In a fictional world in the (perhaps) not-too-distant future that finds three quarters of the population suddenly wiped out and yours truly somehow surviving, there will be a night spent at a quiet campfire in the middle of a makeshift city where a small child named Dar will ask of me: “What…what does your shirt say?”
“Why, it says ASPHYX, Dar,” shall be my answer, “Do you know the legend of The Asphyx?”
“No,” he will reply, cow-eyed and overwhelmed with curiosity.
Me: “The Asphyx was a legendary beast spawned from a cave hidden deep in the rotting ruins of a castle in a place that was once known as THE NETHERLANDS. This beast was powerful, and it was haunted with a need to paralyze, corrupt and crush the weak in its creeping, catastrophic grip. It would summon humans marked at birth to serve its intention through the liberation of rotten death-doom music that would bedevil all those within earshot. And this beast summoned the hands of many men for many, many years.”
Dar: “So…it was, like, a band?”
Me: “Well, yes, technically. But it was much more than just a band, DAR. Many believe the Asphyx was primordial, and that it didn’t really matter who embodied its gruesome physique, as long as those who rendered its power were dedicated to GRIM DEATH through slow, unyielding ruin…”
Dar: “Um… Are you trying to creep me out by shining the camp’s only flashlight under your face while you’re telling this story? Isn’t that a waste of batteries?”
Me: “THAT DOESN’T MATTER, DAR. The point is…”
And then Tom Hanks will suddenly butt in and say: “You know, Dar, I once had a great deal of regard for The Asphyx myself. But it was really at its peak early in its creation and eventually became a little too slick and overstated in the later years – something that befell many a legendary creature/band during the time before The Great Cleansing.”
And I shall reply: “Oh really, Tom. You know, I never would have pinned you as one of those ‘I only like the demos’ kind of guy. ‘Sully’ was a much better movie than ‘He Knows You’re Alone,’ you know.”
And then we’ll all be taken prisoner and I’ll be tortured and killed because all the noise we’re making will give away our position to a group of vagabonds desperate to loot our water supply.
. . . . .
Graciously, Asphyx still torments the innocent today. But much to the chagrin of the Tom Hanks’s of the world, the current incarnation has no original members left, due to the relatively recent departure of drummer Bob Bagchus following 2012’s Deathhammer. The ultimate goal remains “death…the brutal way,” however, and we still have the consummate pipes of the man most of us directly associate with Asphyx, Martin van Drunen. His gravelly snarl hasn’t lost an inch of its edge over these many years, and it’s very simply the ideal representation of the corrosive voice behind the beast.
As far as the overall approach to the music’s concerned, Incoming Death falls directly in line with what’s been happening since the band rumbled back into the spotlight with 2009’s Death… The Brutal Way. The goal perseveres to crush, and it does so with the continued cooperation of the modern, well-groomed mix/mastering work of Dan Swäno and Unisound Studios. Some might argue for a dirtier, less “crunchy” approach, but a production such as this embiggens the punch of the heftier numbers, of which there are plenty. If the heft of a song like “Forerunners of the Apocalypse” doesn’t flatten your honker, you probably shouldn’t have taken that left turn at Albuquerque and landed in the damn neighborhood in the first place.
Other differences compared across the last two records are subtle, but effective. Mostly, the extremes are simply extremer. Faster cuts such as the opening “Candiru” and the surprisingly brief title track are more hostile, and the slower songs creep a little more creepily. “The Grand Denial” and “Subterra Incognita” are the most overt crawlers, but the latter manages to outdo the former simply because it does it in a burlier, more concise manner. The final song “Death: The Only Immortal” plods in a similar manner over the majority of its eight minutes, but the curiously pretty, somber guitar work that wraps up the last few minutes feels appropriate for the album’s closure.
What also works in Incoming Death’s favor are the nuances that become clear after repeated listens through the big-boy speakers or a nice set of headphones (sidenote: this is Asphyx; don’t do yourself a disservice by listening to the record through laptop speakers or Earduds). The wallop is as palpable (and Bolt Thrower-y) as a grinding tank on “It Came from the Skies,” and there are moments when the death-doom is downright Candlemassive – about two minutes into “Wardroid” and around the midsection of the absurdly heavy (musically and thematically) “The Feeder.”
The only blemishes deal with the fact that the album’s two longest songs could benefit from additional shaving (just because it’s slow doesn’t mean it has to be stretched), and the weakest link, “Division Brandenburg,” drops right after the heavy hitting opener. Apart from that, you will get 100% of what you came here to receive: A forty minute fix of pummeling, unyielding Asphyx, and that’s obviously a good thing.
If life can be perceived as a gift, its only true promise is death. You can either spend worthless hours worrying about that caveat, or find ways to revel in the grim certainty. Incoming Death and Asphyx are here to help usher in the festivities.