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Morbid Angel. When most people think of Morbid Angel, they think of death metal classics such as Altars of Madness, Blessed are the Sick, and Covenant - classics of the 90s death metal explosion. Widely considered pioneers of the death metal sub-genre and masters of the style (at least in their aforementioned first three albums), Morbid Angel have a large catalog of releases to prove their worth and importance to metal as a whole. Why is it, then, that some of their albums seem to be either forgotten or swept aside in favor of their original three "classics"?
There is no denying the importance of albums such as Altars of Madness. But there is also no denying the value of their later releases. When listening to the Morbid Angel discography, with a trained ear, one can trace the development of Trey Azagthoth's signature guitar style and the slow improvement of Pete Sandoval's drumming. Everyone in the band gets better at their craft over the years. Everyone grows, everyone progresses as musicians - and this is the sign of true artistry. If one were to simply play at the same level of technicality, or even in the same style, one would simply stagnate and never really go anywhere with music. It would be foolish to deny the masterful ability of Trey, Pete, and Steve Tucker as well!
The first thing that a lot of people notice is - GASP - the guitar tone on this album is much different than what is found on Gateways to Annihilation and Formulas Fatal to the Flesh. The beefy, fat sound of the guitar on those albums is abandoned in favor of a thinner, and almost black metal guitar sound - and this is understandable when taking into account the types of guitar parts that Trey wrote for this album. It is easier to make out the specifics and the tiny technicalities of the guitar riffs that might go wholly unnoticed if a fat guitar sound was opted for - the playing on this album is nothing like that on Gateways to Annihilation. Trey decided to experiment with both his style and miking techniques on this album, using things like fishbowls and fans along with microphones and Marshall cabs to record his guitar parts. Speaking of the guitar parts, most of the songs on this album contain two separate guitar parts - so it can give the feeling of being almost a death metal Iron Maiden, without the sugary saturation found in bands like In Flames. It's not like he only plays the same riff an octave higher either - there are wholly different parts that mesh perfectly together found in many of these songs.
Trey also flirts with melody a lot on this album - listening to tracks such as Beneath the Hollow give a sense of creeping, desolate, and vast forces of nature rising from the depths of the unconscious mind to wreak havoc on the ears. The melodies on this album are majestic and brutal, and as mentioned above, they are nothing like the sugary, saturated, and watered down melodies found in things like the later In Flames albums. This is Trey at his best - matured and fully developed in his style, peaking with his intuitive playing and truly creative technique.
Pete Sandoval's drumming also is at a high on this album - his technical ability never brought to question, only praised and anticipated by Morbid Angel fans. The strange beats and ultra-fast rhythms serve only to propel the intricacies of the guitar riffs to previously unknown heights. The "Drum Check" track serving as a truly hilarious piece of self-aware comedy - Pete always being lauded as an extremely proficient drummer, you get to hear him do a typical drummer thing during a sound check and play an entire drum solo instead of just his kick sound. This is the kind of humor that more metal bands should embrace - it is the same type of humor that Darkthrone have with the comics featuring Ted and Gylve bickering with each other. Self-aware and whimsical, in light of an essential career and obviously not being overtly pretentious, when that is very possible. The attitude is appreciated - and the inclusion of such a track on this album gives it a genuinely lighthearted spirit.
The lyrics are delivered with utter ferocity by Steve Tucker, who I will always prefer to David Vincent as the Morbid Angel vocalist. His deep, earth-shaking guttural vomits desolate and violate those oblivious to the utter power of death metal. The subject matter of this album is individuality - something that Trey, in almost every interview, speaks about. Always urging their fans to think for themselves, Morbid Angel are known for either their Satanic (boring) and Sumerian imagery. Trey writes all of the lyrics and his knowledge of ancient mythology and culture is comparable to that of a graduate student. On this album the lyrics deal more with esoteric/occult and Kabalah related concepts than anything else, and the lyrics at times match perfectly with the emotion portrayed by the music itself, specifically on Beneath the Hollow.
The bonus tracks on this album are tasteful. If you put the CD in your stereo you think the album is over - then you are confused and surprised by the hidden goodies, which I think are very interesting. The instrumental version of Beneath the Hollow allows me to study Trey's playing more closely, and as a guitar player, I find this highly useful. Trey Azagthoth has musically always been one of my biggest influences - so I have nothing but praises to sing for him.
This album seems to be a forgotten gem in the Morbid Angel catalog. More people should listen with an open mind and open ears and appreciate Morbid Angel for what they are - the masters of death metal!
I love Morbid Angel. I'm probably the only person who actually enjoyed Illud Divinum Insanus. Along with Iron Maiden, they're my favourite band. But like Maiden, they've put out some stinkers. Well, one stinker. Heretic.
In short, Heretic feels like Formulas Fatal to the Flesh Light. It's fast, it's pretty brutal, and it's got a bunch of intro/outro tracks. What it doesn't have is Formula's beefy production, which was raw enough to give it a lively feel, but not weak. Heretic has raw production, but it sure feels weak. There's a lot of the low end missing, and with it, a lot of heaviness.
