By Laura Wiebe Taylor
The key to decoding the motivations behind God Dethroned’s latest album is its title: Passiondale is a concept album about a small site of tremendous struggle in World War One. Unsurprisingly, the subject matter works with the death metal ferocity running through most of the record. Without ever straying too far from Passiondale’s very melodic core, God Dethroned offer a nearly steady bombardment of pounding drums, driving riffs, and a few lacerating solos. Synth orchestration thickens the mix here and there, powerful enough to emphasize the drama of large-scale violence without diluting the aggression or swallowing up the harsher tones. But even while the heaviness persists, there are points when Passiondale’s catchy hooks sound like too much fun to depict the gritty reality of war – the anthemic title track conveys this tension between trauma and celebration particularly well. Still, the only really off note is a digression into clean male vocals that feels a bit like tossing a Killswitch Engage chorus into an Amon Amarth track. Thankfully this identity crisis lasts but a moment in what is otherwise a solid death metal record and a worthy historical tribute.