Henri Sattler: Vocals / Guitar
Michiel van der Plicht: Drums
Jeroen Pomper: Bass / Vocals
Dave Meester: Guitar
God Dethroned never say die! The immutable power of the Netherlands greatest blackened death metal band rings true on new album, Illuminati. But this isn't something new for the Dutch horde. Since forming in the village of Beilen in 1991, God Dethroned have amassed a sizable following through the release of 10 full-length albums. From debut The Christhunt (1992) and Bloody Blasphemy (1999) to The Toxic Touch (2006) and comeback The World Ablaze (2017), Henri Sattler's God Dethroned have indeed purveyed some of the finest evil death since Possessed hurled the ground-breaking Seven Churches upon metaldom. Luckily, for headbangers and horn-throwers the world over, Illuminati continues God Dethroned's immutable reign after a two-year gap.
"Back in the day, death metal was still a big thing, so it was pretty easy to come back into the game," says Sattler, who spent the better portion of seven years-between 2010 and 2017-tending to life as a luthier for his own guitar company, Serpent King Guitars. "Nowadays, I feel it's a bit harder, because new sub-genres in metal have become big, such as female-fronted bands. But God Dethroned have always followed our own path. We were always different from everybody else. This resulted in slower growth in our fanbase compared to bands who played death metal or black metal specifically, but a more loyal fan base at the same time. Our fans are still there. They've never abandoned us."
Musically speaking, Illuminati offers God Dethroned's most varied material to date. With a refined lineup-guitarist Mike Ferguson was replaced by Dave Meester (ex-Apophys) during the songwriting process, God Dethroned set off on writing an album that would retain the band's signature brutality and expand upon ideas hinted at on pivotal songs from previous albums, such as "Hating Life," "Under a Darkening Sky," and "The Wrong Side of the Wire." To write Illuminati, Sattler teamed up with long-time drummer Michiel van der Plicht. Together, they penned the majority of God Dethroned's new full-length, with critical input from Ferguson, who wrote "Eye of Horus," and bassist/vocalist Jeroen Pomper. Certainly, God Dethroned's devoted legions will find tracks like "Broken Halo," "Satan Spawn," and "Blood Moon Eclipse" devilishly delectable.
"Illuminati has stronger songs," Sattler says, comparing Illuminati with The World Ablaze. "We experimented a lot with vocals. Apart from my grunt/scream and Jeroen's grunt, I did the clean vocal choirs myself this time. We also have grunt-on-tone-singing with a grunt, basically. This was not done by me, but by Kevin Quilligan (Apophys). This adds a lot to the atmosphere. We also played keyboards throughout the whole album, something we didn't do at all on The World Ablaze. I think we have surpassed the boundaries of death metal with this album. It's much broader oriented, but hard to put a tag on."
The lyrical focus on Illuminati is a move away from the World War I theme of Passiondale (Passchendaele), Under the Sign of the Iron Cross, and The World Ablaze. Hearing fans beg for Sattler to return to God Dethroned's anti-Christian roots, God Dethroned embarked on a journey to unearth secret religious societies, photograph scenes of erotic derangement (a riff off of Hieronymus Bosch's "Garden of Earthly Delights"), feed jealous angels, tell tales of forced evangelism, detail demonic frenzies, and, of course, covet the spawn of Satan. In short, Illuminati returns God Dethroned to its infernal roots, as heard and experienced on The Grand Grimoire (1997) and Into the Lungs of Hell (2003).
"The lyrics go back to the time when we wrote songs against religion," says Sattler, recalling the glory days of priests on pikes and bibles bursting into flame. "Or, occult themes. I felt it was the next logical thing to do. This time, we incorporated a Freemason-like atmosphere into our songs and imagery. The title track covers this secretive sect. But a song like 'Book of Lies' deals with forced conversion, whereas 'Spirit of Beelzebub' covers the notion that despite what we may think Satan is still very much part of this world. 'Gabriel' is based on the movie, The Prophecy, which is about a second war in Heaven. And 'Eye of Horus' is a bit different, but it concerns the Egyptian god Horus and the balance between good and evil."
Illuminati was engineered by Sattler and God Dethroned soundman Ortrun Poolman. The duo also handled the recording of van der Plicht's drums. Sattler then took the engineering and tracking helm for guitars, bass, keyboards, and vocals. All this was done in the convenience and comfort of Sattler's home studio, away from the ticking clocks, label reps, and budget meetings of studios famous and not so famous. In short, Sattler, as always, was in near-full control. God Dethroned then hired out to Hugo Alvarstein, a sound engineer, to master Illuminati. If the production formula worked tremendously for The World Ablaze, then the second time around was, of course, going to be a no-brainer.
"I like to work when I feel like it, not when a studio engineer tells me to," Sattler says, clearly unflinching in his decision to self-record in the confines of his home. "The recording sessions went smoothly and comfortably, simply because it was done at a home-like situation. The further we got with the recordings the more excited we got because we added a lot, like the aforementioned vocal parts and keyboards. The picture became more complete after each recording day."
With a cover by Polish master Michał 'Xaay' Loranc (Nile, Evocation) and featuring some of God Dethroned's strongest songs to date, Illuminati is conversant in the tenets of death metal, experimental where it needs to be, and indomitable in spirit. It's the kind of album that will bestow the Dutch heroes with accolades and push them across Europe (first with Obscura) and then the rest of the globe (planning for North and South America is under way) throughout 2020. Be forewarned… videos for "Spirit of Beelzebub" and the title track have already been completed and are poised take the damned straight back to Hell!