Tuesday 18 July 2017

ALBUM REVIEW: God Dethroned - ‘The World Ablaze’

By: Daniel Jackson

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 5/5/2017
Label: Metal Blade

If you’re a longtime fan like me, this album is everything you’d want and then some. ‘The World Ablaze’ is all of the best elements of the God Dethroned’s entire discography amalgamated into a single album.

‘The World Ablaze’ CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. A Call to Arms
2. Annihilation Crusade
3. The World Ablaze
4. On the Wrong Side of the Wire
5. Close to Victory
6. Konigsberg
7. Escape Across the Ice (The White Army)
8. Breathing Through Blood
9. Messina Ridge
10. The 11th Hour

The Review:

Please bear with me as I do this. I know reviews should never center around the person writing them, and as such, this won’t be a proper review. I will definitely get to the music, but with the album having already been out for more than a month now, and given other circumstances I’ll get into shortly; I want to explain why this album has the deep resonance with me that it does.

For metal fans over a certain age, getting turned on to a band via compilations was a pretty common occurrence. In this case, the compilation in question ‘Metal Blade’sDeathmeister’ compilation, released in 1998. This comp was my first exposure to bands like Dark Funeral, Defleshed, Lord Belial and more, and all are bands I still listen to regularly.

The God Dethroned song featured on that comp was the title track from 1997’s classic ‘The Grand Grimoire’. It was absolutely ferocious. Combining Floridian death metal’s love for blazing, Slayer-loving tremolo with European death metal’s remarkable knack for melody, God Dethroned had a depth and range that I hadn’t really heard from a death metal band at that point. Before too long, the cassette I’d used to dub the comp for my Walkman was worn and warped from overuse, and God Dethroned was a big part of why that happened.

I’m grateful to have seen God Dethroned live on the ‘Death Metal Massacre 2000’ tour with Cannibal Corpse. Their set included songs from ‘The Grand Grimoire’ as well as their then new album ‘Bloody Blasphemy’. But it’s what happened prior to this show that leads me to essentially make this review about my experience and history with the band.

At the time of the show, I hadn’t yet turned 18 and didn’t have a car. My dad took me to the show and, as he often did, made sure to threaten my utter embarrassment at every turn by sticking around after dropping me off. He liked some metal, but only at a very surface, mainstream level. While I was waiting in line, he went to walk around and have a smoke. When he returned he explained that he’d happened to have a very quick chat with someone from one of the bands. That person turned out to be Henri from God Dethroned.

I can’t remember exactly what he said or what they talked about, other than him asking about what the name meant, and I remember feeling the earth crumbling beneath me and dread pounding through every vein in my body. But, to my surprise, my dad seemed to be happy with how the conversation went and even opted to stick around and listen to what he could from outside once the show started. From that point forward, God Dethroned was sort of his reference point for anything else I listened to:

“Oh, these guys aren’t as fast as God Dethroned.”

“This singer doesn’t have a powerful scream like the guy in God Dethroned.”

Every once in a while, even more than 15 years later, he’d ask about the band and what they were up to. He’d always bring them up as a way to mention him getting to talk to Henri. He was never one to pass up an opportunity to talk about something that made him sound cool, even if he’d talked about it before. As luck would have it, Dad had asked about God Dethroned in April, and I told him about the upcoming album, ‘The World Ablaze’, which was all he needed to launch into a conversation we’ve had dozens of times over the last 17 years.

At the end of May, my dad died of a heart attack brought on by long term health problems at the age of 64. At first, I was hesitant to listen to this album, for obvious reasons. But as time passed my apprehension gave way to something like warm nostalgia. As I went back and listened to the band’s earlier albums, I smiled to myself. I imagined the site of my painfully uncool dad talking to Henri, one of the great death metal vocalists of all time. What an absurd couple of minutes that must have been.

I know nothing about the afterlife, and I doubt there’s one at all. But if there is, I’ll be glad to tell him how good this album was, just to give him a reason to tell that old story again.

When I finally listened to ‘The World Ablaze’ for the first time since my dad’s death, that warm feeling washed over me, just as it had with the early albums. While I’ve enjoyed everything the band have put out—to varying degrees—the albums released after ‘Into The Lungs Of Hell’ felt like they were missing something. A minor “something”, but something nonetheless. With this album, they’ve gained all of it back in a big fucking way.

God Dethroned is at their best when they keep a balance between riveting viciousness and gut-wrenching melody, and this album hits both of these touchstones as well as one could hope. ‘The World Ablaze’ is an inspired work from a band at a new creative peak. All of the raw emotional energy of ‘The Grand Grimoire’ and ‘Bloody Blasphemy’ are present and strong. The infernal catchiness of ‘Ravenous’ and the added heft and sonic power of the band’s mid 2000s material is here as well, and it’s been improved after the band’s long break between albums.

If you’re a longtime fan like me, this album is everything you’d want and then some. ‘The World Ablaze’ is all of the best elements of the God Dethroned’s entire discography amalgamated into a single album. There’s a personal connection I have to this album that probably won’t exist for other people, but this is an album that stands proudly on its own musical merits.

“The World Ablaze’ is available digitally here and a CD/LP copy here.

Band info: Facebook || bandcamp

FFO: Necrophobic, Behemoth, Hail of Bullets, Unleashed