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As we all know this late in the year 2011, the mighty Morbid Angel have caused quite a stir with their latest, the “I” album. I’ve listened to the thing, but I am frankly a bit scared to sit down with it proper, as it is quite clearly not the straight ahead death fucking metal that we wanted. Correction, NEEDED.
Here we have the “G,” so let us travel back eleven years to a stranger aeon in the weird life of Morbid Angel. “Kawazu” is one of the best intros to any metal album. It’s creepy, tepid, with an almost Om vibration to it, and it is fucking morbid. Gateways to Annihilation is steeped in the standard lore of the great old ones, and this Kawazu perfectly captures the eternality of nature in a time before (and after) the age of man. While I understand the school of thought that shuns this band’s synth segues and intros, I personally enjoy them all. Yes, I too wish to be bludgeoned into oblivion by Pete the Feet, but these bits of experimentation allow the listener to drink in moments of divine alienation. As the song of the locust fades away the crushing ensues with “Summoning Redemption.” The very first thing I noticed about the production here was the fake-sounding snare. It just doesn’t sound real at all. “Drum replacement” is a process of evil in the music biz that has been going on since the 70s and now it happens all day every day, in all walks of music, metal being no exception. Just listen to any modern death metal band and you will hear drum replacement. Studio polishings aside, and regardless of the moral debate on triggering, it’s still Pete doing what made him legend. From start to finish this album is heavy as fuck with each player offering a fine performance, including Steve Tucker.
Imagine what life must have been like for poor Steve Tucker. Granted, the choice to accept the job opening of bassist/frontman/David Vincent replacement was all his, but a more unenviable position than that is virtually inconceivable in the world of death metal. However, the dude really shines on this album and proves to these ears that he is made of the morbidity required for said Vincent vacancy. His vox are low, they’re brutal, they’re fucking hateful, and considering the hostile reviews of Mr. Vincent’s recent return, some may be wondering what ol’ Steve is up to these days. Tucker has indeed penned all the lyrics of Gateways, with the exception of Azagthoth’s “Secured Limitations,” which is pretty much the “Angel of Disease” of this album.
“He Who Sleeps.” Fuck my weakling, earthling, puny and pathetic ass, this song DESTROYS. Since the Blessed days, Morbid Angel have been known to indulge in the doom, and “He Who Sleeps” is a heaving hybrid of DM and ancient doom that writhes in the sludges of time immemorial. This is unquestionable heaviness, as that of dreaming Cthulu awakening to swallow the empire of man in a single breath of all-consuming rage. From thence, Commando Sandoval and crew procede to blast their way through speed metal rippers such as “To the Victor, the Spoils” and the double bass devastation that is “Opening of the Gates.” The feet of Pete are on fucking fire here as bpms of demoniacal speeds slice through the hallucinogenic lead guitar work of Trey Azagthoth. Morbid are tuned quite low on this album but the thrashing riffs and tremolo speed-picking remain razor-sharp. The guitar trippery of “Secured Limitations” leads us into the creeping solemnity of “Awakening,” which is reminiscent of Domination’s “Melting” or “Dreaming.” Again, if you have a problem with a wee bit of variance in sonic texture or these artists’ inclination to break the metal mold, fuck off.
The tenth track “I” is one of Tucker’s finest lyrical renderings as well one of the more profound musical offerings found on Gateways. Utterly nihilistic in an active and almost Eastern sense of the word, “I” is a bold assertion of the Morbid’s mastery of reality.
“I am the void of light, silence, I am the dawn of time
I am the all you see, emptiness, I am the non
I am the air you breathe, treachery, I am your wine
I am the soil and seed, mundane, I am the in between.”
Gateways to Annihilation closes with “God of the Forsaken,” a definite gem in the Morbid Angel catalogue. Here we are treated to the finest of blast beats, shredding, and deathly destruction at the annihilating end. Trey’s solo at 2:45 is one of his best ever; the expression he conveys with his axe is of the purest and most liberating form and it cements the man’s immortality in the genre. There are few players with the ability to express such dreamlike states with a guitar, and when you combine that with the diabolical drumming of Pete Sandoval you have what is called a juggernaut. Listen to this album and you may hear where modern death metallers Behemoth and other such newbs got their sound.