Asphyx’s Martin van Drunen Picks 5 Favorite Death-Metal Albums


Dutch metal pioneer talks Death demos, Autopsy’s “dirty sludge” and more

text Fred Pessaro

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The name Martin van Drunen is as crucial to the death-metal story now as it was at the dawn of the genre. For more than three decades the Dutch vocalist has been a cornerstone in the scene, thanks to his influential work with Pestilence, Asphyx, Bolt Thrower, Hail of Bullets, Death by Dawn and more. Since 2007 he’s been back fronting long-running death dealers Asphyx, whose new and 10th studio album, Necroceros, will arrive on January 22nd, 2021.

Before he became one of death-metal’s most distinctive vocalists, Van Drunen spent his time much like many other headbangers in the Eighties: trading demo tapes with like-minded metalheads across the globe. These trades yielded demos from many future icons and included some of the greatest death metal ever made by bands including Death, Autopsy, Possessed and many more. Below, he reveals five of his favorite death-metal recordings from that era.

Autopsy – Mental Funeral

When I got a copy of the album, we were already in contact with Autopsy. So we obtained all the demos back then because we were tape traders. They traded with us as Pestilence and we traded with them. So we got to know them after [Autopsy singer/drummer] Chris Reifert played on [Death’s] Scream Bloody Gore. So Pestilence would send their music over and Autopsy would send theirs until we got the first album Severed Survival, which is a bloody classic along with the demos. After that, Mental Funeral came out and maybe a lot of people will not agree with me, but I prefer it to Severed Survival. It’s got a groove and sometimes there is this death, dirty sludge to it. Mental Funeral is really an old-school death-metal album that has a lot of doom influences too. I love it. I feel like that’s when they kind of stepped it up and figured out who they were a little more — stepping ahead of the pack, that kind of thing.

Slaughter – Strappado

How many demos did they make? There were the Meatcleaver demos and rehearsals, but when they came with Strappado it was like, wow. It’s still a classic. It’s just raw and uncompromising. I don’t even think about the production or the quick, simple lyrics. It’s just: Our name is Slaughter and we deliver the goods! I still love that album.

Death – Infernal Death and Mutilation Demos

The thing with Death is although I like Scream Bloody Gore, we always preferred the demos, the times of the [Chuck Schuldiner’s pre-Death band] Mantas days. Yes, Massacre did it afterwards, but there was a bit too slick of a production for those tracks. Tracks like “Witch of Hell” and “Corpsegrinder” — those really were the monuments of death metal, that really simple one, two, three riffing. I prefer those demos like the Mutilation demo and the Infernal Death demo. So when Scream Bloody Gore came out, we were actually a little bit disappointed.

Nocturnus – The Science of Horror Demo

The same actually happened with the second Nocturnus [demo] The Science of Horror, which was the first time I heard death metal with keyboards in it. The first thought is that it’s not going to work, but that specific demo had such a great atmosphere. Those keyboards were really sinister. So I expected a lot from their [1990] debut The Key. So when that came out, I go, “What the hell did they do with them?” I was in contact with [vocalist/drummer] Mike Browning — he was really a nice guy — and wrote him, “Jesus what happened here? I’m sorry to say but I’m disappointed.”

Possessed – Seven Churches

Possessed’s Seven Churches was not as dirty maybe as some of the other albums that I mentioned before, but it almost felt like the violence they were singing about was actually for real. It was as if they were there in the bloody studio destroying the place, you know? They were just kids making this noise! They were doing something no one ever heard before. So this was really a bomb. We were just shocked, like, “This can’t be real. It’s so brutal.” Jeff [Becerra’s] voice sounded like it was from another planet. The way that the guys play the riffs. And sometimes we would discuss, like, “Is he really planning to drum the way he’s drumming on this album?” It’s a crazy album and it’s still fantastic. I still love to play it.

Carcass – Slaughtered In Soho

Carcass – “Despicable” Out Now On Nuclear Blast Records!


01. The Living Dead At The Manchester Morgue
02. The Long And Winding Bier Road
03. Under The Scalpel Blade (album version)
04. Slaughtered In Soho

“Here’s the final track from the offcuts of the new album recording session that we decided to make available as an EP in order to tide people over. David Castillo, who recorded and mixed the album, was surprised this never made the cut… we, the band, were NOT! Anyhow, grit your teeth and ‘enjoy’!”

