Every review you read for this album will start with a discussion of the line-up. For those who don’t know, Voodoo Gods are a death metal supergroup like Vltimas and Bloodbath with one release under their belt in 2014’s Anticipation for Blood Leveled in Darkness.
On this effort, vocalist, George Fisher (Cannibal Corpse), replaces Nergal (Behemoth) and Rage guitarist, Victor Smolski, takes the place of David Shankle (ex-Manowar) on lead duties. So, the pedigree is not in doubt but what about the finished product?
First of all, this is not a side project, nor does it sound like one. The level of musicianship on The Divinity of Blood is outstanding and has no suggestion of a studio collaboration between busy musicians sharing files on their laptops. And though this is death metal, you’ll hear no blast beats engaged in a race to the end of the beats-per-minute contest. Of course, speed is a big part of the sound, but the drums are firmly in the classic hand-to-foot combinations of thrash metal.
After three listens it’s clear there are no fillers here. A guitar tone like Morbid Angel’s Blessed Are the Sick is the preferred sound for the axemanship, and what a job Smolski does with his instrument. The fretwork on ‘Rise of the Antichrist’, ‘Forever?’, and ‘The Absolute Necessity to Kill’ is stupendous. You can sometimes criticise death metal guitarists for sacrificing vintage riffing for maximum brutality, but Smolski’s background in German heavy metal titans, Rage, allows him to tease out the occasional hard rock lick among the machine gun attack. Imagine Judas Priest knocking out a barrage of Bolt Thrower riffs and you’ll understand what makes this so unique.
Of course, many fans will know that Voodoo Gods are not just a guitarist’s indulgence. Bassist, Jean Baudin, is famous for his 11-string extended bass explorations, which means he treats us to some low-end shredding on ‘The Rise of the Antichrist’ and the title track at the end. But the exquisite musicianship reaches a zenith on ‘Serenade of Hate’, which starts with a Dream Theater puzzle of mind-blowing scale runs before launching into a full-scale death metal assault.
Worry not if this is getting too technical for you. Know this: Voodoo Gods can write songs as well as shred. ‘Menace to God’ could grace a stadium of Metallica acolytes while ‘Isa’ is the true borderland between thrash and death metal. And on ‘The Ritual of Thorn’ we get some rhythms packed with heroic endeavour rather than mindless brutality. It’s impressive stuff.
The only criticism of this album is the anti-Christian rhetoric, which feels like a band breaking taboos that no longer exist. Cliché is the default setting for a good portion of the lyrics. In Christianity, they are surely attacking the wrong religion as a belief system that stupefies the masses into deplorable acts of hatred and violence.
Overall, though, this is a fabulous piece of work and deserves to stand as a new benchmark in death metal regardless of its supergroup status.
Release Date: 15/05/2020
Record Label: Reaper Music
Standout tracks: From Necromancy to Paraphilia, Serenade of Hate, The Absolute Necessity to Kill
Suggested Further Listening: Death – Individual Though Patterns (1993), Dream Theater – Awake (1994), Morbid Angel – Blessed Are The Sick (1991)