Heretic does have some very positive aspects, though. There is a slight flirtation with melody on "Beneath the Hollow," that is very catchy. Trey stated that he wanted to use polyrhtyhms on this album, and there is a shit load of dichotomy with the riffs. If you listen to Heretic with headphones, the interplay between the two guitars is really quite interesting.
The songs, as I may have said, are ferocious. There's lots of blasting everywhere. And quality guitar solos. But it just doesn't grab you. It's difficult to recall many moments when the album finally ends.
Steve Tucker gives another earth shaking vocal performance. On "Stricken Arise" he uses a more mid range, caustic delivery, that gives that song a particularly nasty edge. Pete Sandoval's drumming continues to get tighter and more intricate (and probably the drum triggering technology is getting better as well). And Trey is on top of his game. But none of these things really save the album.
Many have derided Illud Divinum Insanus as being a total sellout, or way too out there. Maybe that's true. But, if you don't like that album pick this one up. This is Morbid Angel playing it extremely safe, risking absolutely nothing. And for me, I really enjoy when Trey gets weird.
I don't like Heretic. Firstly, it has the worst sound of any Morbid Angel album to date. Secondly, if I wanted my metal to be constantly interrupted for some inconsequential bullshit segueing between tracks, I'd listen to Rhapsody, or Rhapsody of Sperm or whatever they call themselves now.
Death metal sometimes sounds really good when the guitar tone is a little off, or the drums are a bit muffled. Like on demos, you know, those little twenty-minute treasure troves of unpolished material that have introduced us to so many underground filthmongering bands and even record labels. On a one-hour plus bonanza of post-Vincent Morbid Angel with few memorable riffs to speak of, nor the bleak, graveyard atmosphere that often characterizes the aforementioned tapes, it doesn't have quite the same endearing effect. After the all-consuming mammoth tread of Gateways, it is all the more disappointing.
Nevertheless, 'Cleansed in Pestilence (Blade of Elohim)' and 'Stricken Arise' feature some satisfying blast charges and grimy guitar propulsion complimenting Steve Tucker's swansong vocal performance - would all be passable with the production of the previous album. Perhaps even 'Curse the Flesh' would sound more efficiently malicious with a) a better guitar sound and b) without the listener having barely noticed the two preceding tracks as they floated past leaving them in a sort of half-sleep. Even the most reverb-ed and atmospheric of early '90s Finnish death metal demos were rotting and evil enough to bind you to their malignant witchery. Where they shamble with zombie-like determination, these songs have a habit of sauntering. The buzzing riffs of 'Praise the Strength' are just plain dull, none of the feral machismo that drove early Morbid releases present, and aside from those mentioned the album is mostly repetitive and uninspired metal with very little death to its name.
Tucker's occasional higher yells are highly unwelcome, shitting all over the aforementioned 'Stricken Arise' (as if it didn't have enough problems anyway) otherwise it's a rarely regulated basic growl. While he's nothing to write to hell about, he probably doesn't deserve the stick he gets, and certainly not any large part of the blame for the band's decline in quality. Some potentially great leads and solos are being snapped off by Trey, but the weak production and stiflingly directionless songwriting betrays them. Pete Sandoval's drums are the only element that stays consistently devastating, making me think I might be better off checking out what he's been up to in Terrorizer recently than listening to this. Overall, at this point I would call this a case of just cutting out about a third of most of the songs and ending up with a much shorter but better album.
The trouble is, by the time you've finished listening to this album, you might think that it is some kind of bizarre experiment intended to drive death metal 'heads to madness through depriving them of their favourite music in the most cruel way possible. Either that, or that you've entered some weird dream state in which things don't make the sounds they are supposed to, so that you spend the next few hours tapping the walls of your room at different points with your ear pressed furtively to their cold surfaces. It's Morbid Angel proving they can't do what Dan Swano can. I'm prodigiously unsympathetic toward pointless intros, interludes and whatnot as it is, let alone when they consume six of fourteen tracks - and that's without counting the worthless bonus disc.
Much like Formulas Fatal to the Flesh, there ain't too much reason to buy this unless you are a Morbid Angel completist and want to hear the path that led to Illud Divinum Insanus. It's poorly mixed, dripping with extraneous instrumentals, aggravating to listen to in a number of ways basically. In a nutsack, A, B, C, D, G.
The 21st century has not been the most productive for Morbid Angel, who are now at the precipice of releasing only their 2nd full-length beyond Gateways to Annihilation (at the turn of the century). Now, granted, it's not as if they truly needed anything else to secure their legacy as legends or pioneers of the death metal genre, inspiring thousands of similar acts, but there seems to be this frivolous, counter-concern within the Trey and Pete camp in recent times. They'll do a tour, play the oldies, and every now and then, when they can bring themselves to care, churn some new material out of the womb of their imaginations. They've made their mark, so why bother to make another?
