Album Title: Necroceros
Label: Century Media Records
Date of Release: 22 January 2021
After the hell that was 2020, it seems perfectly fitting to review some heavy as all hell death metal right at the start of this new year. And it is delivered to us in the form of ‘Necroceros’, the tenth album from Dutch death metal institution, Asphyx.
Those of you that know a little bit about me, will know that it has taken a long while to fully embrace the death metal genre. Growing up, I preferred black metal, melodic death, and the dark/Gothic styles of heavy music. Of course, there were exceptions to the rule, but generally I wasn’t taken with death metal until I hit my early 20s. It means that I didn’t pay a great deal of attention to many of the killer bands that were around in the 80s and 90s. And in turn, it means that bands like Asphyx never featured on my radar. But times have changed and I am trying to broaden my horizons ever further. And what a great way to continue, with ‘Necroceros’.
Doom-laden brutal death metal is the key to this band’s approach it would seem. Gnarly, heavy riffs are at the heart of the music, around which all kinds of carnage are wrought. It isn’t all slow or mid-tempo fare as the ‘doom’ tag might suggest either; Asphyx are keen to inject pace into their compositions too, thus creating a sense of variety and urgency to compliment the more measured beating that the slower material delivers.
The slow groove of ‘Mount Skull’ is one of my standout moments on a very solid and enjoyable record indeed. According to the press release, this is the first release since the band returned from an extended hiatus in 2007 that has not been cursed with line-up changes, and on songs like this, you can really hear that the band is fully gelled and together. Not only does it have a stomping, headbang-worthy groove, but there’s a surprising amount of melody within it too, not to mention surges in pace, where drummer Stefan “Husky” Hüskens and bassist Alwin Zuur join the faster riffing of Paul Baayens eagerly to counterpoint the more sedate segments. And atop all this is vocalist Martin van Drunen, who commands attention thanks to his raspy, almost wheezy growls.
The biggest surprise of the record for me, comes during ‘Three Years Of Famine’. At over seven minutes, it’s a beast of a track that kicks off with a suitably heavyweight lumbering riff and accompanying rhythmic stomp. However, I wasn’t expecting the U-turn at the two-minute mark. Whilst other tracks hint at melody, this composition beats us over the head with it. Starting with a deliberately solemn lead guitar line over the crushing riffs, suddenly everything drops away to be replaced by a clean guitar playing the same melody over the sounds of howling winds. It changes again, with an even more memorable melody replacing what went before. The song builds with the bass in particular revelling in the space afforded to it. And whilst there’s a return to the heavier climes as the song lurches on, Asphyx continue to show their softer, fluffier underbelly and it’s a really welcome surprise, one that grabs my attention, turning the record from ‘it’s pretty good’ to ‘no, it’s really good!”
There are plenty of examples of quality music elsewhere on ‘Necroceros’, starting with the opening track, ‘The Sole Cure Is Death’. It’s a shorter track that literally wastes no time faffing around; from second one, the Dutch quartet goes on the attack, with huge riffs, pounding and authoritative rhythm section, and immediate spite from van Drunen. But later in the song is a delightful doom-like dirge where the riffs hang in the air like a claustrophobic mist.
The riffs come thick and fast, with ‘Molten Black Earth’ displaying plenty of weight, as does the immediately groovy intro of ‘Knights Templar Stand’. Both songs display their doom metal credentials with churning, thick riffs, but these are balanced with faster material to good effect, the latter offering some of the fastest material on the record, as well as a hint of memorable melody within the riffs.
The album finale, the title track, is a fitting way to end ‘Necroceros’ too, a monstrous beast of churning, stomping groove, where the insistent, pronounced drum beat stands proudly at the core of the song for the most part, subsiding occasionally for a blast of speed or enhanced melody.
So, in short, ‘Necroceros’ is a very enjoyable slab of extreme metal, where doom and death collide in a brutal but effective blend. If I had any kind of criticism, I’d argue that there are moments on the record that don’t quite hit the same levels as others, where a couple of the songs just blend into each other a little bit due to a lack of stand-out moments. Nevertheless, there’s no denying that ‘Necroceros’ is a very satisfying 50-minute extreme metal blast; dirty, aggressive, and uncompromising, it’s perfect for clearing your head and wiping away plenty of those hideous remnants of 2020.
The Score of Much Metal: 84%
Further reviews from 2021:
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: