By Greg Maki
Have you ever thought to yourself, “What would it sound like if the singer of Volbeat made a death metal album?” No? Yeah, I didn’t think so.
As some know, before starting Volbeat and taking the band from Denmark to international success, Michael Poulsen fronted the death metal act Dominus, which released four albums from 1994 to 2000. Now, all these years later, with Volbeat at last having a suitable break in its busy schedule, Poulsen has returned to his more extreme musical roots with his new band Asinhell.
So, what does it sound like when the singer of Volbeat makes a death metal album?
“Impii Hora” (Latin for “Ungodly Hour”), Asinhell’s debut record, is about as authentic as can be. This is not some kind of experiment or curiosity; death metal has been in Poulsen’s DNA since his teenage years, and this album would fit in perfectly among the output of Death, Entombed and other classic acts of the subgenre. Poulsen literally worked out these songs in a garage with drummer Morten Toft Hansen (Raunchy), before later enlisting former Morgoth vocalist Marc Grewe, and while recording occurred in a proper studio, there’s a youthful energy and enthusiasm behind the music. (Producer Jacob Hansen played bass on the recording, while Flemming C. Lund of The Arcane Order contributed some lead guitar.)
While Volbeat mixes and matches from a variety of genres, Asinhell provides a nonstop, 40-minute metallic onslaught. At the same time, the production and Poulsen’s approach to writing allow some space, a little breathing room, around the pummeling riffs and rhythms that contributes a certain musicality to the recording. One can almost hear Poulsen singing over this, and it wouldn’t sound too out of place. Vocals, though, are solely Grewe’s responsibility here, and while he never wavers from his patented growl, his approach is nuanced enough to create discernible, memorable hooks.
But make no mistake, from beginning to end “Impii Hora” is heavy and unrelenting. With lyrics covering topics such as war, serial killers, cannibalism and Satan, this is as metal as it gets. Standout tracks include singles “Fall of the Loyal Warrior” and “Island of Dead Men,” along with “Trophies,” “The Ultimate Sin” (not an Ozzy cover) and “Wolfpack Laws.”
One does not play death metal to get rich, so it’s refreshing and exhilarating to see Poulsen use his downtime to pursue a passion. While Volbeat obviously will become the number 1 priority again before long, here’s hoping that this is just the beginning for Asinhell. “Impii Hora” is an absolute rager, one of the best metal albums of 2023.
Metal Blade Records – September 29, 2023