Tuesday 18 February 2020

God Dethroned - Illuminati (2020)

Country: Netherlands
Style: Blackened Death Metal
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 7 Feb 2020
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As I understand it, God Dethroned have called it quits twice but can't seem to stop putting out new material anyway. In 1993, that wasn't too notable as they were a new band with only one poorly promoted album to their name. In 2012, though, with nine studio releases behind them, it was a bigger deal. They'd done a lot over a couple of decades, including an important classic in Bloody Blasphemy. Fortunately they picked right up again in 2014 and this is their eleventh studio album.

It's a decent album, as melodic as blackened death metal gets, every crunchy riff adding more melody, though it doesn't help for the opening title track to remind so much in the verses of Slayer's Seasons in the Abyss. It's there in the vocal phrasing, stalking drums and even one of the riffs. It takes a different path in the chorus, layering the title in symphonic style and even cleverly rolling the word into being a beginning and end.

Broken Halo is everything Illuminati is without sounding familiar. It adds a black metal pace when it needs and an enjoyable solo. It's an urgent song to set the album in motion, though things certainly don't stay as urgent, most obviously in Book of Lies, which is content to chug along at a sedate tempo. With a different production job, this one could easily shift genre. There's a power metal undercurrent at points that manifests in Book of Lies and, in a different way, in Spirit of Beelzebub too. That's a patient choral chorus indeed.

The middle of the album carries on as is, explaining why this both works and doesn't work at the same time. None of these songs are bad. Every one has us paying attention and enjoying the melodic riffs and intelligible vocals. It all feels rather nice though. There are plenty of nods to the extremes that we might expect from a band who have released so much blackened death metal, but it's all so polite and friendly that we never feel a threat in the music that really ought to be there, especially for a band called God Dethroned.

The first song that really tries to be extreme is the final one, Blood Moon Eclipse, which tries to take us home with emphasis with mixed results. Until that song, the drums have no interest in punching us in the gut, the guitars don't want to slice into us and the vocals don't dare rip our throats out. I think the band tries to do that a little at the end but it still holds back. This is extreme metal that you can take home for tea with your mother. That one final song does enough to remind us why should ring a little odd.

Before Blood Moon Eclipse is Eye of Horus, the most interesting song on the album for me. It delves into Egyptian mythology, à la Nile, but does so in a very different way. There are points here where the drums play more tribal, the vocals shift to chants and the guitar moves to a very recognisably early Paradise Lost feel. I can't say I didn't enjoy this album, but nothing here felt interesting until Eye of Horus, an enticing doom/death black metal ritual.

And that makes me wonder how this is going to stay with me. For an album of melodic death metal that constantly entertained me, I have a strange feeling that, with the sole exception of Eye of Horus, it might not stay with me at all. Let's see. I've wondered a couple of times lately if I've rated albums too low, but here I wonder if I'm being too generous.

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