GOD DETHRONED- "The Toxic Avengers"

By Dr. Abner Mality

Few bands in death metal have been more consistent...or consistently overlooked...than Holland's God Dethroned. They've been steadily attacking the masses with release after release of unique extremity for years now. And who exactly sounds like God Dethroned? It's easy to come up with bands that clone Carcass, Morbid Angel and Slayer in this day and age, but how many bands do you know that have the same combination of melody, speed, brutality and tasteful songwriting that the Godless ones do? None that I can think of.

Now their sound evolves even more with latest blood-splattered platter "The Toxic Touch". Again the band pulls off a very difficult task...remaining instantly identifiable and retaining all their classic elements while broadening their sound and adding new touches. Now don't start foaming at the mouth and getting ready to flee...if you dug God Dethroned's "The Grand Grimoire" (still their best, I say), "Ravenous" or "Into the Lungs of Hell", you won't have a problem with "Toxic Touch". And if you're one of that rare breed that can accept a little more melody and a little less blast, then you're in for a real treat.

I hooked up with drummer Arien van Weesenbeek recently to see what led to the band's new approach and get the lowdown on one of metal's most reliable bands...

WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: "The Toxic Touch" has been out for a while now. How has the overall response been to it?

ARIEN VAN WEESENBEEK: Very well!! We really had great positive reactions so far, and the reviews have been very pleasing. Some people even quote that we play beautiful music now, haha, which of course is a big compliment, because we still play heavy stuff and brutal deathmetal, yet in a more melodic way. We drew the line even further this time, using more twin melodies with the guitars and the riffs themselves are almost melodies themselves. We wanted to create space in the music, with lots of dynamics and groove and when an explosive fill or blastbeat kicks in, then it's REALLY kicking in. Most of the people also like this style, according to the reactions we got on tour and from the reviews.

WC: The cover for this CD is very different to your other efforts. Even the greenish color is unique. What's the story behind the cover? Is it about drug addiction?

AVW: It's not about drug addictions. We used the greenish color and the needle as a metaphor, refering to the title The Toxic Touch. There's this huge negativity in the lyrics this time. I mean, lyrics about someone who wants to commit suicide, someone who imagines himself being in another strange macabre world, people being infected by a typhoid virus, the dying-day of someone... It's all not too glamorous. We bound all the subjects to one strong title: the Toxic Touch. And in fact all the lyrics, and even the music, are filled with this green, dirty, toxic atmosphere.

WC: The lyrics on this record are very harsh and negative, but more personal. A lot of it seems based on suicide and self-hatred. What inspired this approach?

AVW: Well, it's mostly imagination, fictional stories about how someone could or should feel at these moments. It seemed a very interesting idea to write about those topics instead of talking about Satan again, or slashing someone apart. That probably wouldn't fit the music and would be too superfluous and basic for us.

WC: When God Dethroned started, it was a very Satanic-themed band. There's still some of that but nowhere near as much. Have you ever considered a name change? Outside of Deicide, I can't think of too many bands where the name suggests "devil worshipper" as much as God Dethroned.

AVW: You've got a point. But we aren't fanatic anti-Christian people. The name God Dethroned was made up by Henri at a time that he was surrounded by people whom he probably believed to be Christian people and who would act in the name of God. He just thought that sucked and he wanted to rebel against that, I guess. Of course, the first albums are pretty religious-oriented. But there's a lot more trouble going on than the abusers of religion. Religion itself is something that can be very helpful to people and that's a very good thing. Where it turns bad is when religion is being shoved down someone else's throat, and in worst case, start a war because of that. We are a bit more interested in other things than just anti-god or whatever.

WC: The sound of the band changed some for "Toxic Touch", but not really that much. Are your surprised that the changes seem to be controversial for some of your fans?

AVW: It only got much better, more defined with a raw feeling, yet crystal clear sound. I'm not surprised at all that it's controversial. It's not really a typical God Dethroned sound so to speak, but this sound just fits the songs best. There are always people who prefer the first underground records of deathmetal bands, but that's ok.

WC: There seems to be more of a classic rock, almost bluesy influence on some songs. I think the instrumental "Away From Emptiness" definitely has that quality. Did you draw more inspiration from older 70's/80's music for "Toxic Touch"?

AVW: It's funny, because Henri had the clean guitar part at the beginning of the song in his mind for a long time. When we were in the studio, Isaac and Henri just sat down and started jamming with the two of them while I was watching some movie. When they were finished they recorded it and asked me if I could fill in the drumparts. It was done in no-time, and it turned out great! I think it's typical for us that we've done this. Of course, we were thinking about the reactions already, haha, but we just HAD to put this song on the album. I know that Henri loves Pink Floyd and The Golden Earring, but I don't know if that inspired him to write the song.

