God Dethroned seemed content with leaving their legacy capped off in 2012, when they played what was being called their final show at that year’s 70,000 Tons of Metal cruise. Founding member Henri Sattler went on to Winter of Sin and the rest of the band did their own thing and life cycled on, as it always does.
But Sattler didn’t let God Dethroned stay dormant for long, reactivating the band just two years later with drummer Michiel vd Plicht the lone returning musician from their last lineup.
Though the rebirth of God Dethroned was meant for a few scattered shows, the band hunkered down to get a new album finished. The World Ablaze is the final album of the World War I trilogy that started with Passiondale in 2009 and continued with Under the Sign of the Iron Cross a year later.
Those albums arguably garnered the group the highest critical recognition and popularity since their formation in the early ‘90s. Coupled with a seven-year gap between albums, and The World Ablaze understandably has major expectations attached to it.
Those expectations lead to diminished results, the unfortunate result of The World Ablaze. On the surface, the album appears ready to act as if the lengthy break had never happened. Sattler’s growls have their power up to maximum levels, and there is still a blackened sheen the group slathers on their death metal.
But there’s something missing in the execution overall. After a few weeks absorbing the album, it becomes apparent there’s no immediacy to the material. Nothing has that instinctual “wow” factor of a “Under A Darkening Sky” or Storm of Steel.”
Where’s the catchiness of a chorus like “Poison Fog”? That question gets no answer on The World Ablaze, any means of trying to achieving it met with instant resistance. Even if these songs lack immediacy, they certainly don’t get any closer after giving it extended time to settle in.
These songs are slower in tempo, more of a galloping charge than an artillery shelling. Only “Close to Victory” picks up to the point that will be familiar to long-time God Dethroned fans. The pacing strategy pays off on “The 11th Hour,” a momentous closer with an emotional guitar solo, and the roaming title track feels like it travels across an entire country in less than six minutes.
God Dethroned have always had consistency on their side, dating back to their 1992 debut The Christhunt. Even when metal went through countless trends, and bands joined along to retain any shred of relevance, Sattler took God Dethroned on its own path. It’s paid off before, but doesn’t this time with The World Ablaze. It’s a rare misstep for a band not known for them.
(released May 5, 2017 on Metal Blade Records)