God Dethroned – “Illuminati” (Metal Blade Records)
Along with other bands like Asphyx and Gorefest, God Dethroned are an established part of Dutch death metal history – and not in the least because they are still going! Formed in 1990 by vocalist / guitarist Henri Sattler, the band have released 10 prior albums that have seen their style transition from death metal to blackened death and more recently, melodic death. Likewise, their early anti religious themes gave way in 2009 to the band’s World War I trilogy on albums like “Under The Sign Of The Iron Cross” and “Set The World Ablaze”. As such, “Illuminati” is a truly special release, offering across its 9 tracks styles taken from the band’s past along with classy fusions of them, while the lyrics go back to the time when God Dethroned wrote songs reflective of their name. Still, there seems to be little desire to reengineer the past, but instead elevate to a higher intellectual level tales of secret religious societies and occult themes that sit comfortably alongside other, wider expressions of erotic derangement (inspired by Hieronymus Bosch’s “Garden of Earthly Delights”), Egyptian mythology and naturally not forgetting demonic frenzies coveting the spawn of Satan! Thanks to band’s enormous technical proficiency that has seen them take control over the production and engineering on “Illuminati”, there has been a lot of experimentation in the vocals that go beyond trademark grunts and screams to include clean vocal choirs and ‘grunt-on-tone’ – essentially singing with a grunt. Likewise, there are plenty of keyboards in the peripheral sound, all of which add huge amounts of atmosphere to powerfully reflect the deep themes of the material as driven by God Dethrone’s own undoubted savagery! With a massive, ominous tone ‘Book Of Lies’ builds the menace as the pounding from Michiel van der Plicht’s drums literally shakes you before the rocket ride of razor riffs hooks you instantaneously as Sattler and Dave Meester’s twin guitarwork blending melody and metal contrast superbly with the mystical tone set by the choirs and keyboards – superb. Uplifting but no less intense is ‘Book Of Lies’ with its harsh vocals, dense melodic death riffs and mid tempo double bass beats giving way to a catchy, guitar led melodic chorus before Meester’s own incredibly passionate solo is guaranteed to set any heart on fire. Hitting home with the atmosphere on ‘Gabriel’, expect more catchy, emotional guitar melodies and delicate keyboards melded suavely with bestial growling vocals and driving double bass beats making it a no brainer that God Dethroned have surpassed themselves on this incredible release. Essentially, boundary pushing brutality mixed with class and sophistication – what more could you ask for?