When great extreme metal reunions are spoken of, whether it be GODFLESH, CARCASS, AT THE GATES, AUTOPSY or briefly CELTIC FROST, ASPHYX often get forgotten and left out of the conversation. Maybe the reason is that it’s sometimes easy to forget that they ever went away, the Dutchmen simply plugging their amps back in and casually picking right up from where they left off with little fanfare, humble as ever. That being said, in the four and a half year wait for a follow-up to 2012’s Deathhammer their absence really was felt.
Luckily, true to form, Incoming Death again picks up right from where they before. There are no wild unprecedented leaps with ASPHYX, instead just unholy old school death metal for those with insatiable hunger for the stuff. The ASPHYX approach is less “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” and more “if it ain’t broke, reinforce it with great big iron bars”. Luckily, it is very much not broken. ASPHYX in the 21st century are a well-oiled machine of war, rolling over obstacles with ease and grinding up opposition.
ASPHYX have clear formulas when it comes to their songs. There’s the short simple verse-chorus-repeat rager, the mid-paced bludgeon, and the monolithic doom track that takes up the longest slot on the tracklist. It’s even begun to reflect in the track names and placement; much like on Deathhammer the short violent assault dons the title track role (Incoming Death zips by not even reaching two minutes), and the eight minute highlight Death: The Only Immortal closes things out with a crawling build like a death metal Kashmir. It’s that the well has not yet run dry of catchy riffs and hooks that ensures ASPHYX do not become a repetitive bore. They may be a death metal band but their position as one of the originators who did not have many death metal bands before them to be influenced by lends them a classic hard rock and metal songwriting sensibility allowing for things to never become lost in the extremity, the kind of songwriting that could only come from veterans who have honed their craft over many years to know instinctively exactly where each element slots into place. Vocally Martin van Drunen is as strong as ever, his instantly recognisable rasp both petrifying and once again delivering plenty of solid hooks, gleeful as he ushers in death and doom on It Came From the Skies.
Dan Swanö’s production job has become an integral part of the ASPHYX arsenal of late, gifting the band the perfect balance of clarity and grit. The riffing is granted a great deal of texture, the likes of Division Brandenburg and Wardroid running immediately afterwards as if they were one song exhibiting incredible thickness. The latter is one of the most aptly titled songs of the year, ASPHYX having a charming knack for naming songs exactly what they sound like. Incoming Death does not pip Deathhammer to the post, but when it’s still this much fun there’s no need to be glum because it doesn’t match its monstrous predecessor. Nothing exceptional is done here, but it’s exactly the kind of material fans want from an ASPHYX record. After all no one is better at being ASPHYX than ASPHYX, and ASPHYX happen to be killer.
Incoming Death is set for release on September 30 via Century Media Records.
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