Before the half-baked conspiracy theories take hold, we have it on good authority from vocalist Martin van Drunen himself that the title to Asphyx’s latest and 10th album has nothing to do with rabid, death-obsessed rhinoceroses exacting revenge on poachers or the Grim Reaper trading in Binky for a new mode of transport.
In actuality, the title pertains to a fictional space entity of Martin’s active imagination visiting and devouring planet Earth. The coronavirus-imposed downtime not only steered the frontman’s brain toward offbeat conceptual corners, but also allowed the Dutch deathsters to focus on their first full-length since 2016’s Incoming Death.
With the band’s first steady line-up since the early 90s propelling the creative flow, Asphyx have expanded their reach. Whispers of stagnation have been addressed by a broader array of tempos, textures racing straight outta the 80s and even sly expressions of humour. The album’s dynamic puzzle pieces lock in some of the fastest material in the band’s history with their customary slow-to-mid pace wallop. Knights Templar Stand advances like a caffeinated army of the dead and The Sole Cure Is Death racks in as an epic tour de force gravitating between thrashy Bay Area gallops and knuckle-dragging doom.
When the slo-mo trudge does take over, as on Three Years Of Famine and In Blazing Oceans, layers of anthemic guitar melodies are stacked atop swaying progressions inspired by Candlemass, classic Dio and Ride The Lightning’s most infectious moments. And for a band with a career-long laser focus on death and the dark side to lighten the mood with a song about the perils of vanity (Botox Implosion), and for Martin to pull cock-rockin’ moves like calling out “Solo!” before Paul Baayens bends his strings skyward, shows a band unafraid to look beyond constraint. And they’re doing so with one of their best works yet.