WC: How have the newer members Henk and Isaac put their stamp on God Dethroned with "Toxic Touch"?

AVW: Isaac came up with a lot of cool ideas and he even wrote an entire song, 'Falling Down'. He definitely gave the GD-sound a big boost with his lead-guitar work, and the powerful way he's performing, and Henke provided effective and strong moving basslines to support all the busy guitar and drumparts. This album is a result of two years of much touring and playing together.

WC: Does "Toxic Touch" represent the way the band is going to evolve in the future? Or is it too early to say what the direction would be?

AVW: That might be too early to say. We really don't know what we're going to do in the future. Anything is possible.

WC: An evil character named "Mary" shows up in two tracks, "On the Wings of Pestilence" and "Typhoid Mary". I know there have also been more "Marys" in past records. What's the story behind this?

AVW: Haha, we love Mary, don't we? Well, this Mary from On Wings of Pestilence appears to be from a comic-book if I'm correct. We gave it a little twist. Typhoid Mary is a story that really happened: in around early 1900 a woman named Mary carried the typhoid-virus, without knowing this, and she exterminated a lot of people with the infection of the typhoid. We've always had something with history.

WC: What was the songwriting process like for this album? I know it took a little longer to release than previous God Dethroned albums?

Ariën: We had a lot of ideas to choose from, and carefully picked the best of them. We took them to the rehearsal room, and started jamming together. We made a lot of recordings and arrangements. Also, we had two tours in between the songwriting: one with Natron from Italy, and with Bolt Thrower in april 2006, right before we entered the studio. It's been two years between this one and 'The Lair', and we've toured quite a lot, so that might be the case it took a bit longer maybe.

WC: Do you think America is ready for God Dethroned now? I know the last tour over here did not turn out exactly as expected. Was "Toxic Touch" written with the American market in mind?

Ariën: I hope so, haha. Well, the last tour there was not too well organized, and a big lack of promotion that happened too short before the tour. We didn't have anything in mind when we wrote the album. Just one thing, to reduce the ammount of blast beats. But no marketing strategy.

WC: When did you guys realize you were going to go in a more groovy and melodic direction?

Ariën: We noticed that in live-situations, the blastbeat became a bit boring, and a hard beat to move on. And when we had the skankbeats, or the mid-tempo parts, everybody went nuts. So we figured: 'let's create more groove and space in the music, rather than just blasting away for a whole album'. It was great to work this way, and it became much more interesting to write an album and to be able to play some different things.

WC: What would be the ideal bands for God Dethroned to tour with? I always thought Hypocrisy would be a great match for you guys.

Ariën: Hypocrisy? Wow, set it up, man! Haha. No, but you're absolutely right. They also have a big diversity, and a melodic approach to deathmetal. I hope we can tour with Slayer one day.

WC: Any touring plans for America?

Ariën: Not yet. First a European tour, and some seperate shows, and then we'll see what happens.

WC: What was the last CD/tape you bought just for your own enjoyment?

Ariën: The debut cd of a band called 'Them Apples' from Holland: it's a bit funky-metal music in the style of Primus and Red Hot Chili Peppers. Really cool stuff!

WC: What was the last gig you caught just because you wanted to see it?

Ariën: Morbid Angel in Tilburg, Holland. Absolutely fascinating. After all those long years, they're still lonely at the top.

WC: In the long history of God Dethroned, was there any "Spinal Tap" moment that happened to the band that you'd like to share with us?

Ariën: We did a cd-presentation show in Holland on december the 1st. All of a sudden, Henri's amplifier broke, and it lasted for half an hour. At first, Isaac, Henke and I just jammed a bit on a part of 'Under a Silver Moon', but that lasted over 6 minutes, and that was long enough. We noticed that the amp-problems weren't solved yet, so I kicked in a drumsolo. Two solo's to be exact, and to play a bit more, I played 'Raining Blood' from Slayer, with the crowd singing a long, hahaha. Really cool! After that, we explained the situation, and the problem was solved right after that, and we went on with the set. Henri was furious and stressed, hahaha. But we went on as if nothing ever happened. Spinal Tap-enough? haha.

WC: Any last words for the fans out there?

Arien: Everybody: be patient. We'll be there sometime to play again for you guys! In the meantime: enjoy the new album!! Cheers!

God Dethroned's Official Website