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God Dethroned. It's a name familiar to many a metalhead. Though they officially disbanded last year, the four piece from the Netherlands delivered what rightfully deserves the title of "magnum opus" - the definitive listening experience that is God Dethroned. 2010's Under the Sign of the Iron Cross delivers a record of stunning musicianship, blistering speed, and a powerful presence that will leave you speechless during and after the running time of thirty-seven minutes. This is a beast of a record; blood will be shed. Eardrums will be torn. Cadavers will be violated righteously, and video of it broadcasted for all the world to see. And this isn't even a Cannibal Corpse album. Fancy that.
The album's opener, "The Declaration of War", is the calm before the storm - showing that Iron Cross follows the suit of Passiondale, the band's previous effort. The real deal doesn't really start until the first proper track, "Storm of Steel", opens up with the single best lyrical introduction that surpasses even Machine Head's "Beautiful Mourning". Henri Sattler gives the signal, and the cannons fire - the tanks roll in, the guitars break out, the drums blast off, and all you hear for a moment is "DIEEEEEE!" as Henri's vox shred you. Very fitting, don't you think? I think. Sometimes. That's not the extent of Sattler's power level, though - Iron Cross is saturated with memorable choruses and passages, both lyrical and musical. All of them will burn a crater in your memory, and you will be enveloped in the brutality. I can safely say that Henri's brutal vocals are some of the most satisfyingly emotional, coherent, and intense that I've heard - reminiscent of those of The Project Hate MCMXCIX - and that his presence in the metal world will be sorely missed. Few can stand toe to toe with him.
Vocal proficiency (or mastery, if you prefer) is far from the only thing that will grace your ears when listening to this gem - there is a fierce technical musicianship within Iron Cross that is not to be missed. They may not prop themselves up as virtuosos every song, but when God Dethroned solo, they fuckin' solo. A tangible melody is pervasive throughout each and every track of Iron Cross, but the title track has amazing tremolo passages and a memorable solo. It's so good that you should buy the whole album if only to listen to that one fucking song - but honestly, they're all great. Every track has a technical aspect - the guitar lines aren't just support for the more powerful sound of the drums or vocals. They're independent pieces of the same puzzle, both making a name for themselves and contributing to the final mix. This approach to guitarwork not only shows an immense capacity for proficient playing, but a great ear and very solid musicianship.
The drums and the bass are the next pieces of the all-powerful mix that is God Dethroned's sound. While the bass will inevitably be overlooked by most listeners, it has a special charm - it contributes to the white noise of the album (obviously), but also seems to back the more melodious, shred-prone passages as opposed to sticking with the backing rhythm. It gives the solos and riffs way more of a sound boost than they would otherwise get - a benefit from talented basswork and good production. God Dethroned gets all the goodies. All of them. The drums, though, are at times relentlessly fast. With all the death metal bands you probably listen to, you're bound to find about three thousand that have blisteringly fast drums. While that's true with God Dethroned, drummer Michiel van der Plicht also knows how to slow the fuck down and play a groove when it suits the mix. Would I mind if he stuck to the traditional "batter my ears till I can't hear no more" approach? Maybe not, but the approach he did take is a lot more customisable - and as such, it lends extremely well to the album as a whole. Not only can it have its slow moments, it doesn't always have to deal in extremes. Iron Cross has a middle ground when it comes to pacing and speed. That's a good thing, fuckers.
This album would be jack all if it weren't for the stellar musicianship it expressed. All that shit that goes on behind the scenes to make the mix, well, fuckin' mix is essential for all bands. God Dethroned just did it way better than most of their contemporaries. This band has excelled in creating an amazing record at least twice, and this is the most amazing one. Its length, its musicianship, its sound, its skill, its nigh-flawless execution all contribute (to my hyperbole). Are they the best? Certainly not. They're pretty fucking high up on the list, though, and that counts for something. Why? Because my opinion counts more than yours. Bitch. No, I'm kidding. I just write for more websites than you do. Eat that.
While you're at it, eat this record. It's high in iron.
2.) "Storm of Steel"
4.) "The Killing is Faceless"
8.) "The Red Baron"
9.) "On Fields of Death & Desolation"
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