Released: 2010, Metal Blade Records
Reviewer: Aaron Yurkiewicz
2009’s PASSIONDALE was arguably one of the best death metal albums of that year, and was a creative high point for God Dethroned. Using World War I, and particularly the Battle of Passchendaele, as creative fuel for the album, the band was able to focus their brand of volatile death metal in a way that hadn’t been realized on previous albums. Following any landmark release is always a challenge, and God Dethroned has opted for the “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” plan for their new opus UNDER THE SIGN OF THE IRON CROSS. Continuing with the World War I themes of its predecessor, UNDER THE SIGN OF THE IRON CROSS has much of the same look and context of PASSIONDALE, but feels a lot more like a companion piece than a progressive step forward.
Don’t get me wrong, this album slays like nobody’s business. Anyone who thinks that it’s easy to write and perform traditional death metal that’s both thought provoking and challenging should listen to this album and reassess their position on the matter. There’s not a bad song on this album, and yes, you should go out and buy it right now. Henri and company keep the accelerator to the floor throughout the disc and amp up the aggression factor considerably, which should no doubt please fans of their earlier material (GRAND GRIMOIRE anyone?). Thematically, each of the tracks deals with different perspectives of the war, from battlefield stories to the march into impending turmoil. I will say that every time I listen to the song “The Red Baron” I think of the Snoopy cartoons where he’s playing the role of said character, is that wrong? “On Fields of Death and Desolation” is one of the best tracks the band’s arsenal and closes the album with an emotional wallop.
UNDER THE SIGN OF THE IRON CROSS is a great album, by God Dethroned’s standards or by anybody else’s. I just wish that it had more of its own identity. With each repeated listen I kept finding myself making comparisons to PASSIONDALE, which ends up being both a compliment and a criticism. Nitpicking aside, God Dethroned has crafted yet another death metal masterpiece. In its own right, UNDER THE SIGN OF THE IRON CROSS is another excellent release from one of the best bands in the genre.