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God Dethroned - "Under The Sign Of The Iron Cross" (CD)

God Dethroned - "Under The Sign Of The Iron Cross" CD cover image

"Under The Sign Of The Iron Cross" track listing:

1. The Declaration of War (0:57)
2. Storm of Steel (3:41)
3. Fire Storm (3:09)
4. The Killing is Faceless (4:54)
5. Under the Sign of the Iron Cross (5:15)
6. Chaos Reigns at Dawn (4:05)
7. Through Byzantine Hemispheres (3:04)
8. The Red Baron (3:51)
9. On Fields of Death & Desolation (7:29)

Reviewed by on November 17, 2010

"Using the same ingredients and recipe as every other death metal band, God Dethroned’s end product is a cornucopia of flavor explosion."

Death metal and cooking are strikingly similar. If Mario Batali and I cooked Chicken Parmesan right next to each other using the exact same ingredients and the exact same recipe, the outcomes would be frighteningly disparate. My dish would come out of the oven a totally messed-up pan of pig slop, while Mario Batali’s Chicken Parmesan would be crispy and light with endless flavor explosions. Taking the metaphor to death metal, God Dethroned play the part of Mario Batali, and the plethora of other death metal bands that make rote, boring music are me. Using the same ingredients and recipe as every other death metal band, God Dethroned’s end product is a cornucopia of flavor explosion.

The ingredients of course are the stock of every death metal shelf: lightning fast blast beats and tremolo riffs supporting harshly growled vocals, searing solos, and a handful of wistful or inspiring melodies. But Henri Sattler knows just how much of each to put in every song to create excellent results. “Storm of Steel” starts straightaway with the blast beats and power chords and most of it is tremolo and shouts. But the periodic grooved avalanches of drums and riffs crash like waves of bullets rolling in on a shore of flesh; after the waves peter out on soft sand of melody, the blast beats come back and the whole thing starts over again.

The title track starts with an anthemic call-to-arms melody, offering something more than quick brutality like “Storm of Steel” – death by hook. The seemingly tremolo’ed first solo is a fist-pumping and head-sticking monster, and when the following solo sections are paired with Sattler’s gentle yet pleading-for-life clean croon it is battle-march victorious. And there even is a minute of layered outro solos, piano, and orchestration that ties everything together quite nicely after that. “The Red Baron” combines all of those things in the title track in a different way; this time a harrowing four minutes of dive-bombing 32nd-note solos and sky-climbing sweeps of melody. Album closer “On Fields of Death & Desolation” is an epic that looks back on the previous eight chunks of killing meat with both pride and regret; Sattler knows of the lasting effect The Great War had on the world and its participants.

“Under the Sign of the Iron Cross” is a concept album about World War I and is a follow-up to 2009’s “Passiondale,” (reviewed here) also a World War I concept album. In choosing a handful of topics like the Battle of Verdun, The Schlieffen Plan and The Red Baron instead of just one incident, “Under the Sign of the Iron Cross” is accurately described by Sattler as “a soundtrack to a war movie.” Sattler continues from there in the press kit, saying “I felt I had to tell more about this war. It's such an unknown event to many people yet it had a major impact on life as we know it now.” Not only is Sattler a documentarian in death metal form, but he probably also makes an utterly fantastic Chicken Parmesan.

Highs: Album closer “On Fields of Death & Desolation” is a brilliant combination of inspiring melody, death metal brutality, and the subtle arrangement to make it all work.

Lows: The production is a touch flat at times for such nuanced music.

Bottom line: Dutch death metal veterans have made another World War I concept album that is absolutely phenomenal.

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)