Released: 2000, Century Media
Reviewer: Nathan Robinson
Hell yes…finally the new Asphyx album is out! First of all, just look at that logo. Does it not rule? Asphyx has been plagued over the years with lineup changes, as well as tragedy. After two crushing albums and one EP (The Rack, Last One on Earth, Crush the Cenotaph), death metal vocalist extraordinaire Martin van Drunen departed. His unique style is no doubt irreplaceable. At the same time, drummer Bob Bagchus left the band. Eric forged on alone, hiring a new vocalist/bassist and drummer and releasing an album simply titled Asphyx. The band was rather quiet after its release, until out of the blue God Cries was released. This time, Bob was back behind the drum kit, and original vocalist Theo Loomins was back on vocals and bass. And unfortunately, Eric Daniels left the band! How could he?! Theo performed all of the guitar work on the God Cries, and without Eric, the album was no match to any of its predecessors (although it was brutal as fuck). Soon after the album’s release, Century Media was kind enough to release Embrace the Death, the “real” first and obscure Asphyx album which included the two tracks that appeared on their first 7” Mutilating Processes. But Asphyx soon came to an end with the death of Theo around 1997. Both Eric and Bob re-emerged in 1998 with their new band Soulburn. With vocal and bass duties being provided by Wannes Gubbels of Pentacle, Soulburn released a solid slab of deathdoom by the name of Feeding on Angels (see the review here). Soulburn was basically Asphyx, both in sound and style. It only made sense, with the passing away of Theo, to adopt the name Asphyx once again. But tragedy struck once more. During the recording of the new album, the studio housing the tapes burnt to the ground. As new material was lost! Thankfully, the band pulled through once again, re-recorded the songs, and released On the Wings of Inferno, another classic-sounding album full of traditional Asphyx deathdoom!
That’s right, if you love Asphyx for what they were, you’ll love them for what they are once again! Don’t worry, this album sounds nothing like God Cries! Instead, sounding like a cross between The Rack, Last One on Earth and Feeding on Angels, the new album contains every essential Asphyx element fans crave: crushing riffs, plodding drums, sickened vocals, slow doom passages, and blazing speed sections. The arrangements seem more varied and the energy level seems greater than the Soulburn material, resembling The Rack instead. From a sonic angle, the production is practically perfect for Asphyx. Guitars are loud and abrasive, drums and vocals have a bit of echo, and the bass provides low-end balance for Eric’s midrange wall of sound. Bob’s drumming has never been something to salivate over, but his style meshes with Eric perfectly, providing a solid foundation without overdoing anything. Wannes vocals are fucking crushing. He comes pretty close to sounding like Martin van Drunen. His performance makes me wonder what Pentacle sounds like. And in Asphyx’s punishing deathdoom tradition, the album is full of dynamics…from song to song, and within each song. Take the title track for example, a headbanging, midtempo monstrosity with some truly slothlike segments. And then there’s “The Scent of Obscurity”, an angry full speed assault also containing an apocalyptic doom section. “Marching Towards the Styx” is a simple, slow, doomy, and heavy as fuck song throughout, with spoken vocals for a twist. It would have been the perfect lead into a ten-minute epic, but instead it’s just the last song on the album. Damn! And all hail Eric’s lead guitars! I just can’t get enough of his slow, depressing, cold guitar moans during those slow doom segments! Too bad every song didn’t have them. And his noisy, screaming whammy-bar solos just overpower the music creating a devastating barrage of sonic mayhem. And surprisingly enough, acoustic guitar makes its debut appearance on an Asphyx album for the short instrumental “06/06/2006”.
Being a big fan of this band, I consider On the Wings of Inferno to be a killer slab of classic doomy death metal played only the way Asphyx can, and being an essential piece of the band’s collection. Aside from the acoustic guitar instrumental, this album presents nothing new to the table. But I never expected the band to change its style. No other bands play deathdoom like Asphyx does, so they could release the same album every year and I will hail it every time. The only disappointment with this album I have is its length, which runs 29 minutes total. I miss the long, drawn-out songs like those on the self-titled album Asphyx. And since on one understands this band, there are no decent web sites to check out for information, except Century Media’s small segment in the “bands” section: http://www.centurymedia.com/