While anyone with a passing interest in Death Metal will most likely own a copy of Asphyx’s 1991 classic debut album The Rack only the most devoted of fans will have kept track of the various break-ups and splits the band has endured since then. For the uninitiated, Soulburn were formed by ex-Asphyx alumni Bob Bagchus and Eric Daniels in 1997 along with Pentacle singer Wanns Gubbels to record Feeding on Angels after their parent band disbanded. Rebranding themselves as Asphyx didn’t prevent them from splitting again in 2000. Reuniting again last year, the latest incarnation of the band have decided to once again indulge their love for Bathory and Venom along with old school Doom and Death Metal. Thankfully their long awaited sophomore record The Suffocating Darkness (all Century Media) is worth the wait.
After a cheesy faux-Satanic intro, the grim, mid-paced riffing of ‘Under the Rise of a Red Moon’ and ‘The Mirror Void’ are suitably diabolic reminders that the members know how to wield power with atmosphere, with the thrashy breakout of the latter especially raising the hackles with its primal energy. With a variety of styles competing for attention and the members seemingly unbothered over which camp to pitch their tent in, we are left with a set of thoroughly enjoyable metal workouts that should raise the horns from fans of all the aforementioned genres. The guitar tone in particular is dense and all-consuming, giving the likes of black/death hybrid ‘Hymn of the Forsaken II’ a menacing feel while the drawn-out, apocalyptic horror of ‘I Do Not Bleed From Your Crown of Thorns’ is Doom/Death at its most crushing.
Given the history of the band, it doesn’t take a cynic to wonder how long Soulburn will be around. But if the strength of the material on The Suffocating Darkness is an indication of things to come, it would be wise to keep an eye on these Dutch masters.