The post-millenial rebirth of Asphyx continues apace, and I for one am most pleased. Considering their reformation in 2007 was intended to be for live shows only and not meant to result in them recording anything, for the band to now be two albums into a second career is pretty remarkable. 2009′s Death…The Brutal Way showcased a band determined to make death metal in the old school mould whilst taking advantage of modern production to ensure that every riff, every drum hit, every scream was delivered with maximum possible impact, and Deathhammer refines and attempts to perfect this template.
That isn’t to say they take no risks – gone, for example, is the traditional atmospheric introduction track (that we all skip anyway, let’s be honest) in favour of throwing the listener directly into the deep end. ‘Into The Timewaste’, as a leadoff track and statement of intent for the album, well, it’s pretty unequivocal – pretty much as all-out as Asphyx have ever got for the first minute, it breaks down via a solo bass riff into a trademark midpaced chugging groove at perfect headbanging tempo for the middle section before ramping back up to ramming speed. It’s the title track that really sets the band’s stall though. The crushing intro riffs slip away to leave a solitary guitar under Martin van Drunen issuing the soon-to-be legendary call of “This is true death metal you bastards!” then the whole band crashes in – the effect is breathtaking. Brutally heavy, packed with riffs and a catchy chorus and done in less than two and a half minutes, ‘Deathhammer’ is as addictive as it is fun and should see hairy blokes racking up the visits to the neck-doctor.
‘Minefield’ lowers the (comparatively) frantic pace – one of the key things about Asphyx is the huge slug of doom in their sound, and this track revels in some of the darkest, bleakest chugging this side of a Celtic Frost fan’s nightmares. It also sets the stage for the remainder of the album – van Drunen and co. seem to have decided that rather than do anything tricksy or confusing like switch up tempos mid-song, it’s far better to concentrate on one thing at a time. So, there’s a fairly even split between skin-crawling, filthy doom like ‘Minefield’, ‘Der Landser’, ‘We Doom You To Death’ and hammering, hair-knotting, balls-out catchy death metal like ‘Vespa Crabro’ and ‘The Flood’ for the rest of the record, and being honest, the tactic works perfectly – it’s a record of two halves, but the running order is structured such that the pacing of Deathhammer is nigh-on perfect.
It only behaves this way until the final track, though. ‘As The Magma Mammoth Rises’ sees a different approach to the rest of the record, its Bathory-esque monotone trudge split by a shift in both tempo and atmosphere so abrupt and alarming that the first listen actually prompted me to utter “What the actual FUCK!” out loud. It’s the ideal end to an album so full of an obvious love of PROPER death metal, so catchy without sacrificing a jot of heaviness, so well-written, performed, recorded and sequenced that it’s impossible for me to do anything but recommend you get Deathhammer-ed.