Dutch death metal band God Dethroned are a band I remember well from the late 90s and early 00s. I didn’t realise they were still going until I saw this. There is a reason for that, as “The World Ablaze” is their first album since 2010, shortly after which the band decided that 20 years on the road was enough. This is their eleventh album.

After an opening, which I imagine would make an overlong introduction to a live set, we get down to business with “Annihilation Crusade”. It’s like going back in time. Straight death metal, the repeated title in the chorus, energetic drumming and tight playing define the song. If death metal were a political movement, God Dethroned would stand in the centre. This isn’t for wimps, yet there’s melody, wondrous guitar work and of course dark and threatening atmospheres. “Fight for your country, fight to stay alive”. Fighting is very much a theme of “The World Ablaze”. As you might expect, it’s fiery stuff. Epic, belligerent themes are represented in a sort of Dutch death metal version of Amon Amarth. So “On the Wrong Side of the Wire” is catchy and fluent, with a real hook from the guitarist. It’s exciting stuff. From time to time there’s a departure to harsh distant lands, but tempo changes are never far away. It’s a sign of experience that God Dethroned know how to develop an atmosphere before moving on, unlike some newer bands who don’t allow this to happen. “Escape Across the Ice (The White Army)” has a thumping urgency, and cements the excitement before a guitar solo comes in, and the song takes another dramatic twist. Drama is never far away but God Dethroned don’t resort to gimmicks or sudden changes to achieve it. This is forward-driving death metal. This said, they did lose me a bit with “Breathing through Blood” which for me drifted off anonymously. “Messina Ridge” by contrast is more anthemic and epic, not dissimilar to the earlier “Annihilation Crusade”. With a colourful and driving rhythm line, and the simplest of choruses, which amounts to the track’s title, it’s easy to get into. But this is far from a collection of anthems. “The 11th Hour” shows the darker and moodier side of this musically talented band.

If I were introducing someone to death metal, God Dethroned is the sort of band I’d put up. While representing the style, their hard-hitting tunes are accessible and memorable without being commercial or obscure. Listening to “The World Ablaze” is like going back to simpler old times.

(7.5/10 Andrew Doherty)