Reviewed: April 2012
Released: 2012, Century Media
Asphyx is one of Holland’s oldest death metal bands, staring back in 1987. In 1991, vocalist Martin Van Drunen left Pestilence and joined Asphyx, and the result was some of the best death / doom metal ever made! THE RACK (LP, 1991), CRUSH THE CENOTAPH (EP, 1992), and THE LAST ONE ON EARTH (LP, 1992) are legendary albums that every death metaller should own. Van Drunen left Asphyx in 1993 to sing for Comecon and later briefly replaced Karl Willets in Bolt Thrower. Asphyx continued on without him but it just wasn’t the same. Then in early 2007 Van Drunen came back, and the resulting album DEATH THE BRUTAL WAY was like a natural progression from THE LAST ONE ON EARTH. I am very pleased to say that DEATHHAMMER belongs in every metalheads’ collection standing proudly next to the classic Asphyx albums from the early 90s. DEATHHAMMER is the new holy grail of old school late 80s / early 90s death metal! It’s not just an album, it’s a pummeling, just an onslaught coming out of your speakers!
No atmospheric intro needed, the album starts fiercely with “Into The Timewastes”, a great fast track with low guitars, heavy bass, and Van Drunen’s unique howling shrieks. Van Drunen sounds better than ever, which is amazing considering how hard death metal vocals are on the vocal chords over time. His range is brilliant and he has tremendous power. To me, the very best death metal vocalists are (in no particular order) Obituary’s John Tardy, Suffocation’s Frank Mullen, and Asphyx / Hail of Bullets’ Martin Van Drunen. Second track “Deathhammer” addresses the current metal scene directly as Martin bellows to open the song, “This is real death metal you bastards!” It’s very fast and pounding, an ode on the history of death metal and keeping the sound true. “Minefield” is next, a slow doomy track but still swimming in molten lead heavy! Song lengths vary from less than 3 minutes to more than 7. Some are blistering attacks (“Reign of the Brute”) and others are slow grinders (“Der Landser”). There is a great range of topics here from warfare to natural disasters to monsters to medieval times to saluting the fans! There isn’t a weak track on the entire album. My favorites are “Reign of the Brute”, “The Flood”, “As The Magma Mammoth Rises”, “Into The Timewastes”, and of course, “Deathhammer”. The final two songs are bonus tracks, the rawer 7″ version of “Death The Brutal Way” and the Celtic Frost cover “Os Abysmi Del Daath.” Sound mix is excellent, everything is loud, clear, and balanced. Alwin Zuur’s bass is great, very heavy and powerful throughout. He is a superb addition to Asphyx’s killer sound. Paul Baayens’ guitars are suitably low tuned and sludgy on the slow tracks. Bob Bagchus’ drumming is solid and consistent.
This is an early candidate for metal album of the year! If you are a death metaller and you were upset last year with Morbid Angel’s ILLUD DIVINUM INSANUS then get yourself a copy of DEATHHAMMER for a cleansing! It will cure what ails you! Asphyx rules and they will doom you to death!
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