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The title of the first proper track on God Dethroned’s latest – and, sadly, likely final – album describes the music perfectly: this is clearly not meant for the ears of the faint of heart. On the contrary, this is one of the most feral and uncompromising death metal albums I have heard in a while, combining stylistic influences from the old-school European death metal of the early nineties, the more technical approach of the Florida scene and some very fitting black metal overtones (the tremolo picking and melodies in the monumental title track or the closing “On Fields of Death & Desolation” come to mind). This is not an album that reinvents the wheel in any way, nor does it have any aspirations to do so, but rather attempts to pummel the listener into oblivion with a succession of fast, quick-striking death metal tunes – a mission well accomplished, I might add.
This is also an album that should appeal to all you history buffs out there, as the carefully crafted lyrical concept (along with the very tasteful artwork) conveys a haunting and faithful rendition of the defining catastrophe of the twentieth century, the so-called Great War. I for one applaud the band’s decision to choose the First World War as a subject matter and underlying concept for this record instead of World War II, the latter being a topic that has pretty much been beaten to death and, from a historical perspective, is in many ways the direct result of the global armed conflict that preceded it. Speaking of history, has there ever been a more appropriate and meaningful intro than “The Declaration of War”? Featuring a truly foreboding guitar melody and excerpts from a recorded speech held by German Emperor William II, in which he announces Germany’s entry into the war, it perfectly sets the tone for the mayhem that is soon to follow. Many intro songs come across as gratuitous and forgettable, but certainly not this one.
So, in short, what else is there to say about “Under the Sign of the Iron Cross”? Well, at under 40 minutes it’s short and to the point, it’s very consistent, it never lets up in terms of brutality while keeping things fresh and interesting by slowing down at the right moments and adding a few well-placed melodic touches, it’s perfectly played and executed by competent musicians and is supremely well produced with a crystal clear yet sufficiently raw sound that never gets too slick or “modern”. If you’re into unrelentingly brutal war-themed death metal with a nice history lesson thrown in for good measure, I would advise you to look no further and get God Dethroned’s “Under the Sign of the Iron Cross” post-haste.
Choicest cuts: Fire Storm, Under the Sign of the Iron Cross (a mind-blowing track, based on a phenomenal lead guitar melody and featuring a passage with clean vocals in the middle that gives it a truly epic feel), The Red Baron (with lyrics on notorious fighter pilot Manfred von Richthofen), On Fields of Death & Desolation