Incoming Death” deserves to be in the conversation of top metal albums of the year, overall.

Highs: "Wardroid, "The Grand Denial," "Death the Only Immortal"

Lows: "Candiru," "Incoming Death"

Bottom line: Asphyx's death/doom formula and good song writing should transcend mere genre lines.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)