A brutal nod is given to the old school.
For most that have been paying attention to what has been going on in metal and rock circles in Europe since the turn of the millennium, the name Michael Poulsen has no doubt become synonymous with the highly acclaimed Danish heavy/groove metal outfit Volbeat, which he has been fronting for more than 20 years now.
What is perhaps more privileged information exclusive to those with some knowledge of Northern Europe’s rich history as a purveyor of death metal throughout the 90s is that Poulsen originally cut his teeth as the helmsman of a prominent old school death outfit in Dominus that represented a substantial part of the Danish wing of said movement, running in similar circles with the likes of Carcass, Entombed, Grave, among others; and much like Swedish counterparts Unleashed, were an early purveyor of marrying the style to Viking themes before it was popularized by Amon Amarth.
Indeed, the band Volbeat’s very name was taken from Dominous’ stylistically transitional 1997 studio album, leading one to wonder if maybe this more mainline metal personality was harboring a desire to turn back the clock to a darker and simpler time.
Asinhell, a project born out of Poulsen’s songwriting efforts for Volbeat’s 2021 LP “Servant Of The Mind”, could be likened to a newly formed continuation of what Dominus was during its more stylistically conservative run in the early to mid-1990s. Having drawn pretty blatantly from the same well of ideas that formed the bulk of the brutal yet more simplified side of the Swedish and Florida death metal scenes via the earliest and most thrashing offerings of Death, Entombed, Obituary and Unleashed; the resulting debut opus dubbed “Impii Hora” (Latin for “Ungodly Hour”) has all the makings of a compelling and utterly ferocious throwback.
Having tapped the engineering and session bass handiwork of fellow Danish old school extreme metal icon turned producer Jacob Hansen, every crevice of this album is oozing with early 90s dankness and fury. Likewise, the thunderous kit work of Blood Eagle drummer Morten Toft Hansen and the occasional shred-happy solos provided by guest guitarist Flemming Lund of The Arcane Order meld seamlessly with Poulsen’s gritty and highly infectious riffs. Codifying this fiendish reminiscence of the old ways of sonic death and decay is former Morgoth vocalist Marc Grewe, who still brings that signature low-end grunt with a forceful edge like his 1991 incarnation had been brought 32 years forward in time.
As a well-rounded book of brutality told in 10 harrowing chapters, this is an album that relies on adherence to tradition and a consistent barrage of distinctive riffs to seal the deal. There is a latent sense of melodic consonance that lingers among several entries here that undoubtedly speaks to a strong blend of death ‘n’ roll sensibilities and late 80s thrash influences, with entries like the fast-thrashing opener “Fall Of The Loyal Warrior” and the swampy speeder “Desert Of Doom” that occasionally resembling a missing link between Entombed’s “Clandestine” and “Wolverine Blues”, though also drawing pretty heavily from Grave’s more dissonant early entries.
Other entries like “Island Of Dead Men” cut things a little closer to the ultra-heavy, down-tuned brand of brutality one might expect from Cannibal Corpse, while the riff happy extravagance of “Pyromantic Scryer” and the flashy “The Ultimate Sin” flirt a bit with the transitional early 90s stylings of Death, with Lund’s rich harmonic solo contribution to the latter sounding about as gripping as those found on “Spiritual Healing” and “Human”. But what truly brings home the old school glory like it’s back in style is the closing barrage of the title anthem “Impii Hora”, which covers just about every base on the old school playing field, and is even chased by a less than subtle nod to Napalm Death with a closing 5-second addendum “Foj For Helvede”.
When it comes to modern nods to the good old days, while bands like Rude, Skeletal Remains and Gruesome have definitely been apt to the task of reminding us why the old guard’s approach was so captivating, there is something about the crop that was originally there rediscovering the old art that just comes with an added level of gravitas.
Particularly when it comes to recapturing the multifaceted blend of melodic melancholy, dank nastiness, and rustic thrash-inspired riffing that came to typify most of the early proponents of the Swedish sound, Michael Poulsen and his impressive roster of collaborators have definitely brought one of the most compelling entries into the fray within recent years. Though Asinhell is a project that was basically born out of a spontaneous fit of songwriting while penning a very different album for an established and highly in-demand band, it’s definitely one that will have a lot of staying power if the mastermind behind it continues to feel thusly inspired.
“Impii Hora” is the sort of compact and well-constructed albums that just about any death metal fan can sink their teeth into, though those with a limited tolerance for all the parasites and dark spiritual forces that come with a diet of rotting flesh and occult-themes are encouraged to listen with care.
Released By: Metal Blade Records
Release Date: September 29th, 2023
Genre: Old-School Death Metal
- Marc Grewe / Lead vocals
- Michael Poulsen / Guitars, Bass
- Flemming Lund / Guitar
- Morten Toft Hansen / Drums
“Impii Hora” Track-Listing:
1. Fall Of The Loyal Warrior
2. Inner Sancticide
3. Island Of Dead Men
5. The Ultimate Sin
6. Wolfpack Laws
7. Desert Of Doom
8. Pyromantic Scryer
9. Impii Hora
10. Foj For Helvede
Order “Impii Hora” HERE.
The album is available in the following formats:
- Jewel case CD
- 180g Black Vinyl (Europe excl.)
- Crimson Red Marbled Vinyl (Europe excl.)
- White Vinyl (Europe excl., ltd. 1000)
- Gold/Black Dust (EMP excl., ltd.300)
- Clear w/ Red/White Splatter Vinyl (Europe Band store excl., ltd. 500)
- Silver Vinyl (US excl.)
- Silver w/ Red Splatter Vinyl (US. excl.)
- Black & White Melt Vinyl (US excl.)
- Red/Black Splatter Vinyl (US Band store excl., ltd. 500)
Reaching back into a past that few likely remember, iconic Danish rocker and Volbeat vocalist/guitarist Michael Poulsen taps into his obscure past and delivers a truly gut-wrenching sonic assault in line with the glory days of early European death metal mainstays Entombed, Benediction, Morgoth and others via a highly credible debut outing courtesy of his newly forged band Asinhell