Review Summary: God Dethroned portray the misery and scope of war with just enough nuance and subtlety to achieve greatness.
Passiondale, or Passchendaele , perhaps both the event and the album, emblemise World War 1: extreme loss of life, bleak conditions, and a multinational struggle leaving damage to the landscape to leave things like the Lone Tree Crater that can still be seen today; in the album’s case, it presents an extremely grand, grim, but ultimately human
event. God Dethroned’s melodic death metal style, with emphasis on the “death metal”, might not always capture the nuance of the everyday struggle outside of the conflict itself, and doesn’t convey the misery of the trenches as perhaps something lighter would, but there’s no doubt that it captures the scale of warfare and the depth of the misery within.
An essential component of the band’s sound are the few moments where the intensity steps down a notch, with clean vocal and guitar components employed. Poison Fog
, perhaps the best song on the album, slows down massively before entering an epic, melodic climax, depicting something almost like the voyage of the many dead to some kind of Heaven or Valhalla. This is captured in the lyrics as well, addressing the loss of comrades to the toxic mustard gas used by the Germans from the Battle of Ypres:
"As I watched them in bright daylight
When crawling through the poison clouds, I saw them burn away
My name should have been written between theirs on stones
In dreams I still see, hear and smell them every single night”.
On No Survivors
, a totally opposite effect is achieved, where the relatively restrained clean guitar and vocals overlaying chunky death metal riffing creates an image of the individual human level of battle in the death-trap of No Man’s Land, again matched by the clear lyrical direction:
“This waiting is killing me
Traumatized eyes, as we go in
Bodies everywhere, the bullets scream
We can't survive but we march in”.
Through this section, masses of tension is built, before exploding into gear with a chaotic, Kerry King-esque solo, shifting the perspective out to the greater conflict once again as the lives of those given that brief snapshot before presumably end.
It’s rarely something hugely distinctive that makes this album great, but instead usually short, cathartic moments like those mentioned previously that really take it places. Naturally, however, the main foundation of the band’s sound is what carries the majority of the experience. The chunky, scrunchy guitar tone drives the fast, thrashy riffs, but what sets them apart is the melody tastefully incorporated throughout. Much unlike the majority of melodic death metal releases, there is rarely an emphasis on catchy choruses or breaks that owe perhaps more to power metal than death metal itself, a la In Flames
. Here, the riffs are essentially death metal riffs that happen to follow a more melodic template, and the reward is a cohesive, epic sound that captures the setting of the album near perfectly. The drums thunderously clatter on with steady blast beats and the usual death metal double kicks, whilst the snarling vocals are occasionally traded out for clean vocals that sound convincingly pained.
The lack of deviation from the core rugged melodic death metal sound sound is perhaps the album’s only severe detriment, along with the aforementioned lack of any true “calm before the storm” that could have boosted the dynamics of the album; the aforementioned clean breaks are, again, fairly short, so whilst the amplify the strength of the songs containing them, there’s nothing that captures the more mundane aspects of the war in its sound. Despite this, relentless adherence to its theme yields very reliable musical integrity, and as such Passiondale manages to pass with flying colours, albeit ones stained by the mud and smoke of the western front.