February 1, 2011 | , | 4.5

God Dethroned, Under the Sign of the Iron Cross

God Dethroned: Under the Sign of the Iron Cross

So I fucked up in 2009. I’ve gotta come clean. God Dethroned released Passiondale, their best album to date, and I forgot all about it. I’m pretty sure I saw the album come in the mail, remembered not being overly thrilled with their older material and gave it half a listen. Having since listened to that album countless time, I’ve come to the conclusion that I am no doubt a dumbass, otherwise that shit would have gotten an almost perfect score on this site.

A year later, the band is back with more World War One themed mayhem. Under the Sign of the Iron Cross may not be as good as Passiondale, but it comes pretted damn near close to it, and is delivered with an even more unbridled aggression than its predecessor. The nine songs on the band’s latest effort continue to document the destruction and violence that many unfortunate soldiers succumbed to in the open trenches of the European front. Rapid fire, machine gunning drums dominate the album for the most part while the precise riffing receives a boost from nicely timed injections of melody.

After the sub-one minute opening intro to set the mood, the band blitzkriegs their way through three tracks of absolute, all-out war. “Storm of Steel,” “Fire Storm” and “The Killing is Faceless” are packed full of unrelenting, blasting drums and driving riffs that do little more than necessary to shred your skull to pieces. Throw in Sattler’s guttural barks and you’ve got one hell of an opening trifecta.

It’s not until the title track that the band slows things down a bit and enters into a more melodic realm to balance out the initial blasting mayhem. “Under the Sign of the Iron Cross” is the second longest track on the album and carries with it a more dramatic, epic vibe than the opening triad of tracks (not including the intro). Hell, the song also features clean singing which works really well in this instance and an orchestral/piano closing amongst the bludgeoning rhythms.

From this point on, the songs are a bit more balanced and not an all or nothing eruption of aggression and violence. “Chaos Reigns at Dawn” couldn’t be a more apt title for this song — it paints a picture of bombed out buildings, smoking craters and flying lead like you are living through it right now. It’s a more balanced answer to the title track as the band gets back down to business with catchy guitars and rumbling rhythms, not to mention the balls to the wall lead at 2:20. “Through Byzantine Hemispheres” has a great opening series of riffs that will have your head banging in no time. It’s a solid track that leads into “The Red Baron,” a song that’s a good deal more frenetic in its delivery, but not quite as blasting as the first half of the album and features a soulful lead at 1:53 that soars.

Album closer, “On Fields of Death and Desolation” is a seven and a half minute score that is ambitious in scope when compared to the rest of the album. Starting off with melancholic guitar work for the first couple of minutes before the band ramp up the aggression with drum blasts and driving riffs. The next 5 plus minutes are packed with soaring leads, rumbling rhythms and more than enough tempo changes to keep you entertained.

Under the Sign of the Iron Cross is a great continuation from the stellar Passiondale. The level of aggression has been increased, but the band still maintains a solid balance with the newer material with the injection of timely melodies and solid song writing. I can’t wait to see where these guys take their interest in the world’s conflicts next.