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Assaulting with another album immediately after the fantastic Passiondale, God Dethroned show that they know when to not waste time. While Passiondale was reverent and brutal, Under The Sign Of The Iron Cross, lets loose with ferociousness first and veneration second. This album is essentially a continuation of the last one (similar production, flow, compositions, etc.). God Dethroned didn’t change that much in a year, yet they still sound fresh and fascinating (if a little less so than with Passiondale). Still, another batch of short, raging songs of the same World War One theme from a band that already did it correctly the year before is, of course, going to be loved by those that want it.
Again, if you’ve heard Passiondale, then the production is much of the same: modern blasting (a little less polished than last time), tight playing, fast and heavy as fuck songs, intense tones, a hopeless (thematically war-torn) atmosphere, and riffs that ravage, devastate, and cause immense amounts of headbanging. Passiondale was dramatic, but this album throws you right in among muddy, rough tones with frenzied riffs that never let up. The relentless tempos and unyielding rhythms do well to bring out the immense scope and absolutely appalling nature of the situation. Wars are never pretty, and God Dethroned nailed the brutal sound while still keeping it melodic and vivid. Under The Sign Of The Iron Cross is death metal that’s larger than itself and, like that particular war, has songs that make up more on their own than as a whole album. Think of it as the First World War (the album) being a general frame of many particular battles (the songs). Each song has distinctive riffs (all extreme and vile) like with the title track’s heroism (and distressing clean singing) and the Middle Eastern tinges of “Through Byzantine Hemispheres”.
Solos are ripe, vigorous, and harmonic, showing a more melodic death / power metal side of the band (Iron Maiden-like moments such as with “The Red Baron” and “On Fields Of Death And Desolation”). These moments of bliss are countered by moments of insanity when the band’s death metal side takes over again, but the relationship is mutual and flow is never compromised for a catchy melody. Above these are the already mentioned clean vocals, but since those are rare, the growls head this entire operation. Sattler’s coarse grunts are the charred coating that details the story of a war long forgotten, with every hint of spite and disdain that war left behind. On the underside, bass support is hefty and its rumbles in the background feel like quakes wrought from artillery. The same can be said about the double bass and blast beats, which are common and enhance the panicky mood. While adhering to tempo rules, drumming is almost always fast, blistering, and thunderous.
The Dutch metal scene has provided great metal for a while now, but this breed of war-themed death metal like new-era God Dethroned and their cousins Hail Of Bullets mark their own territory. This is another album in that tight niche that I’d recommend to those looking for more heavy, loud, enjoyable death metal with edge and replay value. Check out Passiondale and Under The Sign Of The Iron Cross to get a good double package.