It's this tinkering and attention deficit which poison Heretic from achieving higher accolades, for while the 7th studio outing has its curiosities, and even a few revelations, it lacks the consistency and desolate might of its predecessor. Gateways to Annihilation was a trying and poignant glare into emptiness through the muscle of pure force, but Heretic seems far lazier. The guitar tone is thinner and thus less potent, especially since Trey is still focusing heavily on the twisted palm mute, lumbering backbone he had been using in the compositions since Blessed Are the Sick. A few of the tunes like "Cleansed in Pestilence (Blade of Elohim)" and "Curse the Flesh" seem as if they'd be scorchers with a better guitar sound, but instead feel bulimic and limp. The drums are quite strong, par for the course through the band's history, but without a more interesting sheet of riffing overlay, they are unable to get far of their own accord.
On the other hand, Heretic is still 'interesting' when it wants to be. Some of the faster breaks found in tunes like "Stricken Arise" or "Within Thy Enemy..." are well balanced and prove the band still have their extreme chops, even if musically speaking they were no longer riding the edge of the genre's levels of technicality and proficiency. Steve Tucker is strong throughout, his vocals digging into approximate levels of pain as Gateways. A number of the instrumental segues are quite wonderful, like the ominous crushing depth of "Place of Many Deaths" or the tranquil ambiance of "Abyssous", or even the dark age drought of "Memories of the Past". Morbid Angel attempted some similar, ritualistic environments beyond the metal itself with their shaky 5th album Formulas Fatal to the Flesh, but I feel that these work far better individually (though I could have done without the inner geek channeling "Victorious March of Reign the Conqueror", inspired by the animated TV series; cool idea, mediocre execution).
Then there's the bonus disc, which is full of rough instrumental mixes of the vocal songs, and a bunch of isolated solos and snippets. I guess if you really wanted to use some of the metal tracks as background without Tucker's presence, it's useful, but I'd rather hear some cool unreleased tunes or a live set or anything. The core album contains a "Drum Check", which totally breaks up the otherworldly effect a listener might experience during a better Morbid Angel record, and this should have been consigned to the bonus disc, but it's not, and that is yet another reason the disc feels so hackneyed and half-assed. None of the metal songs here are necessarily 'bad', but they truly lack the primal and hostile power of the previous work, and I can't think of a single entry I'd offer on a Morbid Angel highlight real, aside from some of the ambient fare, which really wouldn't belong. Despite the rhythmic exploration, decent lyrics and leads, and the stylistic deviation for the off-tracks, it's just not one of their best.
This album definitely has it's high points and it's low points. Unfortunately when compared to earlier releases, "Heretic" seems to have more low points. It's really not a bad album at all, it's just not as good as what they have done in the past.
I remember buying this cd the day it came out. I had been anxiously waiting for a new Morbid Angel release to follow up from where "Gateways to Annihilation" left off. However, at first listen, this recording let me down. Don't get me wrong. Like I said, its not bad, but there are some definite problems with this album.
First of all "Heretic" has such bad production that you notice how bad the sound is right away. When I say right away, I mean as soon as you hear the first note. The guitar tone is weak. Where the hell is the bass? The vocals sound nearly drowned out by the poorly produced guitar sound. Pete's drumming is very repetitive too. Although there is a track called "Drum Check" where Pete lays down an incredible drum solo (One of the few high points of the album). What is laughable about the whole thing is that the instrumental keyboard tracks are actually better than most of the actual songs. Shouldn't it be the other way around? Actually all the songs should be good, but on this album that is not the case.
Now I will mention some of the good things about this album, even though some of the bad takes away from the good. Trey's solos of course are always amazing and that fact is no exception on Heretic. Also Trey's riffing is great even though the guitar sound was not produced well. Steve Tucker does a good job with his vocals although the vocals seem to have been turned down in the mix. Another interesting point is that all the lyrics were written by Steve. Trey wrote all the music (besides some instrumental stuff by Pete). I think it should have been more mixed on the lyrics. I wish Trey could have wrote more of the lyrical content.
As for the songs themselves. The only songs I really like (aside from the instrumentals) are the first 3. "Praise the Strength, Enshrined By Grace & Beneath the Hollow." All three of these songs are definitely good, but on any other Morbid Angel album they would be considered filler. Here they are the best on the album. The instrumentals are actually really awesome I must say. Out of all the Morbid Angel albums. This one has the best instrumentals, and there are so many. I don't get why there are so many instrumentals on this record. Also, there is a bonus disc that came with it. It contains some instrumental versions of songs on the main disc as well as some soloing from Trey. I find it interesting that some of the solos on the bonus disc are leads taken from "Gateways to Annihilation." I don't understand why Trey decided to throw in lead tracks from the previous album. It's as if they were trying to just throw in as much extra stuff on "Heretic" as they could to make up for the very few ideas they must have had.
I will end this review by saying that I really do love Morbid Angel. They are probably my favorite band. This album isn't as bad as some make it out to be. Its got some really good moments that are overlooked by a lot of people. I say go ahead and buy this album, but many of their earlier releases like (for instance) "Covenant & Formulas Fatal to the Flesh" are so much better. I'd say: get the earlier albums first and then get this album later on just for the sake of completing the collection.
