ASPHYX Brings the Doom and Groove on Necroceros

          These Netherlanders have been creating their own breed of Death Metal and Doom since 1987 and need no introduction. Their work has been well-received since the beginning, even gaining support from none other than Euronymous and Dead of MAYHEM at a time when the Norwegian scene was starting to rebel against the trends of Death Metal. According to founding member Bob Bagchus in Albert Mundrian’s book Choosing Death: The Improbable History of Death Metal & Grindcore, some early ASPHYX material inspired a riff Euronymous wrote for MAYHEM, and Dead is even wearing an ASPHYX shirt on the Live in Leipzig album. Their legendary status is unquestionable, and though none of the original members remain, the style lives on with the current line-up, and Necroceros easily brutalizes early 2021 with a crushing new slab of classic Death Metal.

            The album is off to an energetic and pummeling start on “The Sole Cure is Death” with fast heavy riffs, moments of double bass drumming, and Martin’s commanding vocals. Then the tempo slows to a mid-pace with more intricate melodies before plunging into the first dose of doom. These elements all ooze together like dark lava within the dense production and breathe fresh life into the old school Death Metal sound. It continues on “Molten Black Earth” with more crushing riffs amidst a sinister melody and slow groove. Another groove also dominates the first half of “Mount Skull,” which then builds in pace and leads to the album’s first guitar solo. “Knights Templar Stand” focuses on the mid-paced groove while also combining single heavy notes into more doomy riffing.

            While the first part of the album is mostly straightforward, an atmosphere really manifests on “Three Years of Famine.” Its doomy main riff reeks of BLACK SABBATH, and the guitars keep to a slow pulse until a melancholic hook adds to the utter desolation of the track. A folkish soundscape suggesting some ancient time is created during the short break with clean guitars and wind effects. The mournful melodies and crushing riffs continue building until the song’s conclusion. This is appropriately followed by “Botox Implosion,” which is a faster song that starts with a laugh and conveys a sense of comic relief after the dismal tone of its predecessor. “In Blazing Oceans” has more memorable hooks, and sections of riffing and double bass that hit like heavy artillery. The groove returns on “The Nameless Elite,” and its doomy riff has a hint of the same dissonance commonly heard in Black Metal riffing. Heavy chugging riffs alternate with catchy chord progressions to full effect on “Yield or Die,” and the title track is a suitably epic finale that begins with subtle atmospherics, ritualistic drumming, and a monstrous bass guitar sound. This only builds further when the tremolo riff enters in, and then the song delivers one more massive blast of groove and crushing riffage along with a spacey hook before the rhythmic and tremolo riffs combine with the atmospheric effects and bring its end.

            These songs focus on the more savage aspects of humanity through a number of stories and topics. “The Sole Cure is Death” describes a massive prison riot and inmate escape, and these prisoners are hunted down and exterminated after wreaking havoc on the larger society. “Mount Skull” is about a doomed expedition to Antarctica where the explorers succumb either to the brutal climate, or the beast lurking in the depths of the cave they seek refuge in. A variety of war themes are covered, including The Battle of Kursk on “Molten Black Earth,” The Knights Templar and Medieval Crusades on “Knights Templar Stand,” and modern special ops against terrorism on “The Nameless Elite.” An oil freighter being sunk by German submarines on its way to aid Great Britain is also the main theme for “In Blazing Oceans.”

            “Three Years of Famine” is about The Great Chinese Famine and has obvious political implications. Then “Botox Implosion” mocks peoples’ physical insecurities, and their futile attempts at covering up imperfections and aging. “Yield or Die” describes the brutal realities of life and survival during the times of ancient tribal civilizations. And finally, “Necroceros” is the name of a sci-fi oriented being that feeds off celestial bodies and the universe and is making its way towards Earth. There is much to reflect on here, and you can also check out this interview with Martin for more on the creative process behind the album.

            ASPHYX is not a band that disappoints, and Necroceros is a solid work showing that classic Death Metal remains in good standing. Some may be let down by the shortage of faster material on the album, which could be a valid complaint depending on your preferences. However, ASPHYX has always been known more for their crushing Doom elements, and I won’t fault them for focusing more on mid-paced groove and atmosphere this time around. Any lack of speed is made up for with more epic dynamics on songs like “Three Years of Famine” and “Necroceros.” This elemental shift is what makes Necroceros its own distinct monster, and it should be easily accessible to anyone who enjoys the old school Death Metal sound.

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