[Cover artwork: Adi Dechristianze]
If you wanted to give someone an example of a straight-down-the-middle form of brutal death metal, you could do much worse than selecting Indonesia’s Asphyxiate. While a whole heap of bands push one trait or another ‒ lightspeed blasts, trash-cannier snare, piggly wiggly vocals, muddier sound, etc. ‒ Asphyxiate prefers to ease off the extra extreme edges of this most extreme form of extremity in favor of focusing on things like great riffs, airtight performances, and wicked tunes. As a result, fourth album Altar of Decomposed comes at you like a steamroller. It is, as they say, how to do the damn thing.
So yeah, Asphyxiate absolutely leans hard on their influences, but they do so with such skill and understanding of their craft that Altar of Decomposed ends up being nonstop entertainment for its mega efficient sub-32-minute run time. It helps that the record has a totally professional air about it ‒ top notch production and a monster guitar tone, the aforementioned precision and instrumental craft ‒ but key is also that Asphyxiate knows when to bring out the heavy machinery for some brutal thunder.
Sometimes this means a full on slam, sometimes the push-and-pull trudge towards the end of “Sickening Canvas of the Dead” (killer drumming in that spot too), and sometimes it’s the crawling heft in the middle of “Desecration Through Slaughter.” It could also mean staying in that beefiest of metal spaces for a full song, as is the case in the title track. The main thing is to drop a few (or many) BPM, get those detuned guitars way down in the detuned range, and deliver material about as heavy as anything in all of metaldom.
Altar of Decomposed is proof that you don’t need to necessarily be more ludicrous to stand out in a style of music as automatically bonkers as brutal death metal, you just have to be better. Asphyxiate doesn’t break any new ground, but they break just about everything else in their path.