Days had come, winters had gone, and we gambled like siblings in Paradise...and during that time, after the release of the cosmic "Gateways to Annihilation", not one new MORBID ANGEL album would come sliding down the salivating throats of the Anunnaki for their followers to feast upon. Perhaps it was the consistant touring or Trey's newfound intoxication of Doom, but the metal world was deprived of a new MA album for three long, non-brutal years. So would it be true that good things come to those who wait?
Indeed it does, my friends.
The best way to describe what to do when dealing with news of a new MORBID ANGEL album would be "expect the unexpected". Throughout their rather long existence, the band never really did anything predictable with their music as each successive album had its own personal feel and atmosphere; "Alters" was chaotic, "Blessed" was ghastly, "Covenant" was pure evil, "Domination" was swampy, "Entangled" was monstrous, "Formulas" was blistering and "Gateways" was astral. And not one album preceding or following kept on any real given path, save for the central genre. So by the time "Heretic" strolled its merry way in, the drawling space-exploration of "Gateways" was eschewed in favor of a sick, violent descent into a fiery oblivion that only MORBID ANGEL could do. Once the first riff of "Cleansed in Pestilence" strikes, you know you're in for a treat, a smorgasboard of death metal mastery set at as fast a pace as is possible at that given moment. Trey Azagthoth continues to prove his methodical insanity of guitar playing, letting loose an array of spasmatic riffs and mind-bending, other-worldly solos that transcend as they slay the listener. Throughout this slaughter belt-out Mr. Sandoval unleashes tremorous drumwork in a one-two punch that levels and pounds into utter dust. Still he remains one of the best drummers the metal world has seen, a throne that has yet to be usurped. And although Steve Tucker is in the picture, he remains more as an afterthought on this recording, both in the vocals and lyrics, both of which don't live up to past works by any stretch (bass is completely nonexistant here, and not worth noting). However, when focus is given to the riffery, plentiful musical goodness is abound, from the fast and twisted (the aformentioned "Cleansed...", "The Stricken Arise" and "Within Thy Enemy") to the inter-dimensional and inhuman ("Enshrined by Grace", "God of Our Own Divinity"). However, despite all its awesomeness it does have downsides; the production is rather horrible, rendering the rhythm guitar work a loud, intangible mess of static that makes differentiating notes and chords that much more of a chore, and the vocals have a wavy approach that makes one think Steve did his growling underwater. That lack of clarity is both cryptic and bothersome. That, and the bonus tracks and "Bonus Levels" disc seem a bit unnecessary, though the "Love of Lava" solos are a nice touch.
So all in all this is a satisfying album that helps keep MORBID ANGEL's continuous perch atop the peak of the death metal pile that much more intact. And while it's been WAY too long, let's hope whatever "I" album will come shooting out will be all the better, and more unexpected.
Days will come, winters will go, and we will gamble like siblings in Paradise...
While it has taken so long for Morbid Angel to release its follow up to 'Heretic', likely to start with the letter 'I', all I have to rely on is constant listens to their entire back catalog. I first of all do not think that 'Heretic' is their best effort to date for they all ready accomplished that years ago with 'Covenant'. Now that is an unfair comparison since they are both so very different. Where 'Heretic' varies is in the overall production and amazingly brutal yet still melodic guitar work, hats off to Trey for that one. 'Heretic' is a fucking beast...that's putting it lightly, 'Heretic' is the epitome of quality heavy. Brutality that stands far apart from the sloppily done brutal death metal that so many bands foul up. 'Covenant' lacked the modern day production values and had more thrash elements and darkness to its appeal.
Morbid Angel have always had a thunderous approach and 'Heretic' is no exception. 'Cleansed In Pestilence' and 'Enshrined By Grace' are extremely heavy and melodic. With those two put together we get a great idea of what the whole album is like. 'Beneath The Hollow' is the best song on the album. It is instrumental with buzzing guitars, choppy bass and drums that fill in the gaps before the annihilation really unravels. Steve's voice sounds really gruesome on this song and the whole entirety of it sounds well put together. To hear the instrumental only part listen to 'Doomcreeper' which is at the end of the album. If you were lucky enough to get limited edition of a few pressings it has instrumentals to all songs on 'Heretic' that portion is called 'bonus levels. 'Curse The Flesh' is equal in power and expression to its predecessor. The guitars keep up the pace and are Trey's best on the album. Pete's drumming gets really fast on this song and sounds like machine-gun fire.
There is really only 8 songs in 'Heretic' that are actual songs and not instrumentals which is ok as long as they are not just fillers. It annoys me when bands do that to fill up an album but at least Morbid Angel puts most of them at the end. 'Praise The Strength' is another really catchy song. The guitar during the chorus has that signature sound that Trey employs on this album. What I like most is that the guitars have more of a pitch to them and blatant explosiveness than what I am used to hearing. Especially on 'Gateways' and 'Formulas' where the guitars are really deep and sludgy.
