Review: God Dethroned – Illuminati

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Way back when in 2007, a friend and I worked our way onto a Metal Blade mailing list. Evidently a high school newspaper qualified as a press outlet, so I started receiving the label’s new releases. No, I have not gotten any cooler in the following 13 years.

In addition to With Oden on Our Side, one of the first albums I got in the mail from the good folks at Metal Blade was God Dethroned‘s The Toxic Touch. It was my first exposure to blackened death, and I wasn’t a fan. It’s now somehow 2020, and I’m here to correct the error.

Every time God Dethroned release a new album, I revisit their catalog and get reminded of just how consistent they’ve always been. Although I haven’t listened to all eleven albums in their entirety, each that I’ve heard has been nothing less than entertaining. Coming off a break from 2017’s The World Ablaze, Illuminati continues God Dethroned’s track record of no nonsense, meat-and-potatoes blackened death metal.

If we’re being honest, the “blackened” in blackened death isn’t really doing much in God Dethroned’s case. They don’t have the blastbeat/harsh vox histrionics of mid-period Behemoth, nor do they delve into tremolo riffing as much as, say, Ulthar. In practice, the black metal influences crop up more as a background influence than an out-and-out stylistic choice. The sound on Illuminati is far more in line with harder Swedish melodeath, featuring harmonized leads, moderately harsh vocals, and churning interplay between chugging riffs and double bass.

Although God Dethroned do many things well, probably their best aspect is their incredibly lean songwriting. Eleven albums into a career, bands should know what their strengths are and play to them. God Dethroned do exactly that, wasting no time on elements that aren’t core aspects of their sound. I mean that literally: almost every track is in the golden range of three to five minutes. The band do their thing, throw in a siqq riff or two, and then get the hell out of dodge.

“Spirit of Beelzebub” and “Book of Lies” were released as singles, but you could really pick any song from the album and call it a single; the songs are so of a piece with each other that any of them could have worked in the same context. As it stands, “Book of Lies” is a mid-tempo stomp featuring a tasty melodic solo, while “Spirit of Beelzebub” delves more explicitly into the band’s black metal influences, combined with interesting vocal interplay and some fierce drum work.

It’s this consistency in approach that lets the smaller details shine through: a flash of harmonized soloing here, chanted gang vocals across the way, a touch of clean baritone singing there. Final track “Blood Moon Eclipse” uses these elements to the best effect, alternating between full-speed blasting and slower, more deliberate, moderately atonal riffs to close out the album.

God Dethroned’s anti-Christian/anti-religious blackened death may not be a new combination in 2020, but with Illuminati they’ve shown that it’s one that can still deliver the goods. Not many bands three decades deep can say the same.

3.5 out ov 5 Flaming Toilets

Illuminati is out now on Metal Blade Records.

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