Saturday, June 3, 2017

review by Matt Spall: God Dethroned

The Dutch extreme metal veterans God Dethroned decided to call it quits some years ago, but it was the worst-kept secret because all God Dethroned fans knew that the big boss man Henri Sattler (guitars and vocals) would not be able to stay away for long. Did anyone actually think this man would just retire and take up gardening as a hobby? I never believed it for one second, not for one single second! I knew he'd back with God Dethroned because he is God Dethroned. Well, here we are with a new God Dethroned album, as expected. The band has a reputation for being reliable and for not disappointing their fans; God Dethroned hates surprises and hates the idea that they would disappoint their fans. Give the people what they came for and do what you have always done. Dance with the one that brung ya. This band believes in the strength of being loyal to the melodic, fast extreme metal that they are known for, even if some jaded reviewers and critics and pundits complain that it’s “just another God Dethroned album” again. To fans of the band, to read those words, it means that everything is good in the God Dethroned camp and there is no need to worry.
One thing is new and different now. The reviewer Matt Spall jumped into the ring and now he gives his expert take on the new album. He says that this is the first time he reviews God Dethroned. Does he think it is a predictable and average album? Can a reviewer known for his love of intellectual prog music really get into God Dethroned?
Below the review there is some band information, including a link to hear the complete album, and information about Matt Spall’s music writings. --MMB
Artist: God Dethroned
Album Title: The World Ablaze
Label: Metal Blade Records
Date of Release: 5 May 2017
Finally! After plugging away in the music industry as a reviewer for nearly a decade and a half, I finally get to review an album by God Dethroned. It has been a long time coming, I can tell you, having been a fan ever since I wrapped my ears around the incendiary ‘Into The Lungs of Hell’, back in 2003.
It was something I feared would never happen either because in 2012, God Dethroned decided to hang up their instruments. Thankfully, the hiatus hasn’t proved to be permanent because the quintet, led by the irrepressible Henri Sattler, are back with their tenth studio release entitled ‘The World Ablaze’.
Given the hiatus, it is now some seven years since the Dutch death metal juggernaut released their last album, ‘Under The Sign of the Iron Cross’ in 2010. As such, you’d be forgiven for thinking that the stalwarts would be a little rusty or that maybe they’d lost their aggressive edge, particularly having cited burnout as a reason for their cessation. Well, you’d be forgiven but you’d also be very, very wrong. ‘The World Ablaze’ is nothing short of monstrous, yet another fine feather in the ridiculously consistent God Dethroned cap.
I will admit to being one of those who initially shared this erroneous view. Call it rampant cynicism, built up over many years in this industry. But nothing gives me greater pleasure, alongside a palpable sense of relief, to report that it is business as usual here. And business for God Dethroned is producing savage, face-melting brutality juxtaposed by a refined sense of anthemic melody and headbanging groove.
What this means of course, is that God Dethroned do not offer us much in the way of originality and don’t throw in many curveballs, even down to the lyrical content which once again pulls us into the trenches of the First World War. But, frankly, I don’t care that much because when God Dethroned are on it, they are seriously on it. There are few more satisfying sounds in extreme metal than when Henri Sattler (guitars/vocals), Michiel vd Plicht (drums), Mike Ferguson (lead guitars) and Jeroen Pomper (bass) unleash their personal brand of hell.
What I like so much about God Dethroned is that they are, without question a brutal, uncompromising death metal machine, capable of creating some of the most razor-sharp, incisive and precise extreme metal you’ll ever hear. But then, they can flick a switch and inject addictive groove or some melody. But the melodies are not understated or hidden; they are huge, anthemic, hook-laden melodies that make me grin from ear to ear. And the grooves will have you banging your head so hard that you fear your neck might break.
And yet, in spite of this, the aggression never feels like it is undermined or diluted. Instead, these moments of clarity within the brutality only serve to accentuate the heaviness of the God Dethroned offering.
God Dethroned "The World Ablaze" (OFFICIAL VIDEO in 4k)
Take the superb ‘Annihilation Crusade’ as the perfect example. After the gloriously rousing and infectious intro instrumental ‘A Call To Arms’, ‘Annihilation Crusade’ blasts from the speakers with real venom and fury, dominated by sharp machine gun drumming and a menacing, heavy riff, interspersed by sections that intensify the track with speed and ferocity. A touch of groove overlaid with some nice lead guitar work then enters the fray as the song feels like it is building to something. And that something is a really cool, anthemic melody that retains the darkness and eeriness of the music whilst offering genuine catchiness at the same time, led by Mike Ferguson’s lead exploits. It then reverts to all-out ferocity and closes in this impressively fraught fashion.
It is at this point that I realise just how much I like the overall sound of God Dethroned. Unlike some extreme metal bands, the tones that this band employ are instantly recognisable as their own and carefully chosen. The guitars display real malevolence and they work expertly with the bold and vibrant rhythm section, not to mention Sattler’s deep, rasping vocals. Everything fits together perfectly.
The title track is another crushing example of just how powerful ‘The World Ablaze’ truly is. It skips along at a fair lick devouring everything in its path, delivering cracking riffs, memorable lead solos, and some killer drumming along the way. However, for me, it’s the final minute where the magic happens, as it departs with a behemoth of a chugging, groovy riff, strng enough to shake the earth. ‘On The Wrong Side Of the Wire’ continues on a similar theme with more muscular groove that feels wonderfully primeval in many ways.
Meanwhile, ‘Messina Ridge’ slows the pace just a touch and in so doing, it becomes a real bulldozer and a nice change of pace from the relentlessness elsewhere.
But for me, it’s the juxtaposition of extreme metal and extreme melody that excites me most with God Dethroned. And on ‘The World Ablaze’ they deliver in style.
‘Close To Victory’ is dominated by one of their strongest and most rousing melodies of late having bludgeoned the listener for the first couple of minutes. ‘Breathing Through Blood’ somehow feels a little more elegant, despite the wailing guitars and bursts of swift aggression. I firmly believe that this is because the more subtle melodic interplay takes place a little further beneath the surface, but throughout the entirety of the track instead of at defined points.
At nearly seven minutes in length, the final track, ‘The 11th Hour’ is able to deliver the ideal ending to this cracking record. I’ve mentioned the word ‘anthemic’ a few times in this review but this song deserves it more than any other. Again the pace is slowed a touch and there’s a more accessible feel to it right from the off. It’s not a ballad but it has that vague feeling to it for sure, especially when clean guitars break through to add a different texture to the composition. The whole composition is excellent but the flamboyant extended lead guitar outro is a thing of real strength and beauty. This is foot on the monitor, head-back stuff, the sort of thing that I will never grow tired of hearing, regardless of those who might deride it for being too pretentious or unnecessary.
Whether you are already a battle-hardened God Dethroned fan or someone new to death metal, ‘The World Ablaze’ will almost certainly be a hit. How could it not be though? This is God Dethroned at their savage, brutal and beautiful best.
The Score of Much Metal: 9
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