'Heretic' will be a tough act to follow but I am impatiently waiting to see where David Vincents musical attributes reside after completing a long lived tenure in 'Genitorturers'. Will he be the same David that we remember from that once astonishing period in Morbid Angels life? The brilliant 'Alters of Madness' or the aforementioned 'Covenant'. Or will he actually introduce some goth and bondage influences to the fold? Fuck no my friends. The Morbid Angel I know will never succumb to such an atrocity.
I am disgusted at what little appreciation and what little respect is given to this band today. Not only are they a pillar of death metal, but also of thrash. If not for bands like Morbid Angel it isn't likely that death metal would even exist today and if it did it definitely wouldn't be as good. This music has succumbed to the most outcast and degenerate offerings of this world. Computer hacks, pre-pubescent teenagers, chat room critics and all of their glue sniffing mallcore counterparts have collectively infiltrated a once proud and noble form of art and sucked it to the bone. They have taken refuge in something they are not and have never been a part of. Unfortunately it's not just death metal that's been taken down by these homosexual drones, but basically every sub-genre.
The best way that I could describe Heretic is as a combination of Gateways to Annihilation and Altars of Madness. It doesn't have much of those thick crushing riffs that Gateways has, but it does have plenty of those early 90's death/thrash riffs that Morbid Angel and other bands of the day were known for. I think the end result of their combining of the two was effective in creating something that calls back to the old school and at the same time remains at the forefront of the genre today. It isn't the most innovative, but by it's sheer musical domination, song writing and feel for groove it succeeds. The creativity and energy that is displayed on this album is impressive.
The sound is compressed, with heavy mid-range leanings, raw and slightly sloppy, but in a good way. Although I liked the production on their last album I am glad that they chose to go in this direction because this sound had an enormous impact on the origins of this music. They implement a lot more of their thrash roots on this and so to me it makes perfect sense that they chose to make this sound the way that they did. You bring out a lot more feeling and authenticity when you don't edit the fuck out of the music in an attempt to make it sound tighter. On this album Trey is all over the place with his rhythms and triplet massacring and Pete is still Pete, fast as hell and aggressive! Some have complained about Steve Tuckers vocals and the absence of David Vincent, but really he does an excellent job, I have no complaints.
Lyrically there is nothing absolutely special, they stick to being themselves and don't sing about topics which they have no knowledge of. It's for the most part in opposition to the semitic religions, their mindless followers and the toll that they've taken on civilization. In fact the lyrics are very relevant to today, as each second that passes brings us closer to another war, a religious war, which threatens to ignite the whole of this planet into nothing more than swathes of twisted corpses and disease. They are none too upset by this, in fact it would appear that they actually welcome this holocaust with open arms.
Listening to Heretic I become infuriated, I sit back with scorn, with utter contempt for this decaying world. This music is about hate, about the complete and total resentment for what our modern day industrialized society is doing to us and what it's like having to live in it. What it's like to have no choice in the matter, to sit and rot in these corrupt and decaying states which promise so much and yet offer only enslavement and repression of its people. This music was born on the streets and there it will always remain. Bands like Morbid Angel still thrive off this negativity that burns inside them and they channel it into incredible albums like this. If you are a fan of this genre or of the band I can only recommend that you support what's left of this scene and purchase this album.
Oh boy. Well....I didn't really expect it to be this bad. Gateways was actually pretty good...This was like St. Anger to me. This album was a heretic to everything that Morbid Angel has released to date. Wow how far these guys have fallen without David Vincent. So this shitty ass album has been all that I to listen to regarding recent MA releases, and it's now 5 years later.
I saw MA with Krisiun and I was really worried. My friend and I went to the show, and we expected to see Tucker up there...When David Vincent came out and played 1 song from this album, and played everything from albums A-D...my friend and I were fucking stoked! Thank the gods that Dave is back..This album can now be a bad memory. I have previous experience seeing them live with Tucker, when they were on tour with Pantera, and I couldn't understand why people actually cheered what bullshit they tried to play. I am not a fan of Tuck and he has shitty input for the band.
Needless to say, I had low expectations, and they met them, and even went further. The band has obviously ran out of things to say. They no longer sing about Sumerian Gods, incantations; here is an example from Praise the Strength:
Praise this Source of Strength
Seize this time and Heed
Embrace the Strength and Heed
The Fallen behind me
A kid with Downs Syndrome that has an affinity for sniffing glue on a regular basis could write better lyrics than that. C'mon... Not to mention the fact that there are a rediculous amount of tracks that are completely blank...Not like when NIN did it on Broken with each track lasting a second, but random ass lengths such as 1:31, 4-8 seconds, what the hell?
Oh and as an added bonus, they added a bonus disc, which only put more emphasis on the shitty mixing, terrible producing, and overall sludgy sound of the guitars that leave Pete in the background and you barely hear his blasts and the cymbals are all but inaudible.
The only reason I didn't give this a goose egg was because of the Trey solos. That's it.
