Band: Asphyx
Title: Deathhammer
Label: Century Media
(LP-version released through: Century Media, High Roller Records, Nuclear Blast & Cyclone Empire)
Distribution: PIAS
Release date: February 27th 2012 (Europe) / February 28th 2012 (America)
Review: CD / DCD / LP / 2-LP

At the end of the eighties, I knew two bands called Asphyx. There was a German combo, performing traditional, rather random Thrash Metal, and a Dutch band, which soon became one of the leading bands from the Netherlands within the international Death Metal scene.
That one from Holland was formed twenty five (!) years ago by Bob Bagchus and Tony Brookhuis. After a couple of demos and some line-up changes, the band joined Century Media’s roster, and when Martin van Drunen left Pestilence and joined Asphyx, the debut blew the Death Metal worlds away mercilessly. More changes in line-up followed, and shortly after the release of the second studio album, the band split up for the first time in 1995. Reformation in 1996, new releases, yet not for a long time, unfortunately. Bob Bagchus and Eric Daniels (the only ‘original’ member, not founding yet present as from the first demo on, and since Bob left Asphyx a first time somewhere during the first half of the nineties) then started Soulburn, which was in fact some hidden continuation of Asphyx. And indeed, after a couple of years, Soulburn got re-baptised as Asphyx. Yet again a split followed in 2000, and for quite a pretty long period this time. It took until 2007. Asphyx re-united again with Martin van Drunen and Bob Bagchus, Pentacle-member Wannes Gubbels, who was in Soulburn and Asphyx’ late-nineties resurrection, and Paul Baayens, formerly or currently active in great and influential acts like Thanatos, Cremation and Hail Of Bullets (one of the many bands Martin is / was involved with as well, by the way).

Death… The Brutal Way was the first result and what a hit it was! For me, without any doubt, this album was (is) one of the strongest, maybe the most convincing release from the Netherlands during the second half of the 2000’s.
In mean time, we could enjoy some compilations, splits and live material, and last year, the band started recording newly written material at the Harrow Studio (drums and vocals) and The Morser Studio (guitars and bass). Again, mix and mastering were done at the famous Unisound Studio with Dan Swanö.

When it comes to the content of this album, I guess I might refer to most reviews done by colleagues all over the world, because all of us, no matter the subjectivity of writing reviews, can’t just ignore Asphyx’ excellence pur sang. I don’t know if it has to do with their semi-eternal carrier, yet I’m sure this will be part of it. But what these guys did this time is far, far beyond normality.
To stipulate the subjectivity of writing reviews, I need to confess my passion for this band, as from the earliest years. Yet I won’t point melancholically to that glorious past (at least not whole of the time). Deathhammer goes on in the vein of each single former effort, and those who are trusted with 2009’s Death… The Brutal Way will know what I mean – amongst any other former release, as mentioned before. This sounds like it had been recorded ‘back then’ yet with a sound ‘right now’ (however, without turning into a modern approach whatsoever). This is The Rack or Asphyx as well, this is Asphyx as we know them! And believe me, it does not only go for the musical performance, but for the quality as well. This certainly and surely is the kind of Death Metal that defines the purest core-excellence of the whole scene.

At the one hand there are those massive walls of basic yet extremely honest Death Metal in its most virginal form. Yet virginity needs to be redefined with cynical morbidity, of course. Not one single time this album disappoints for Asphyx do create gargantuan, epic compositions right from Death Metal’s womb. This IS the most nasty remembrance of the spawning called Death Metal, once and for all.
It does not matter which song you listen at. Each time you will experience magnificence, for these guys do combine their mutual activities into a cohesive symbiosis of craftsmanship and dedication. Each member has his own, individual contribution (you cannot ignore their co-operation with other outstanding and internationally highly acclaimed bands like Pestilence, Hail Of Bullets or Soulburn), but I cannot remember that many ‘big-name collectives’ with such cohesion and such a mutual / shared vision.

And then you have the Doom-laden magnificence that penetrates with merciless and sarcastic grandeur. The injection of this typifying Doom-approach is, in Deathhammer’s case, the ultimate level to reach when translating ‘origins’ into ‘timelessness’. It isn’t new, adding ultra-slow passages, playing doomy pieces of obscure and pounding heaviness. But like before, Asphyx combine a grim sphere of morbid filthiness with spheres of Tradition into the most sado-erotic equilibrium of mind’s dualities.

When it comes to ‘originality’, for the suckers amongst us: there is none. Yet I can only point at any former Asphyx-release to explain what Deathhammer sounds like. It’s so much, yet it’s above all, and therefore it’s just itself… Asphyx! …I guess?...? Got it?

A naughty teaser to heat up the fire: Asphyx are the Netherlands Bolt Thrower… Héhé…

Duration of the ‘standard’ edition: forty eight minutes. There are different versions with bonus-tracks, yet the promo I received did not include etc… So I need to hurry to the store!


Ivan Tibos.