-Jeff Walker



The name of the follow-up to 2013’s “Surgical Steel” was revealed by guitarist Bill Steer in an interview with Australia’s Heavy.

According to Steer, the title of the new CARCASS LP stems from a demo tape that the band’s founding drummer Ken Owen recorded when he was still a teenager. “He had a fictitious band called TORN ARTERIES and he recorded everything himself in his bedroom — guitar, and he’d actually bang on boxes and kind of scream into the mic,” Bill explained. “And the whole thing was so distorted, it kind of sounded super heavy, even though essentially you were listening to a guy with a Spanish guitar and a couple of boxes. I think Jeff [Walker, CARCASS bassist/vocalist] appreciates the connection to the past and the fact that it was another Ken Owen classic. So that was his choice, really, and it stuck.”

Steer went on to say that the “Torn Arteries” title is an homage of sorts to Owen, who suffered a brain hemorrhage in 1999 and hasn’t actively played with CARCASS for more than two decades.

“I can’t remember when this came up, but we were doing some press conference at a festival, and I think we all kind of agreed that even though Ken isn’t playing in the band as such right now, he’s kind of involved in everything we do, stylistically, because when he was so unique — when he was playing drums, his approach was just totally different,” Steer said. “Also, the riffs he came up with, they were just really far out there. They were loads of fun to learn. I still think, as a guitar player, some of the stuff was very unorthodox and it was quite a challenge. That kind of influence still runs through what we do today. Just as a friendship thing, we’re all still in touch regularly, and it’s just been great to see Ken‘s life stabilizing. Basically, he has a good standard of living and he’s a happy guy.”

Asked how long it took to record the new CARCASS album, Bill said: “I couldn’t really tell you, because it was done in several chunks, and it was the first time we’ve really done this. In the past, there’d be one session, or maybe a couple of long sessions, whereas this was a week here and a week there. So it did feel like a long time. I [couldn’t tell you] exactly how many days or weeks that was. Obviously, quality control is a huge factor with us, ’cause you want the thing to be as good as it can be. And the fact that we don’t record with a click track, the whole thing is not on a grid, so you can’t copy and paste a verse or a chorus, like some bands might do. And that’s a good thing, but it also means you’ve gotta spend longer [recording everything].”

Steer also confirmed that the new CARCASS song “Under The Scalpel Blade”, which was released last December as a digital single, will appear on the group’s upcoming seventh LP.

“I think it’s one of the more conservative tunes off the album,” the guitarist said. “There aren’t really many elements in that song that are brand new to CARCASS. If you’re gonna pick it apart and analyze it, there’s definitely things that remind the listener of things we might have done in the past. For various reasons, it appeared to be the best song to put out there first. It’s also one of the safer numbers on the album, I would say.”

Steer also talked about the addition of second guitarist Tom Draper (POUNDER, ex-ANGEL WITCH, PRIMITAI), who made his live debut with CARCASS in March 2018 at the Netherlands Deathfest at 013 in Tilburg.

“[Tom] is from Southern England, but for the last few years, he’s been living in California,” Bill said. “Yeah, he’s just been a really great addition to the group. He’s incredibly organized and methodical. His attention to detail is very impressive, because it takes a lot of patience and a long attention span to learn this type of stuff and really nail the nuances. But, yeah, that’s totally his bag — he’s been into that kind of thing. He’s just great to have onboard.”

Asked if Tom has contributed at all to the songwriting on “Torn Arteries”, Bill said: “Nah. To be honest, the bulk of the material was written a very long time ago. Once we were up and running, we added to that. Given the history of the band, the fact that it goes back so far, to the ’80s, it’s kind of a difficult thing to bring in a new guitar player and expect him to be a contributor. ‘Cause live is one thing, but the studio is like a microscope kind of situation where everything, stylistically, becomes very, very noticeable. That was the same thing that happened with ‘Surgical’. Some people perhaps didn’t see the sleeve notes or read the sleeve notes, but they had the impression that there were two guitarists on the record, but there weren’t. It’s such a lengthy process recording this type of music, or at least with this band — I assume it’s probably the same for other bands in our genre — but it’s just one thing that makes things move a little bit quicker, if you’ve got one guitar player doing as much as possible.”

“Surgical Steel” sold around 8,500 copies in the United States in its first week of release to debut at position No. 41 on The Billboard 200 chart.