Otherwise, an utter piece of garbage...But it has Morbid Angel's name on it. It has been way too long since this atrocity has come out, and with Dave back, I am keeping the (un)faith in the trinity from hell going back to their technically brutal (and crystal clear) sound that they had in the days of yore.
The first thing one will be reminded of when contemplating Morbid Angel's seventh (and at the time of this writing, latest) studio LP is their fourth, 'Domination'. Luckily, this comparison is not drawn musically, but rather in what it means internally for the band; in this case, the end of an era. An experience that is known well by Morbid Angel fans everywhere, as previous departures such as those of Richard Brunelle and David Vincent severely impacted the sound of the band due to their absence. As bassist/vocalist Steve Tucker's swan song with Morbid Angel, we all now wait to see what, post-'Heretic', a newly returned David Vincent can do with his old band. Will he be able to shake the spectre of 'Domination' and the Genitorturers?
Of course, this isn't Vincent's album. But in the harsh light of hindsight, he almost seems to overtake an album he wasn't even featured on by his metaphorical return to the fold after its release. In some ways, such a quick reunion overshadowed the loss of Steve Tucker, who had (up until this point, at least) seemed nothing more than a voice for the domineering personality of Trey Azagthoth. Ironically, this might be another nod to 'Domination', though Tucker did not leave in quite the spectacular display of disgrace that Vincent did, he was similarly forgotten with a replacement so willing and available. Poor Tucker, so callously thrown aside (despite leaving of his own volition, there's an undeniable questionability towards all the events surrounding this album) like a used whore, and one that, unlike Julia Roberts, will most likely not be cleaned up by some metal version of Richard Gere anytime soon.
To get back to the circumstances of 'Heretic' itself; it's certainly an abrupt shift in more ways than one. Directly responsible for forcing Morbid Angel off of Earache, this was the poorest selling Morbid Angel album in the band's history, at a mere twenty thousand records sold. Most of this can be blamed on word of mouth; critical evaluation was a mixed bag, but not an across-the-board panning by any stretch. I'd wager that it was a combination of an attempt at modern sound (once again, ala 'Domination'), timing ('Heretic' was released three years after 'Gateways To Annihilation', an album of reasonable success) and simple lack of interest or enjoyment from the metal buying populace. Let's face it: any conversation regarding Morbid Angel generally revolves around the first three albums, as it probably always will.
In all honesty, I was incredibly disappointed with 'Heretic' originally. I was extremely displeased with such a turn after the masterful 'Gateways To Annihilation', which, while simpler overall, was a very pure exercise in the songwriting talent of the band at that time. Certainly it was a difficult release to eclipse, but certainly they could have hitched their wagon to a star, so to speak, instead of releasing something so seemingly half-baked and wandering to no apparent location. What was the purpose of such an album? What was it trying to really say?
'Heretic' is straight-up awful at first listen. Or first ten listens. Or first hundred. This album redefines the phrase 'grow on you' and affixes a slowness to the process that will make all but the most hardened (or absent-minded) listener tap out when they think they can derive nothing from it. Luckily, after that undefined period of acclimation (for some, one listen; for me, three years), the album becomes at the very least average. For me, it is no longer an agonizing exercise in spectacular patience, but a reasonably pleasant listening experience (though I'd be lying if I said the spectre of the unholy trinity of ABC is ever far away in my mind) that is able to shake off most of the initial stigma associated with this album. 'Heretic' isn't awful; it's just shockingly unfriendly and, in some ways, very clumsy, and not in an intentional, artistic way, either.
Presuming you start the album right at this point in this sentence, your face is likely twisted into a look of incredulous 'what the hell were they thinking' as soon as the opener 'Cleansed In Pestilence (Blade Of Elohim)' begins. Morbid Angel was never a band that lacked irony: in numerous interviews before the release of 'Heretic' lead guitarist Trey Azagthoth delighted in speaking of his new guitar recording technique, and how it would most certainly be the future of such activities due to its unique and amazing properties. Unique it most certainly is, if one's interpretation of 'unique' includes unbelievably rancid. 'Heretic' has, at first listen, one of the most excruciatingly bad guitar tones ever heard on a metal album, or any album for that matter. Too much mid-range, too much distortion, too much blurring, too much everything that shouldn't be used in what is ostensibly a death metal album. Until one is able to get past this facet of the album, you'll most likely detest the album for that fact alone. Compounding guitar issues is Azagthoth's bizarre writing on this release, where riffs seem to be written and then sliced in half and crudely stapled to each other before being recorded. The opening track on this release exemplifies this perfectly: what is supposed to be going on here? That opening riff is so spectacularly clumsy and awkward as to make one forget entirely about sublime releases such as 'Covenant'.
