The blending of musical genres is nothing new, many bands over the years have used the technique, often creating rather effective results (or alternatively, sounding woeful).
When it comes to death metal, fusion is somewhat harder to accomplish, given the wild and malicious intent behind the genre’s style. Mixing it with doom metal often leads to a monolothic, slow, lumbering beast of ill intent and significant downtuned heaviness. This isnt always the case though, and one act who clearly say no to the trend is Asphyx.
The Dutch five piece are held in high regard by most and revered by even more. When it comes to their music, Asphyx take no prisoners, case in point being Damnation Festival 2015 when they tore the Terrorizer stage a new one. For those who know of the stage’s layout, you will understand when I say that the floor area was simply a sea of carnage of borderline apocalyptic proportions.
Laden with pounding bass and drums, ferrocious death metal guitars which buzz then groove, and raw as hell vocals spat out with venom, “Candiru” is an intense opening track, one which cleary sends a message to the listener: prepare to be destroyed. The brief hypnotic intro of “Division Brandenburg” which follows, with its slightly exotic drone, gives way to a landslide of powerful groove-laden death metal. With a rhythmic hook, the steady pace and powerful musical delivery begs to be headbanged to until whiplash is the most probable outcome. Such is the nature of this hypnotic hook-laden track that even the vocals follow a similar pattern. Raw and wild but delivered with control, they provide a focal point to anchor to and, by the end of the track, you barely notice the shift into the following one.
The flawless transition into “Wardroid” retains the hypnotic, pseudo-doom paced groove and as the powerful guitars ring out the vocals are delivered with the same rawness. Upon further listening, they sound rather similar in style to Floridian Death Metal legends Obituary! Minimalistic in structure but massive in sound, the doomier side of the band is in full force for this track, and the classic doom gig cliche of standing there, arms folded and nodding along in approval (with a stern look on your face) is a certainty for this track.
“The Feeder” brings back the more cutting edge of death metal. Faster paced, cutting guitars and a real dirty and powerful low end, it powers on, bringing the listener out of the slight comfort zone the doom laden tones had created. Kicking the pace and energy of the album up a gear, it’s just straightforward groove-heavy death metal, but it works so well. Memorable vocal patterns are present in the hooks and the thunderous musical delivery helps augment what could well be a damn fine live track.
With a simple vocal grunt, “It Came From The Skies” crashes down with more power and riffery in the death metal stylings the band is known for. A solid pace perfect for windmill headbanging is laid down by the gratuitous use of double kick from the drums and the chugging riffs in the verse which transition to the staple pedal tone harmony riffs in the chorus. A decent and straightforward track which demands movement. Speeding up halfway through, it gets more frantic as the vocals gain more venom. This adrenaline rush of death metal is bound to bring life to the sea of chaos which will be the crowd at a live variant of this track.
“The Grand Denial” clocks in at just over seven minutes in length and is a return to the doomier side of the band. Slow and dreary riffs are delivered with a monstrous weight behind them and the more laboured vocal delivery adds to this intensity. As the track progresses, there are flashes of a melodic progression which has a sombre edge to it, but once it nears the three minute mark, all changes. To the haunting melodic line, there is a sudden increase in the rhythm laid out by the drums and the track gains new life, unleashing a pounding groove more akin to the death metal stylings earlier in the album. To finish, the chilling doom edge returns towards the last section of the track, before it ends with an acoustic melody.
Any semblence of serenity laid out by the end of the previous track is swiftly shattered. Exploding with sheer power and aggression at a blistering pace is the album’s title track, “Incoming Death”. Under two minutes in length, this explosive number completely blows the flow of the album wide open and reminds us just why Asphyx are held in such high regard. Blastbeats and buzzing guitars with harsh vocal growls invigorate the flow once more, and the following track continues on in this manner.
“Forerunners Of The Apocalypse” may have more of a groove to it than its predecessor, but the death metal style is firmly there. Thunderous groove, gratuitous low end magic and snarling vocals, it has a cutting edge which really brings out the energy of the track.
“Subterra Incognita” begins the final stretch of the record and it’s back to the doomy and atmospheric. A thick air of malevolence hangs over the exotic and haunting slow intro. Powering ahead with heavy stabbed chords and plenty of low end thunder from the rhythm section, it brings with it a fog of despair which settles across the sonic landscape it creates. Fear-inducing vocal growls litter the track and in brief moments give way to sinister harmony guitar lines full of exotic sounds. When it speeds up a little a slight sense of urgency forms, but the track still retains that crushing feel throughout.
“Wildland Fire” is the penultimate track and it returns us to the death metal approach once more… only this time there is a distinct groove-laden thrash line to it. Still retaining that pummeling edge from the previous track, Asphyx inject life into the lumbering beast, speeding it up with a late 80s thrash vibe. Fast riffs, frantic drums and rapid fills with some hard and loose vocals combine with the death metal nature of the band to unleash scorching hell of aggression and riffs, setting us up nice (and toasty!) for the closing track.
“Death: The Only Immortal” brings us to a close on this tremendous release. Slowing it down but retaining all the power from previous tracks, the track has that ominous feel to it. Distant vocals, harsh fuzzed bass and sustained sinister harmonies/melodies create a thick atmosphere. As it gets louder, it still retains that controlled pace, but allows for some slick fills which are subtly delivered under the dissonance and jarring guitars which drone out. Methodical, calculated and cold, it is a well composed piece to round the album off in style.
As mentioned earlier, blending two distinct genres can be rewarding provided it is done right. Asphyx once again show just how easy it comes for them. With atmospheric songs, clever arrangements and song placement which keeps the flow and feel of the album going, you seemlessly cross from death metal to doom with minimal fuss, high speed, angry snarls, riffs, and a slow, thunderous rhythm section which hammers away precisely and without mercy. In the end, all that matters is that Asphyx have come up with the goods in their usual uncompromising manner.
Death is on its way!
Born in the 80s, grew up with the 90s and confused by the millennial generation, I am Peter, more commonly known as Fraggle (long story, don’t ask, details are a little hazy!)
With a degree in biochemistry, an ever growing guitar collection and a job handling medication, things are far different to how I expected them to have turned out, but the one thing which hasn’t changed is how important music is in my life—it is one of my main passions, be it playing it, listening to it or attending it and experiencing it in the live setting (the way it is meant to be).
Blessed with a ‘proper punk/metal spirit’ (quote from Kailas), you will often encounter me at gigs or festivals with a beer firmly clutched in one hand and shirt in the other… Or these days, a pen and notepad too, maybe a camera if needed.