What is the nature of God? Countless philosophers—both theist and atheist—have considered the question. Abrahamic religions consider only a singular creator and ruler, a supreme being that is inherently impossible to understand. Norse and Greek mythologies, in contrast, feature pantheons of very human gods, who squabble and fight and love as we do. Nature religions such as Shinto see gods in every element of the natural world. Genus Ordinis Dei (GOD for short) by their name wonder what the biological classification of an Abrahamic God would be and they do this by seemingly breaking the rule-book and combining symphonic death metal with elements of the traditionally blue-collar of deathcore.
Great Olden Dynasty (GOD for short redux) demonstrates the potency of this mixture. It’s bombastic yet graceful, and more than deserving of the overused adjective “epic.” The compositions use filmic orchestrations alongside chunky, angular riffs that dive headfirst into stop-start patterns. The few breakdowns feel less like breakdowns thanks to the symphonics; instead, they become hard-hitting enhancements to the bevy of choirs and strings. Though the classical elements were added in post-production by guitarist Tommy, they don’t sound canned or superficial at all: they are an integral part of the band’s identity. The biggest natural asset is the vocals by Nick K, which operate on a sliding scale between a potent growl and a shattering hardcore-style shout reminiscent of Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), moving from one style to the other effortlessly. His performance is a man possessed, and it’s hard to believe there’s only one vocalist at work here sometimes, besides the guest appearance of Lacuna Coil’s Cristina Scabbia 1 on the mysterious “Salem.”
If there’s one thing Italian bands know it is drama, and indeed GOD have a knack for theatricality. The tracks exude a larger-than-life grandeur, particularly in Nick’s belting, but unlike some of their peers, they don’t overdo it, thanks to the moderation in the symphonic dosage and the earthen riffs. Occasionally they do teeter on the edge, though, such as the schmaltzy “Morten.” The opening here is especially egregious in its cheesiness, and the grand piano is overused to cringy effect, despite the bludgeoning effort from the rest of the band. Another weak spot is “ID 13401” which suffers from awkward vocal lines in the chorus, repeating the number in the title too often (ID numbers don’t usually make for compelling lyrics unless you’re Neil Fallon.) But these are rather small issues, easily offset by the amount of passion beaming from the music.
The production is modern but thankfully refrains from crushing the dynamics. The choirs, horns, and strings all subtly interweave with the metal, which sounds as solid as bedrock. The mix is balanced fairly well, though the tight drumming deserves a slightly brighter bulb in its spotlight, and as usual, the bass is the ugly duckling who must be in the family picture but merely peeking over the shoulder of a tall sibling. Considering the bad rep symphonic death metal bands have with dynamic mastering (looking at you, Aeternam and Fleshgod Apocalypse,) I count a solid but nondescript production as a win, even if it feels a little on the safe side.
Few populaces put their emotions on display the way the Italians do. This consistently reflects in the metal bands from the country, and many a wheel of cheese has emerged as a result. But GOD strike the balance perfectly: it’s grounded in solid technical ability, with chunky riffing and pounding drums, but contrasts with heartfelt vocals that soar and crush, sometimes in the same sentence. The symphonic elements underline, rather than upset, the delicate equilibrium, setting an air of grandeur without getting too cheesy or overcrowding the sound. Despite a small dip in the middle, GOD is an excellent slab of symphonic death that teems with personality.