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Tuesday January 23rd 2018

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ASPHYX – Death…The Brutal Way

Asphyx – “Death…The Brutal Way”. Ibex Throne, 2009.

Here’s another band who’ve just emerged from a nearly decade-long period of silence (besides Beherit): Asphyx, the Dutch legends of old school death metal. What makes this reunion especially outstanding, though, is that the band has once again joined forces with original vo-kill-ist Martin Van Drunen, whose distinctive bloodcurdling howls were the hallmarks of Asphyx’s first two opuses, The Rack and Last One on Earth. About 17 years ago, Van Drunen was booted due to issues of professional conduct, but apparently there’s no longer any enmity between him and his old band–a great thing for sure, since his vociferous presence on Death…The Brutal Way sounds so second-nature, that it’s as if he were picking up right where he left off in 1992!

Speaking of timelines, Asphyx are kind of like the death metal equivalent of the coelacanth: they’re one of the earliest to have spawned in the scene, and they came already outfitted with a formula so infallible that they endure to the present day virtually unchanged (well, barring one screwup in ’96: the egregiously bonky God Cries). The tradition continues with Death…The Brutal Way, which can actually be described as a toss-up between the aforementioned Van Drunen-fronted albums–it has a number of those ploddingly gargantuan, yet profoundly effective passages that characterized The Rack (as in the tracks “Black Hole Storm” and “Cape Horn”); and in the spirit of Last One on Earth, some songs are more of the streamlined, go-for-the-jugular orientation (like “Eisenbahnmörser” and “Death the Brutal Way”). As a result of this synthesis, this album plays out like the journey of a tank battalion along the warpath: mostly it cruises menacingly over open soil, but sometimes it lurches ahead in a full-throttle ambush, or slows to a crawl as it indulges in the sounds of skeletal remains crunching beneath the wheels.

Although Death…The Brutal Way is technically more of the same, it harbors enough of its own artistic merit to avoid the Rehash Syndrome that all the burnout bands turn to when they run out of ideas. The men of Asphyx are wise enough to know that continuation is a beautiful thing, so long as you’re building off a central ideal and not just a scene and the superficialities that come with it–for this, they are one of the few bands who can pull off a “comeback” in earnest. No gimmicks here; all you’ll find is pure old school, doomy death metal presented exactly the way it should be.

(Buy this album on Amazon.com)

Grade: B+

Official Video for the title track: Death the Brutal Way!
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