I can already imagine the eyebrows raising as I type this. I know, I know, God Dethroned’s seventh album probably seems like an odd choice for the top 100. But, not only is it an underrated metal album, it also takes me back to a very specific time and place in my life. In July of 2006, I packed my bags and left the asshole of the Midwest for sunny Southern California so that I could intern for Metal Blade Records in exchange for college credit, the very same label that released The Toxic Touch in October of that year.
Interning for a record label is not glamorous. I spent most of my days licking envelopes, sorting promos and logging demos from some of the most horrible bands on the planet, bands that could barely spell their own names, into a database. Don’t get me wrong, there are definitely some incredible perks though. I got to see bands like Venom, Celtic Frost, Goatwhore and Krisiun for free. I got to meet George “Corpsegrinder” Fisher and Attila Csihar. I also got tons of promos, which meant I was getting bombarded with new music on an almost daily basis. Of all the Metal Blade releases I listened to over the course of that six months, The Toxic Touch was the one I listened to the most; if I’m not mistaken it was my second most listened to album overall during that time, just behind Ludicra’s Fex Urbis Lex Orbis.
So what is it about The Toxic Touch that drew me to it? Quite simply, it’s among the catchiest death metal albums I’ve ever heard; hell, let’s be honest, it is the catchiest death metal album I’ve ever heard. It somehow has a pop sensibility while at the same time being totally crushing, dark and evil-sounding; it never once degenerates into overly saccharine melo-death territory, in spite of the many ridiculously awesome hooks that litter the album. Songs like “2014” “On Wings of Pestilence” and “Typhoid Mary” are the kind of metal songs that get stuck in your head after just one listen; great riffs, great choruses and an overall level of craftmanship not often seen in death metal.
Yes, the bulk of the songs here follow a verse chorus verse structure, and the fact that you can actually understand everything Henri Sattler is growling only makes the album that much more likely to drill into your skull and inhabit it for days on end. It didn’t hurt that I could also identify with much of the lyrical content. Going to California, I was coming off of one of the most bizarre dating/relationship experiences I’d ever had (don’t even get me started on the gory details), so shit like “Mary’s got a dead cold heart / Her pitch black soul has died so long ago” and “She wears the sign of the reaper / Typhoid runs in her blood / Her hands touch you so gently / A toxic touch and a virus you’ll get” was hitting pretty close to home. I’ve written much on THKD about my experiences with depression, and God Dethroned had that angle covered too: “I drown in depressions / Countless addictions wear me down.” Well, I was never an addict, but I was drinking quite heavily at the time in order to cope with a combination of loneliness, sexual frustration and adjusting to an environment that was quite alien to a Midwesterner. In retrospect, listening to The Toxic Touch (along with the aforementioned Ludicra album) at the ungodly, vampire-like hours I was keeping towards the end of my time in California probably saved me from having a total meltdown.
The Toxic Touch was one of my favorite albums of 2006, but it had the misfortune of being released the same month as Amon Amarth’s With Oden on Our Side, the release that pushed the Swedes into the extreme metal big-time; as a result God Dethroned were in this writer’s opinion unfairly overshadowed. Unfortunately, the death metal Dutchmen called it a day in 2012 after twenty one years and nine albums, and even though they never quite attained the upper echelon status they deserved, the impression they made upon me with The Toxic Touch will never be forgotten.
THKD’s Top 100 Metal Albums
1. Celestial Season – Solar Lovers + an introduction to THKD’s Top 100 Metal Albums
2. Type O Negative – October Rust
3. Grand Belial’s Key – Judeobeast Assassination
4. Mayhem – Live in Leipzig
5. Helmet – Meantime
6. Metallica – Ride the Lightning
7. God Dethroned – The Toxic Touch