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Asphyx - Last One on Earth
Review: Asphyx stands out among death metal bands for combining two sets of things: European melodic sensibility and American-style thunderous, simple, rhythmically-compelling riffs; doom metal's dramatic presentation and death metal's organic fusion of protean, tortuous and wiry riffs into a narrative in which cycles of repetition expand the context in which the next riff will be interpreted, creating a changing topography and sense of vast inner space.
On their second full-length, Asphyx focus less on melody and more on repetition of powerful rhythm riffs in songs that gradually expand from two complementary riffs to include others, then reduce themselves to the bare minimum, and then find a concluding processional-style riff that drives the song home to a more advanced version of its originating riff. The result sounds random at first, and like a techno song keeps up the rhythmic intensity at near uniform levels until it can break it and transition to another stage of ritual.
The muted strum that speed metal made distinctive finds a use here as an anchor to otherwise flowing death metal riffs, hooking a rhythm and then possessing it by overstatement, such that a constant surging sound fills the ears like the echo of car noise as the car passes through a tunnel at high speed. With the torn throat vocals of Martin van Drunen whipping these rhythms toward excitation, and understated drums stretching fills to offset an elemental form of cadenced pocket drumming, these songs charge forward with a mechanical interpretation of the organic as exhibited in the abstractions that unite their riffs in the mind of the listener.
The hookish rhythms of chorus vocals suggest early Destruction, Pestilence, Obituary or Master, but many influences blend smoothly in this muscular and purposeful voice. While this album backs down from some of the more epic moments that Asphyx delivers during its length career, it compensates with a form of militant intensity that allows raw collision between its ambition to soar and its pathology of cudgel-sculpting the skulls of its listeners.