Morbid Angel. What more can be said about these legends of the death metal scene? Every word to describe their greatness in the English language has been used over the years since their inception in 1983. There have been many highlights in their career, from selling over a million albums to date, to being the first death metal band to sign to a major label (Giant Records) and being able to tour the world and become a commercial success. Unfortunately with success comes sacrifice, with the band losing long term members of the band partly responsible for that very long term success (David Vincent and Pete Sandoval) and album sales reaching rock bottom compared to their initial skyrocket.
My personal opinion of Morbid Angel is that they will forever be in my heart, even with the controversial release of Ilud which I believe had some good songs on it. This is what frustrates me the most about bands like Morbid Angel, Obituary and Autopsy. Why can they not release an album that the fans want… which is an album that sounds like the classic days of death metal of the late 80s and early 90s? Why can Morbid Angel not do another Altars of Madness or Blessed are the Sick and all shall be forgiven? However, when the chance came to review this album by these stalwarts of the scene, I jumped in feet first and boy, am I glad that I did.
Opening with “Piles of Little Arms”, it starts off with a typical riff from Trey before returning vocalist Steve growls his way through the song admirably. The song starts off mid-paced before the much welcome return of the blast beats. First impressions of drummer Scott Fuller are very positive as he manages to keep up the speed consistently and is as tight as you can get. Although the song is mostly mid-paced, when the drums kick in and Trey puts his swirling riffs in at speed, this is glorious. The song overall though has its moments, especially when it’s at its fastest and with Trey’s solos being unique as usual to end things off. I would say that this is a competent if not earth-breaking way to start off the album.
Next we have “D.E.A.D.” and it’s one for the speed freaks out there. The guitar of Trey must be on fire with the speed that he plays his riffs at which are truly exceptional. Tucker really sounds pissed off and he is channeling this into his vocal performance which I feel is his strongest to date. Unfortunately for Tucker, he is always going to be compared to Vincent and for the neutral, Vincent will always be associated with the band but on this record, Tucker is really getting his act together and putting in his best performance. Again the drumming performance of Fuller has to be taken notice of as it is supremely tight and he is certainly giving previous drummer Tim Yeung a run for his money. Surprisingly, there is more of a groove element in this song than would normally be associated with Morbid Angel.
For the first time really, I was saying “this is Morbid Fucking Angel” with the song “Garden of Disdain”. After the initial speed and blast beats, it is slowed down to a crawl. Think of the title track of their best album in my opinion, “Blessed are the Sick” and you can get an idea of the tempo. Trey’s riffs are supreme here and he truly is a magician as to what he can do with the guitar. This is my favourite song so far as it goes more for the power and gut wrenching riffs than the previous tracks. Is it as good as “Blessed”? No, but it certainly is captivating and the solo of Trey… you have to ask yourself, “How did he do that?”
“The Righteous Voice” starts of with a riff from Trey that is equally matched by the double bass from Fuller. This is simply the calm before the storm as all hell breaks loose and it seems that from the last track, Tucker is putting in a stellar performance in his Morbid Angel career. I have to mention Fuller again as his drumming in my opinion is better than that of Yeung’s as the speed he can reach with his blasts are incredible. Old school fans will be happy. Trey’s leads for this song, well, lets just say that no guitarist could replicate it. At times, I was getting the overall feel of “Visions from the Dark Side” from Altars.
“Architect and Iconoclast” is the longest track on the album and has a bit in it for everybody, with groove, blasts and sheer power and velocity. I think it has the best song structure on the album and I get that old school vibe again. Trey’s solos again are just swift but technical before Tucker’s vocals sound as angry as he could possibly make them. “Architect” probably has the catchiest chorus so far on the album, and when things speed up again, I am sure it will get the pit started.
“Paradigms Warped” starts off very slowly and emphasises on a crunching riff from Trey which shows that he is a master of his work. Tucker’s vocals match the pace perfectly and although not as clear as his predecessor, I think he wins on this one. For those of you that know me and my reviews, I always mention the double bass and they are exemplary. For the first time really throughout the album, mainly due to the fact that Erik Rutan loves to put the guitars first, we hear Tucker’s bass which rattles the listener’s rib cage. I like this song as it’s slow, but you just have to hear the solo from Trey, which is much longer-lasting than those of the previous songs but equally as technical.
“The Pillars Crumbling” starts off slow but it gives an opportunity for Fuller to show off his technicality behind the drum kit. The song is slow to mid-paced for around the first three minutes before the pace picks up before we get some unique guitar from Trey again. I don’t think that they would play this song live and it took a couple of listens for me to get into it, but I liked it.
“For No Master” is next and it’s like Morbid Angel have had enough of this slow shit and have certainly put the foot on the accelerator. I really like the sound that Erick Rutan has created with this in his Mana Studios and you can tell that he has a deep fondness for all things Morbid Angel still. The chorus is amazing and you can tell the punters at their gigs will be chanting along to it. It’s not like the last album by any matter of means before you think the worst. Fuller again with his double bass work is incredible and I can only compare this to Sean Reinart’s performance on Death’s Human album.
“Declaring New Law” although slow, brought back memories of the Domination era of Morbid Angel, particularly with the track and my favourite of the album Caesar’s Palace although without the emphasis of the solos. The opening verse is particularly strong lyrically, about bringing the state of the world before Him and His rule. The tempo increases as the track progresses but never reaches the blast beats stage, so again emphasising the power of the riffs and the vocals of Tucker.
“From the Hand of Kings” is next and you know immediately that this is going to be a fast one. The riffs at the start just get you pumped up and then the blast beats kick in. The album has a lot of mid-paced songs but I feel that this is a track that Morbid Angel will play live as it will certainly get the pit going. The riff at 1.30 is immense from Trey, and Tucker’s vocals are as angry as ever. This is classic morbid Angel, ladies and gentlemen, and this certainly brought a huge smile to my face. Trey’s lead is… well, are there any more words to describe how original they are? This is a must in the live environment and is probably the closest the old school fans will get to the original albums.
The last song on the album, “The Fall of Idols”, starts of with Fuller seeming to realise that it’s the last track and gives the strongest blasts that he can muster. The riffs are at full speed with Tucker again putting in a strong performance. The pace does not stop and it’s full speed ahead from start to finish. I feel that again they would have to play this in the live environment in order to get the crowd going. Again, this is just pure Morbid Angel, when Trey’s leads come in and is a very strong song to end off the album.
So there we have it. Six long years since their last album and is it worth the wait? Morbid Angel, like bands I have mentioned before (such as Obituary and Autopsy) must be sick of hearing fans requesting that they play music similar to the original four albums. As much as I agree, I believe that this is their best album since Domination (yes I did like that a lot) and I believe that this is a return to form for the band.
I have restored my faith in Morbid Angel and I hope this review gives you, the listener, another chance to restore yours. We wanted a new death metal album from Morbid Angel and we got a new death metal album from Morbid Angel.
A special mention must also go to Ken Coleman who has produced an incredible piece of cover art.
For the first time ever on Moshville Times, I am giving a rating for this album as I feel the old school fans may decide to give this a try 8/10.
Kingdoms Disdained is out on December 1st