The songs present aren't bad necessarily, just really poorly presented and structured. Frequently, tracks such as 'Stricken Arise' feel like grab bags of good ideas that simply do not dovetail together properly. That song's unnecessarily long instrumental bridges are a testament to the amount of padding that goes on this album, which goes pretty far to diminish the enjoyment one derives from this release. It's not all bad, simply illogically executed, which makes it seem far worse than it should be. 'Heretic' is practically daring you to like it, taunting you with quality songwriting in, say, 'God Of Our Own Divinity', before snatching it away and replacing it with yet another drum fill (as an aside: 'Drum Check' while amusing and very impressive, is totally unnecessary, as are the ambient tracks such as 'Place Of Many Deaths' which go on far too long for their ideas). Instrumentally, all the members are as capable as ever, but the issue of course lies in what they're playing, not how they're playing it. The could be blamed on Azagthoth's essentialy total control over all aspects of Morbid Angel these days: all the music on 'Heretic' was written exclusively by him.
And yet, I can't bring myself to really slam such an album. Perhaps it's due to how unfriendly this LP is: it speaks to an incarnation of Morbid Angel that is more experimental and willing to take dramatic risks (though they don't always work out) even when it goes against their fanbase. In a way, I'd say this is more significant than simply releasing another 'Formulas Fatal To The Flesh' and raking in the cash. Azagthoth's songwriting is flawed but daring, a rather difficult thing to be after two decades playing in the same artistic outlet. It's pleasing to see that Morbid Angel still does something new, despite that new thing not being entirely well thought-out in this case. Certainly, if one examines the implications of this release beyond the purely musical, it becomes a great deal more interesting. Morbid Angel's ideological and spiritual views advance with each album, and 'Heretic' is no different; on this LP, Morbid Angel has essentialy abandoned any sort of god-worship in favor of self-reliance; the true 'god of one's own divinity', as they say.
There are still some very fine portions on this release, that I would say make it worth hearing. 'Beneath The Hollow' is one of the strongest tracks on the album, with Mrobid Angel's patented ability to layer their music in complex and alternating yet lucid compositions, as evidenced by the clever double-tracked vocal passages melding with the logically sequenced riffs. When 'Heretic' does come together (not entirely infrequent, though uncommon enough to gain one's attention) it is fantastic, like all Morbid Angel releases, reflecting the passion of elder times with the logic and intelligence of modern music. True, it's a shame that it must be entombed by such a difficult mentality, but in a way this weeds out those who would not be as truly dedicated. This is one of those albums that you'll have to determine for yourself.
Where will Morbid Angel go from here? With the return of David Vincent, will a revival of the old-school aesthetic occur, or will the band continue on their modern direction? Will Tucker's influence still linger, and will Azagthoth still control artistic direction? Will the next release measure up to the days of old? Has Morbid Angel lost their step, or are they still as skilled as they used to be?
All overanalyzation aside: I will be along for the ride until the end.
*The author cannot be held responsible for the extreme lack of objectivity concerning the following article:*
Finally. Three years after the release of “Gateways To Annihilation” Morbid Angel saw it fit to release its’ successor “Heretic” and I was shivering with anticipation about the madness the band recorded unto tape (or harddisk. Whatever). Morbid Angel sound different on each and every record, now don’t they?
To make it a lot easier on myself I will get straight to the conclusion. “Heretic” is by far the most sick death metal album since Morbid Angels’ “Formulas Fatal to the Flesh” was conceived.
The album has it all: unbridled heaviness, sheer speed, a cacophonous crunching power, instrumental tracks which go beyond the boundaries of atmosphere and back and especially that immense draught…
Let’s just take a short trip down the track list shall we? “Cleansed In Pestilence (Blade of Elohim)” has an almost “Covenant”-like feel, “Enshrined by Grace” is faaaaaaaaaaast (and will feature a video clip later on) “Beneath the Hollow” is slow, complex and heavy as fuck, “Curse the Flesh” and “Praise the Strength” tear apart 95% of the competition thanks to the insane riffing, “Stricken Arise” (Azagthoth on vocals?) features brutality beyond all hope, containing one of the most sick brutal riffs I have ever heared, “Place of Many Deaths” is perhapse the most macabre tale of desolation Morbid Angel has ever recorded, “Abyssous” is a typical Azagthoth guitar track, “God of Our Own Divinity” and especially “Within Thy Enemy” are once again the equivalent of a sonic hurricane on acid, “Memories of the Past” is a melancholical piano/keyboard trip (devised by one Pete Sandoval), “Victorious March of Rain the Conqueror” is yet another instrumental track and this track would fit nicely as an intro to any epic videogame whatsoever. “Drum Check” (Pete Sandoval’s morning exercise and gym class) and “Born Again” (a studio outtake of Azagthoth’s solo previously encountered on “Gateways…”s’ “Secured Limitations”) being the closing arguments.
All this was devised, planned and played by Azagthoth, Sandoval and Tucker, the last one proving once again to surpass David Vincent with ease. Whereas Pete Sandoval –besides being one of the most tight playing drummers on planet Earth- seems to be in possession of hidden talents regarding the tracks “Memories of the Past” and “Victorious March of Rain The Conqueror”.
Trey Azagthoth is the most creative, sick genius ever to roam the barren wasteland of death metal, period.
