You know those albums where a band just come of age? This is it.
You know the sound – where they’re comfortable in their own skin, old enough to know when not to try, but also old enough to want to rediscover their youth. This is the sound of it. It’s fucking magic.
Let’s not forget that God Dethroned have seriously put the time in. They were the ones that did those fantastic portraits on the inside of ‘The Grand Grimoire’ (1997), and also one of the first bands to really fuse black and death metal without sounding stupid, opportunisitic or vacuous. They knew what they were at, went about it well, but ultimately failed to really win the underground over. Shame.
The ‘Toxic Touch’ album from a year or two ago didn’t really do them any favours either. Slower, slightly rockier, you could see what they were aiming at – but it didnt really come off. They should have stuck to extremity.
So that’s what they’ve done with ‘Passiondale’ – a short but utterly immense album of straight out death metal crackers with not a solitary dud second. It’s a masterclass. The band have reaffirmed their love of death metal the genuine, simple and brilliant way. Powerful, hi-octane blastbeats smack straight down into proper metal riffing, leaving tracks like ‘Poison Fog’ nothing short of classic. I mean it.
People talk of War Metal. It’s usually used in reference to some half baked crossovers between black and death metal that are full of aggression but light on songwriting and general talent. This entire album is dedicated to the topic, and the First World War in particular – and it’s sharp as a new blade. It’s thick, full, bang on time and absolutely guaranteed to stoke the fires in your cannon.
I can remember few albums as totally invigorating. The band waste no time. Everthing has its place, and it’s never dwelled on for a second longer than necessary. And although it’s deadly serious death metal, there’s a wonderful lightness of touch to it all that (ironically) underscores the seriousness of the subject. Listen to ‘Drowning In Mud’ and see if you can catch the lyric – ‘Your country needs you, so come and join a war / It’s fun, it takes you places you’ve never seen before’. Sounds a bit silly, and in the context of the song, it’s pure DM hate fun. Consider it a little more closely however, and it’s an acute point.
Metal like that is genius. This album is genius, of a kind – the genius where the simple ideas are the very best. It’s classic 90s death metal with no complications and a million hooks and blasts. After fifteen years ploughing the circuit God Dethroned have now surely found themselves. I remember a conversation once where I asked Arien, their drummer, if they’d consider changing their name to get a bit further. He wasnt sure, and could see both sides of the coin.
These days, I’d say that question is a daft one. This is a return to basics, and a return to values. They were right to keep the name. Because as Vital Remains might have said – and that’s an band this album bears a distinct resemblence to – it’s Forever Underground. There’s no excuse for not owning this album, no matter what branch of metal you’re into. It’s invigorating, tough, addictive and altogether splendid.
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4.3 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 15/07/09