Ask Henri Sattler his purposes behind starting God Dethroned and he will tell you the moniker relays his opinions against organized religion. In the death metal unit's formative years, Sattler admits shock value was the motivation behind God Dethroned's early catalog releases Christhunt and The Grand Grimoire.
Sattler jokes these days he's learned to be a bit more patient and slightly laid back versus the venomous younger Sattler of the early nineties. The payoff for a more upbeat life transition has triggered a rebirthing effect in God Dethroned where Sattler's music retains its scorching deathgrind intensity. Yet there's a refinement to the band culminating in two of their most polished efforts, 2006's The Toxic Touch and God Dethroned's latest effort Passiondale.
As Passiondale is, musically-speaking, more ferocious than a pack of turncoat wolves baying and snapping at the proverbial feet of their creator, there is nevertheless a moralistic, humane side to Henri Sattler's latest endeavor. Passiondale pinpoints atrocities inflicted upon the Belgian province of Ypres and the neighboring Passchendaele during World War I as Sattler takes his listeners into the haze of the mustard gas spewed by a would-be conquering Kaiser-era German army upon a region still bearing the scars of demise nearly a century later.
A choice topic for a death metal album to be sure, however, Sattler, with his retooled God Dethroned 2009 lineup including a returning Roel Sanders on drums and Danny Servaes on keys, plus the addition of new guitarist Susan Gerls, has created a guttural metallic experience with a rare sense of honor and redemption about it.
The Metal Minute managed to corner Henri Sattler for a Take 5 interview to delve deeper into the horrifying world of Passiondale...
The Metal Minute: God Dethroned’s latest album Passiondale is one of the most mature extreme albums I’ve ever heard. Considering the subject matter of the holocaustic events in Passchendaele and Ypres would require a sensitive approach to tell its story, you took that exact approach and I think Passiondale delivers more impact because of its humanistic approach. Was it your intent to make a death metal album with more redemption to it?
Henri Sattler: Yes, definitely. I've been in Ypres and Passchendaele several times and what I saw there impressed me a lot. So when I started writing the concept story for the album I wanted to describe the war as objective and neutral as possible to respect all nations who were involved. Still, it's a brutal album, just by telling its story as I did and writing the music accordingly.
MM: I believe it was with Jens (van der Balk, former guitarist) you used to venture into Passchendaele for drinking rounds? What was it about Passchendaele that kept luring you back and ultimately inspiring God Dethroned’s latest work?
HS: No, it was with Isaac (Delahaye) our former guitar player. He lives in Ypres so that's why I learned so much about its history. The city literally breathes World War I every day still. You would have to go there to feel the atmosphere. It's something special and hard to describe.
MM: “Poison Fog” is a rather epic track which I think captures the true horror of what went on in this region. Tell us what you learned from a historical perspective which went into “Poison Fog,” much less other songs such as “No Survivors” and “Drowning in Mud.”
HS: "Poison Fog" is about the mustard gas attacks during the war. World War I being a trench war, neither side could win the war. They were just stuck there for years. In order to achieve a breakthrough, a technological breakthrough was needed. First there was mustard gas in 1917 and later came the tank in 1918.
"No Survivors" talks about the soldiers who were stuck in the trenches. Usually their life expectancy was extremely short. Storming the enemy with about 300 men, only 30 would return. This would happen every day, causing hundreds of thousands of casualties. "Drowning in Mud" talks about living in a trench, losing all of your friends, starting friendships with rats or things--which really happened back then--and fucking each other up the ass by lack of women around. Right now we're shooting a video for "Drowning in Mud."
MM: Whew, intense, brother, particularly the "Drowning in Mud" ancedotes! For Passiondale you get both Roel Sanders and Danny Servaes back into the lineup and you replace Isaac with Susan Gerl. There’s definitely another new dynamic to God Dethroned with this revamped lineup the listener can detect, but for your purposes in creating the album, how has all of the new changes affected you?
HS: The changes didn't affect me at all, to be honest. I mainly wrote the album on my own, so to me it didn't matter who played in the band with me. Of course it's important to have a lineup again once the album came out, but for the writing and recording process it didn't matter. Roel's return on drums came at the right time as I planned on going back to the roots again. He played on our early albums so the new album would get that old school touch again easily. Also Danny Servaes played on those albums so getting him back was a must. You can hear that the results are there; old school and brutal, but very mature as well.
MM: We get to hear some clean vocals from you on Passiondale, which you know some of the more regimental metal fans are possibly going to give you an earful for. Personally, I agree with your choice to go that route if you’re trying to add a particular drama to your story. What are your thoughts to the occasional vocal changes on this album and what would you say to anyone getting on your case for them?
HS: My lyrics were written from a neutral point of view, with the exception of two parts (in "Poison Fog" and "No Survivors") where the lyrics were written from a survivor's or killed soldier's view. I thought it would be great to have those parts sung with a different type of sound or voice, so we tried clean vocals and in my point of view, it was exactly what those parts needed.
Copyright 2009 Ray Van Horn, Jr. / The Metal Minute