Well, it definitely could have been better for two major reasons. The first issue here is that you can’t shake a familiarity with how melodic this effort comes across. There are plenty of times you’ll feel like you’re listening to mid-career Arch Enemy with either that blackened touch, or a heavy nineties era death metal atmosphere Fleshcrawl and Autopsy can construct. “The World Ablaze” is a good example of this with an aura of Anthems of Rebellion lingering in the multiple melodic passages above the deeper bass and guitar tuning that does offer up a bit of unease behind the surprisingly mundane lyrics and overly excessive track length that just doesn’t work with the less than impressive composition. Performed live, however, it easily will be a different story as far as how it hits you, but that’s about it.
The other issue to be had here is that The World Ablaze sounds a bit on the flat side. The guitar work is clearly top-notch throughout the effort and can elicit the proper atmosphere where necessary, often leaving a decent dark and necrotic tone for each war-themed performance. Those environments, not to mention just the most standard of segments, all end up pretty thin and unendearing due to how flat they come through. “The 11th Hour” shows that with a song meant to capture the blood soaked battle field post war, but instead leaves even the already rich bass lost in the mix due to everything but the vocals kind of just hanging around bored, as if begrudgingly carrying on the performance until things get a little deeper by the four-minute mark, and even then it still sounds uninspiring.
One final complaint to be had here is the way the drums sound. The kit itself stands between close and obvious to way too low and distant in the mix, the latter being the cymbals. Most of the crashes end up meshing together, not to mention sometimes sound like they are cutting out, as if recorded on tape and the player crumpled the track up in some spots and nobody noticed, cared, or had the time to re-record. This is far more evident during “Escape Across the Ice (The White Army)” where it just seems like my headphones were cutting out just past three minutes in. In fact, I genuinely thought that was the case and replayed that section four times, as well as examined the drums again through a second set of speakers. No, these are not technical issues on my end, however I am chocking the issue on “Escape Across the Ice” as a glitch in the digital file given for review, but still worth mentioning incase it is in the retail version.
So, all that said, there are some positives to be had. Again we find ourselves with yet another war themed album like the last two that, sadly, starts off with quite the generic introduction. “A Call to Arms” is a slow-moving piece of forlorn nineties death metal that makes you aware what the topic is as it slowly fades in and concludes with a stock explosion. “Annihilation Crusade” slams forward with some very heated riffs, bouts of blast beats, and a few short-yet-sweet guitar solos around the two-minute mark. While it still suffers the aforementioned stale fate, there’s enough energy that managed to survive the final mixing to make this one of the more stand-out tracks, offering up a promise that the technical end simply doesn’t quite deliver on save a few other tracks.
You also have the aforementioned “Escape Across the Ice (The White Army)”, a slower paced offering akin to the material found on Lair of the White Worm. The eighties clean thrash guitar introduction establishes the cold terrain more than the crushing, groove heavy performance that fades in. Technical issues aside, the focus on deeper riffs and power really make this one stand out and get your head bobbing along instinctively. “Messina Ridge” has plenty of hooks to set up a sense of unease in nearly each bridge, but it’s the continued chilly and blunt tone of this one that really drives the point home.
As a God Dethroned fan, The World Ablaze was an album I went into really excited for and wanting to love. The first few spins were great and left me coming back for another round. Sadly, the more you listen to it, the more it starts to wear thin from obvious technical issues that realy hold back what clearly is a kick ass album, which is just a damned shame. The potential can be heard in every riff, vocal outburst, drum beat, and bass line, but the quality presented as the final product just doesn’t capture the obvious strengths that existed when captured in the studio. It’s clear these songs will be far more effective live than on this recording, nd it really is worth it for a few songs that survive the thinning and to be familiar with the songs in preparation for when these legends roll into town.