I think it’s fair to say that Dutch metallers Asphyx have a morbid fascination with death. Look, I know that’s probably a stretch, but hear me out.
Firstly, the Overijssel quartet has been steadily perfecting their crunchy, metallic approach to headbang-worthy death-doom for over three decades now. (Granted, with a few gaps along the way.) Secondly, across their hefty discography, half or more of their ten, full-length albums directly reference death or death-adjacent themes in their title, including the loose thanatotic trilogy of Death… The Brutal Way (2009), Deathhammer (2012), and Incoming Death (2016).
Lastly—and perhaps most convincingly—the group’s name is derived from the Greek/Latin root which means “without a pulse.”
(I’m also going to go right out on a limb here and say that, if we extend the band name logic further, they could also be drawing inspiration from the 1972 horror film The Asphyx, which detailed a group of men in a parapsychological society taking photos of people at the moment of death. A film also referred to as Spirit of the Dead and The Horror of Death. So, you know, just saying.)
So yes, Asphyx are straight-up death dealers, and they’re not subtle about it. Which bring us to Necroceros, the band’s highly anticipated tenth LP. According to frontman Martin van Drunen, the record’s title refers to “a sci-fi fantasy entity on an eternal course, existing only to devour planets, turning universes into meaningless voids.” Brutal.
Thankfully, the album’s cover—brilliantly illustrated once again by artist Axel Hermann—doesn’t need a close reading to get the point across, with all the demon skulls, slimy hues of alien green, ghastly flames, and crucifix peaks. One look, and you’ll know what’s up: “Yep, there’s the death stuff.”
Okay, but what about the music? Well, across ten tracks, Asphyx give both ends of the death-doom spectrum equal attention, churning through furious blasts of chunky, rhythm-heavy death metal, while also locking in at times for mammoth grooves and morbid doom dirges.
For ODSM of the meat-and-potatoes variety, Asphyx smash things out with a militant, almost tactical efficiency. Opener “The Sole Cure is Death” (there it is again) hinges on thrashy, chainsaw riffage from Paul Baayens and percussive pummelling from skinsman Stefan Hüskens. This trend continues on pre-release singles “Botox Implosion” and “The Nameless Elite,” both of which feature strong, riff-centric, melodic hooks alongside piercing, vocal refrains from van Drunen.
As for the doom merchants out there, weighty tomes like “In Blazing Oceans” and “Mount Skull” are the choice cuts. Curiously, both tracks start near-identically, with a chuggy, molasses-thick riff from Baayens that sounds like it was recorded in concrete (albeit, slightly varied in pattern on the latter).
The towering, seven-minutes-plus “Three Years of Famine” is the album’s centerpiece and standout track, featuring glorious solo work and clean guitar passages. Van Drunen’s lyrics here trade the purely esoteric for the avowedly political: “Inglorious helmsman/ Homicidal doctrine/ Maoist delusion/ Totalitarian regime/ Deceiving the Masses/ Propaganda feeds.” Not sure how that relates to a cosmic devourer of planets, but hey, it works.
Unfortunately, not everything works, and Necroceros has a few filler moments. “Knights Templar Stand” is merciless in its bulldozing chord progressions, but it’s also simplistic and forgettable, noteworthy only for its questionable use of lyrical references to “heathens’ and “infidels.”
Side B of the record also has a powerful run of tracks that are ultimately stunted by the unremarkable “Yield or Die.” Thankfully, the closing title track ends the album on a rousing high note, with epic, galloping riffs and a crushing, all-consuming atmosphere of dread.
Necroceros continues the band’s relative hot streak of quality from the exceptional Deathhammer and admirable Incoming Death. Far from a slump, their tenth LP finds Asphyx harnessing their innate savagery and keeping death firmly on the brain.
Preorder and save Necroceros here.