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God Dethroned - "Passiondale" (CD)

God Dethroned - "Passiondale" CD cover image

"Passiondale" track listing:

1. The Cross of Sacrifice
2. Under a Darkening Sky
3. No Man’s Land
4. Poison Fog
5. Drowning in Mud
6. Passiondale
7. No Survivors
8. Behind Enemy Lines
9. Fallen Empires
10. Artifacts of the Great War

Reviewed by on April 21, 2009

"God Dethroned has crafted a death metal album that never strays from its core brutality, but fits enough melody and variation within the doom that it expands its power a hundred-fold."

The founder of God Dethroned, Henri Sattler, frequently passed a small town in the Netherlands called Passchendaele, where over 900,000 people were killed during World War I. He was enthralled by the history and culture of the town, and was so impressed by the little place and the harshness it must have had during the war that he wrote an entire album about it – “Passiondale.”

The album starts with an eerie background track which leads into “Under A Darkening Sky.” This is a song that all fans of death metal will love. it is quite brutal with guttural growls, blast beats, and wall-of-sound guitars. This death metal forms the base of “Passiondale” and is at the forefront on every song. There is no escape from the assault.

God Dethroned starts to shine as the album progresses. Each song gets a little more melodic and breaks a little farther away from the death metal formula. The third track “No Man’s Land” is another straightforward death metal romp, but its stranglehold is briefly broken by a searing solo of 32nd notes. “Poison Fog” is almost seven minutes long, and has some melodic breaks that include a keyboard, extended guitar solo, and even some clean vocals. This trend continues through the album, building to the triumphant triptych of songs “Passiondale,” “No Survivors” and “Behind Enemy Lines.”

“Passiondale” starts with a militaristic snare drum and anthemic guitar melody, and the only thought is of soldiers marching to battle. The death metal here is slowed down, really drawing out the doom of each chord. Sattler’s growl matches the melody of the guitar lead through the verse, which carries the initial theme through to the chorus. The chorus itself is an inspirational, fist-pumping anthem, which would be comfortably at home on a Hammerfall disc. The band returns to the sludge and gloom of another verse as the listener is left yearning for the chorus. They are rewarded as the second chorus covers the entire last minute of the song; the picture here is of soldiers bravely fighting on to their fate, despite their pre-determined doom.

“No Survivors” breaks the inspirational thoughts of “Passiondale” and gets back into the tremolo picking and blast beats of death metal; the brutality and insanity of war has replaced the idealized glory of the previous song. Then out of nowhere comes a beautifully haunting voice; Sattler’s clean vocals pleading for life. The pleading almost escapes, but is ultimately crushed by a searing guitar solo and more blast beats. A melodic guitar line as the song ends gives a glimmer of hope.

All hope is then snuffed out with the opening riffs of “Behind Enemy Lines.” These monolithic riffs have to be co-written by Tony Iommi, they are so filled with power and doom. With those simple chords the listener realizes there will be no salvation on this album. The rest of the song hammers the point home by alternating death metal brutality with another solo and the return of those riffs. The second time around they sound so huge that it must be announcing the arrival of the gods on earth.

God Dethroned has crafted a death metal album that never strays from its core brutality, but fits enough melody and variation within the doom that it expands its power a hundred-fold. The haunting vocals and hopeful anthems interspersed in the grim reality of death metal stick with the listener long after the album has finished, much like the brief glory of a warrior doomed to die in a crushing war.

Highs: The melodies add to the power of the death metal.

Lows: The end of the album – it’s that good.

Bottom line: This will be one of the best death metal albums of 2009.

Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls
4.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)