Asphyx – Necroceros (Century Media)

Asphyx have little left to prove.

Their pulverizing early 90s output brought Dutch death metal to international attention. Their post-reunion material – beginning with 2009’s Death… The Brutal Way – solidified their reputation as one of global DM’s most treasured acts. Even the 2014 departure of founding drummer Bob Bagchus did little to slow them down.

But there’s always at least some room for improvement.

And the now stable quartet of vocalist Martin van Drunen, six-stringer Paul Baayens, bassist Alwin Zuur and drummer Stefan Hüskens have upped their game for Necroceros.

2016’s Incoming Death – the first album to feature this line-up – had some impressive moments, with the titanic title track and Wildland Fire in particular splitting heads.

But Necroceros – named after an extra-terrestrial entity from Van Drunen’s imagination – is a more fulfilling and dynamic record that its predecessor. The transitions between war march pace to full cavalry charge are deftly executed, both within and across the album’s ten songs.

And Necroceros crackles with the energy of a band confident of their direction and completely in sync with each other.

The mix (courtesy of Sebastian ‘Seeb’ Levermann) is noticeably more muscular too. It gives this material the bunker-busting power it deserves.

The highlights?

Molten Black Earth puts you on a bloody battlefield, facing a hail of 88mm shells and barrage after barrage of Baayens’ apocalyptic riffery. In Blazing Oceans tells an unforgiving tale of naval terror while creeping along like a steel-hulled, undersea predator. And Yield Or Die – as the name suggests – is chainmail coated, broadsword swinging heavy metal, which bounces to a crunching groove.

Fans of the Dutchmen’s death doom leanings will find plenty of sustenance in Three Years Of Famine and Mount Skull, but on The Sole Cure Is Death, Asphyx also remind us of just how ferocious they can be.

In truth, there’s very little fat on Necroceros.

The title track, which closes the band’s tenth full length, is a touch anti-climactic.

But on the whole, this is a lean, mean Asphyx album, which zeroes in on the Dutchmen’s best attributes… and defines their planet slaying sound.