A Discussion With God Dethroned Vocalist/Guitarist Henri Sattler
Band Photo: God Dethroned (?)
God Dethroned is a death metal act that is just as impressive at being brutal as it is at being melodic. The band's popularity soared after 2009’s “Passiondale.” It was a hard-hitting spectacle that was based around one of the most important wars in history, World War I. The band returned to that concept with it's latest scorcher, “Under the Sign of the Iron Cross.” Released a year after “Passiondale,” there is no signs of the band rehashing old material or traversing previously-soiled musical ground.
Metalunderground.com had the opportunity to conduct an e-mail interview with vocalist/guitarist Henri Sattler about the World War I concept on the past two albums, the line-up changes, and his thoughts on the band’s first few under-appreciated albums.
Heavytothebone2: Is there any meaning behind the title to the new album, “Under the Sign of the Iron Cross”?
Henri: The songs deal with the German attack plan for World War One called the Schlieffen Plan. It was quite a big deal back then and it was based upon a tactical war plan by Hannibal to defeat the Roman Army a few years before Christ. Count Von Schlieffen altered this ancient plan a little bit in order to win the war in Europe in just 46 days. It nearly worked...
Heavytothebone2: Why revisit World War I after doing it a year ago with “Passiondale”?
Henri: Because there's tons of things to write about this war. I really didn't have to be afraid that I would repeat myself in any way. Also, the fact that many bands use World War Two as a topic for their albums instead of World War One gave me a lot of freedom to write more about this topic. According to the reviews, this wasn't such a bad idea after all.
Heavytothebone2: What fascinates you about that time period above any other?
Henri: It just fascinates me, being the history freak that I am. It doesn't fascinate me above other things. It's just something that can be used as a topic for a metal band. Also, the fact that most people don't know much about this war, but are keen on learning more about it makes it fun to do.
Heavytothebone2: With two albums focused on World War I, do you see this concept as a potential trilogy of albums?
Henri: Yes, it will definitely become a trilogy. And then that's it.
Heavytothebone2: Can you go over the recording process for “Under the Sign of the Iron Cross”?
Henri: It was mainly very hectic because the album had to be written in-between tours and recorded in just a few weeks. Mike would record around two to three songs on drums a night and then I would play the rhythm guitars the next day. That way, we finished the basics in just four days. I think the whole recording process itself only took a week-and-a-half. Most time was spent on mixing and mastering, but the guy from the studio is getting better and better every year, so the end result is just perfect.
Heavytothebone2: Was the songwriting easier this time around, compared to “Passiondale”?
Henri: I had a lot of time to write “Passiondale” and the album turned out very well. This time, I hardly had time to write an album, but apparently under pressure, we managed to do an even better job. But easier, no. More stress, yes.
Heavytothebone2: Was there any challenge in making sure “Under the Sign of the Iron Cross” wasn’t “Passiondale”-light and could stand on its own, even with similar concepts and a short gap between the two albums?
Henri: For me, the biggest challenge is to always write an album that's better than the last one and that we don't repeat ourselves. Again, that worked out just fine. Although the concept was again about World War One, there were still so many topics unused so that wouldn't become a problem at all.
Heavytothebone2: From a guitar standpoint, what song are you most proud of from the new album?
Henri: I'm proud of all the songs. Some songs stick out because of certain riffs, melodies or atmospheres that we created. In “Storm of Steel,” I used a scale that I never used before. It's based on an Arabian scale, without sounding eastern at all. It's just written from a fresh point of view with notes that you wouldn't use normally in a song. It was great to work like that for a change. The title track has melodies that are epic again and the song “The Killing is Faceless” just has a great atmosphere, apart from the fact that because of the speed, it's a challenging song to play.
Heavytothebone2: The title track utilizes clean vocals in a style similar to “Poison Fog” and “No Survivors.” Why did the band decide to bring back clean vocals and will they appear in the future as well?
Henri: We only use clean vocals when they add something special to the song; when it fits well and when they make sense. Using it too much would not be a good thing and many songs just didn't have space for vocals like that. So when we use it, it's because it lifts the quality of the song up and makes it outstanding.
?Heavytothebone2: The line-up is different, with drummer Michiel van der Plicht and guitarist Danny Tunker joining the fold. How did you find these musicians?
Henri: Mike is living around the corner and was an easy and logical choice. He knew Danny and brought him in. They are both great musicians and definitely added something to the quality of the band.
Heavytothebone2: Are you ever worried about the various line-up changes, especially over the past few years? Do you think this current line-up could be a stable unit for future recordings?
Henri: You never know if a line-up is stable. There can be many reasons why people don't stay in a band. Of course, it would be nice if things wouldn't change for a while, but time will tell.
Heavytothebone2: Are you surprised at all with how well-received the past few albums have been?
Henri: Yes and it was a nice surprise (laughs). It's not that I didn't expect anything from those past few albums because I think they are very good, but somehow, it seems like people are appreciating our albums more and more. Maybe my songwriting has gotten better the past few years?
Heavytothebone2: Looking back at them today, how do you feel about albums like “The Christhunt” and “The Grand Grimoire”?
Henri: Both albums have great songs, although the band wasn't maybe the greatest around that time. We still play songs from those albums, because we feel they are good enough still.
Heavytothebone2: What is the most underrated God Dethroned song? Could you ever see the band playing that song live, if they haven’t already?
Henri: Maybe that would be a question to ask our fans. What we usually do is play all the songs of a new album live over a certain period of time. Then we'll find out which song does better in a live situation than another and so we distill the best songs from the album to play live. Usually, those songs stick with us forever.
Heavytothebone2: Is the band excited about hitting the road? What songs from “Under the Sign of the Iron Cross” is the band expecting to perform live?
Henri: We can play all the songs live, with the exception of “On Fields of Death & Desolation,” because that song has so many layers of guitars that it would be impossible to perform live. We are getting quite some offers for shows at the moment. We just take those who we feel are the best. We will concentrate more on festivals for 2011 and less on touring.
Heavytothebone2: With all the albums and songs the band has in its catalog, how hard is it to write a set list?
Henri: It's very hard and it becomes harder and harder. We played our CD presentation show on Christmas Eve. We had a set list of 21 songs. We played a two-hour set and still there were a lot of songs we couldn't play, which we would have loved to play that night.
Heavytothebone2: If you had the opportunity to make the perfect God Dethroned set list, what would it look like?
Henri: (laughs). Again, this is a question you should ask our fans. The perfect setlist according to me would kill us during that show because it would last too long. We can play around 80 songs live if we have to.
Heavytothebone2: If you could tour with one band, past or present, who would it be and why?
Henri: The Spice Girls, because we would be sexually abused every night...
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