Released: 2017, Silver Lining
Reviewer: Mr. Metalguy (Guest Reviewer)
Six years. Six years have elapsed (or prolapsed?) since Morbid Angel unleashed upon us, the faithful, ILLUD DIVINUM INSANE. And, in the intervening years, many of us have managed to scrub that lingering memory away by trying very, very hard to forget it ever existed, even if the cover did look like COVENANT. Also in the intervening time, the whole band abandoned Trey Azagthoth, his Mom defended him on social media (go Mom!), and David Vincent began a career in outlaw country and is, in fact, quite good at it. Pete Sandoval continues with Terrorizer. So, the seasons change and time marches on and now we are greeted with new opus KINGDOMS DISDAINED.
Returning to the fold is the voice that arguably helped raise the profile of Morbid Angel in the past, vocalist Steve Tucker. Familiarity is not always a bad thing, as opener (and contender for silliest song title of 2017) “Piles Of Little Arms” gets the proceedings started with a welcome return to form for Morbid Angel, plodding around in murky pools where the slime live, blessing the sick through blast and beat alike and inviting those who may have strayed from the flock back into the fold, following a long established formula fatal to the flesh of lesser beings. In short, KINGDOMS DISDAINED starts out with something to prove, the retooled lineup proudly staring down its recent history, showing all comers that Morbid Angel is sorry for for its past transgressions and is here now, in 2017, to reaffirm its covenant of domination.
In times past, the solo work of Asagthoth has been, shall we say, indulgent. Not so as KINGDOMS DISDAINED hits its stride at around the midpoint of the album, the band embracing once again a sound that is somewhat cavernous in scope without becoming lost in those particular stylistic catacombs. When it is slowing down, the Morbid Angel machine is thick like a tar pit ensnaring a dinosaur, trapping the listener in layers of guitar overdubs and viciously effective drum work. Tucker’s bass is almost buried completely in the mix which is at once too bad but not unusual especially in light of the last outing being so bass heavy. It is also omnipresent, which is a very odd juxtaposition. Production is spot on here thanks to Erik Rutan, who knows exactly how to record death metal. He has been an ally to Morbid Angel, even through their darker times and is back again with full production credits this time around and the result is a robust and complex sound demanding multiple listens.
Special mention should be made for newcomer to the drum throne Scott Fuller (also Annihilated, who do some face melting of their own) who does not attempt to ape Sandoval or Yeung. It is certainly a special quality, to come into a band with the pedigree and history (good and bad) as Morbid Angel, and stamp the songs with your own personal wax seal, truly bleeding personality and panache all over every track.
To be sure, there are flourishes of atmosphere here and apparently keyboards someplace but I have yet to hear them, or at least, hear them in a way that is off-putting to the mission statement put forth on KINGDOMS DISDAINED. “Declaring New Law” has an almost tribal beat to it, a minimalist approach that absolutely pays dividends, with the closing lyrics “Make them believe in this” being as true as anything tree has been.
KINGDOMS DISDAINED represents Morbid Angel at their most lethal and also most lean, producing precisely what is so sorely needed from them at this point in their career. With a careful eye to the past (but not the recent past), Morbid Angel are poised to enter the second coming of their career. They are not alone in this, with a good number of bands releasing impressively vital works decades deep, and that is a great thing to bear witness to.
KINGDOMS DISDAINED is at once representative of the history of Morbid Angel and, hopefully, a clear indication of the future direction of one of the most revered names in the game. And that, my friends, is radical. But not cult.