I never could see me wanting to pick up an arm and head into battle, but I oddly really enjoy music that makes me daydream about it. There’s something about aggressive, galloping music that packs a fury and causes me to think about catapults smashing the sides of castles, fleets of planes liberating a town under tyrannical rule, giants doing battle, wielding clubs the size of people. And I’m a pacifist!
But metal’s concentrated on war quite a bit from the start, so it’s become a part of its DNA. A lot of times the music decries battles and bloodshed, sometimes it glorifies it, yet other instancess it recalls times of great struggles that led to telling a nation’s story. Iron Maiden’s “Run to the Hills” always comes to mind as a song that gets the adrenaline going, no matter what atrocities it details. Bands such as Bolt Thrower, Cobalt and Black Pyramid also work well when wanting to immerse oneself in the chaos of battle, as do Hail of Bullets, a war-centric outfit whose inclusion in today’s piece is quite fitting.
This leads up to “Deathhammer,” the punishing new effort from Dutch death/doom warriors Asphyx, whose frontman Martin Van Drunen and guitarist Paul Baayens also comprise part of Hail of Bullets’ lineup. Van Drunen also did time with Bolt Thrower as well as Pestilence, so his commitment to firepower is well known. Yet Asphyx aren’t concentrated on war, per se. They delve into death and destruction and pain and sorrow and madness in every realm. You don’t go to an Asphyx record to find a positive note to start your day, unless of course you are headed out onto a battlefield. But if your daily tumult is too much and you need an escape into a fantasy world where you could detonate the very things that ail you, by all means, treat yourself to “Deathhammer.” Just keep that violence in your mind, where it belongs. This music should be used as a mental release.
This is the second album with Van Drunen back in front of the band (their eighth overall), following up 2009’s awesome “Death … The Brutal Way,” a record that really doesn’t need a description. Just read the title. It was a fine return to form for the band, and now “Deathhammer” takes that several steps further. This thing sounds flat-out mean. There’s no mercy to be had, no hand up from the ground, no compassion for anyone in its path. You get steamrolled over and over again by the band’s potent mix of death metal and doom, and if the music comprised a real killing machine, all that would be left of you when it’s over would be bone fragments and charred flesh.
This son of a bitch meets you head on as soon as it begins, as the band launches “Into the Timewaste,” a grindy, thrashy mauler of a track that doesn’t intend to allow room for breathing. From there, the earth-swallowing title track kicks in, then stops, then ignites again, and it’s sure to be a fan favorite. Van Drunen howls, “This is real death metal, you bastards!” as the rest of the band takes up arms and drowns your senses in a bomb raid of mashing and menace. The chorus is so simple, but it resonates and likely will result in shout backs live. There are some longer, typically doomier cuts on here such as war-torn “Minefield,” where the guitars remind a bit of vintage Celtic Frost and the presentation feels kind of ceremonial; “Der Landser,” that also talks of a young solider, battlefields, conscription and hell on earth; “We Doom You to Death,” that has a nice sludgy finish; and the ominous and plodding “As the Magma Mammoth Rises,” a song that hulks along like it’s fictional title creature might.
There also are blasts of faster, quicker numbers such as ferocious and clubbing “Of Days When Blades Turn Blunt”; “Reign of the Brute,” a post-Apocalyptic nightmare that’s creepy, crawly and completely savage; and “The Flood,” a flattening number that’s of the flash, tidal wave variety. It leaves your head spinning and you gasping for air.
Asphyx certainly continue to get better with age, and they’ve never sounded more pissed off than they do on “Deathhammer.” Van Drunen’s raspy growls and shouts are a credit to the genre, and the rest of the band shows a hunger and desire most of the band half their ages couldn’t match after a case of Red Bull. This truly is real death metal, the brutal way, and the manner in which it was intended. All hail Asphyx, one of the true rulers of the metallic world. Now, where’s my sword?
For more on the band, go here: http://www.asphyx.nl/
To buy the album, go here: http://www.cmdistro.com/Search/asphyx
For more on the label, go here: http://centurymedia.com/