Dark Asphyxia - The Executioner (Album)
I must confess that I haven’t listened to a band that terms itself as ‘extreme metal’ in quite a while – perhaps the last might have been The Acacia Strain’s new record, Coma Witch, in 2014, and I remember going off the genre for quite a while because that album was pretty crap in comparison to everything else that the band has done. I felt like I’d been punched in the face when Coma Witch came out, and not in the good way that music beats the shit out of you.
Thankfully, there exist a handful of bands in the UK scene (I can’t think of any off the top of my head from America, except maybe Fallujah’s The Harvest Wombs or Nomadic albums, though even they have shied away from that style of metal since then, going onto create masterpieces such as The Flesh Prevails and Dreamless.) One of these bands just so happens to be Hertfordshire’s own Dark Asphyxia, hailing from Letchworth, and they’ve made it their goal to make sure everyone knows what they’re capable of with their new EP, The Executioner.
I’ll be honest – when I first played this EP, I wasn’t bowled over. I was far from unimpressed; don’t get me wrong – the instrumentation is remarkable. Tons of in-your-face, thrashy riffs from guitarists Jack Allen and Lewis Smith, followed up by a pounding rhythm section, but I just couldn’t get my head around the vocals and lyrics – it seemed way too contrived, a little too pseudo-Carcass/Cannibal Corpse for my personal tastes, uncomfortably reminiscent of the cringe-worthy lyrical abortion that was the latest Muse album, or the more recent Bullet For My Valentine stuff. However, as I listened to the EP a couple of more times, the vocals and lyrics became more and more familiar and fitting with the actual riffs, melodies, solos and breakdowns of Dark Asphyxia itself. They were still a bit daft and silly, of course, but that simply comes with the territory of extreme/technical/death/black metal, and it’s hard to avoid. I used to not be able to listen to Iron Maiden for a large period of time because I thought they were a group of naff old men singing about equally naff old subject matter, but these prejudices drop away, especially in Dark Asphyxia’s case, in which the context follows (what I assume to be) a convict facing condemnation for his crimes and having to play the ultimate price. Good fun and metal as fuck.
As far as the music goes, The Executioner is one of the few albums or just releases in general that I’ve listened to recently that have actually been relatively consistent throughout, especially as way too many emerging bands nowadays often just include filler tracks with little to no effort behind them. Kicking things off is Condemned, a bouncing, aggressive piece of work, constantly switching between grinding, slow tempos, fast upbeat riffs and some interesting time signature changes; at this point I really do have to compliment Dark Asphyxia on their production quality (aside from the bass sounding a little too like Follow the Leader-era Korn), as it makes the EP a genuine pleasure to listen to, even as you’re being called a “f****** c***” towards the end of the opener.
But the shining light of the EP has to be Gallows, which is the aural equivalent of sticking your head in an industrial trash compactor, with riffs and drumming that puts one in mind of Meshuggah’s earlier stuff or perhaps Metallica’s And Justice For All, as the cleans towards the end of the song definitely conjure up the mental image of some banging late eighties hair metal. Dark Asphyxia definitely has some work to do in terms of composition – some of the songs on The Executioner, while very aggressive, do run the risk of blending into each other a little too much and losing their individual identities. However, other than that, I was really pleased with The Executioner and firmly contest that these lads have a lot to offer.