From the fourteen tracks the promo version of “Heretic” contains six are instrumental ones, something that can be a bit confusing since the official release will consist of two CD’s, one of which shall contain some thirty minutes of extra “Heretic” studio material.
Sometimes the facts are just plain and simple. The way I see it, Morbid Angel has exceeded itself.
That these three gentlemen are being masters of their instruments goes without saying, but the continuous expanding of their self created style of music to a yet higher level of brutality without doing the slightest concession simply keeps on amazing me.
“Heretic” isn’t just a very cool album; it’s a landmark in ultra heavy, high-end death metal.
Therefore I award them the highest possible mark, the first time I ever do this.
Wow. What a stinker. Morbid Angel are one of the better death metal bands out there, and now they pull this out of their sleeve. Basically, this is Morbid Angel's 'St. Anger' (Although it doesn't touch St. Anger on the sucky-albums scale).
First off, Trey has traded in his huge, booming, sludgey guitar tone for a weak, thin, hollow guitar sound that would sound fit on a badly produced punk album. WHY? In fact, the opening of 'Cleansed in Pestilance' sounds much more like a punk song than a metal song. Steve Tuckers vocals seem to be buried underneath the instruments, due to the terrible production. The only good thing about this album is Pete Sandoval, who is blasting away as usual. Definetly one of the better drummers out there.
'Cleansed In Pestilance' is basically a punk song with death vocals, while 'Beneath the Hollow' is the only semi-decent songs on the entire album. The rest are stinkers. Especially songs like 'Praise the Strength' and 'Place of Many Deaths'. 'Stricken Arise' actually sounds more black metal than death (that can't be Tucker singing...), and wouldn't sound out of fit on Mayhem's 'De Mysteriis Dom Sathanas'.
Weak, hollow guitar tone. Inaudible bass, buried vocals, cliched lyrics. What happened to the Morbid Angel of old? Dear god, help them...
Adjectives like "good" and "bad" almost fail to apply here - what I hear on this album are a few very talented guys making music too streamlined for its own good. There was quite a bit of that problem back on the last album, but not quite this badly, but on the bright side it's not quite so ordinary and mainstream sounding as, say, Domination, thanks to some interesting (if rather limited) experimentation.
I'm always a fan of Trey Azagthoth's strange, alien style of guitar playing, and there are some really nice moments that showcase his ability to evoke the bizarre nicely (I especially enjoy the dual guitar interaction at the start of "Beneath the Hollow"), but they're trapped in routine songs. Honestly, I think I enjoy a lot of the “annoying pretentious filler” (the obligatory wacky instrumental tracks, you know what I mean) better than the real songs.
To my taste, this still better qualifies as "real music" than the sort of embarrassments that most great metal bands past their prime generate, and a lot of the songs here function well for what they're attempting, but still, it isn't really so great, and to rub a little more salt in the wound, I feel the band could/should be doing a great deal better. Oh well. I did enjoy listening to it a few times, at least.
Morbid Angel have been and probably always will be creators of extremely excellent DM. This is no exception, as some people seem to think. Heretic is complete organised chaos from beginning to end. Be prepared for a brutal, mind-smashing album.
First thing I'd like to commend about this album is the lyrics. They are terrific. All up there's only about 8 real songs on the album, but there are about five instrumentals as well, plus 30 other weird tracks which have mostly nothing on them (what the fuck?). The guitars are very heavy and notably more chaotic than their other music. Drums are fast - kicks, hi-hats, snares. All fast. All very fast. Pete Sandoval is probably the best metal drummer ever, technically speaking, and this album pretty much proves it. Steve Tucker's growling is as relentless and unholy as ever and the solos are executed with expert precision. Heretic is also a faster than most of their music. At least as fast as Blessed Are the Sick, if not Altars.
The instrumentals, or intervals, are interesting enough as well. Drum check serves as what could be called humorous relief, I guess. And a drum solo as well, of course. The others are quite weird although intriguing and enjoyable to listen to, in contrast to the violent songs that trample over them.
Overall this is an excellent album. Perhaps not a great MA CD to start with, but for a big DM or MA fan, a definite winner.
To say that I was disappointed by this album is an understatement. Where is the manic aggression, the organized chaos, the uniquely dark and menacing feel that characterizes Morbid Angel? It is only found in very small doses on this CD, if at all, and it is not enough. For one thing, the production is horrible; the drums are obviously triggered and sound like milk cartons, the guitars are weak and fuzzy, and there is no bass to be found. And Tucker's vocals are not anywhere near as commanding as they were on "Gateways to Annihilation" (yes, I like that CD).
And what is the deal with filling almost half the CD with instrumentals that contribute little if anything, to the album aside from padding it out? "Drum Check" is especially pointless, as Pete plays like that all the time anyway, so why bother recording an instrumental of him soloing? The songs do not grab you by the throat like previous MA efforts do, and I cannot say I recommend any particular track of the songs proper.
All in all, even "Formulas Fatal to the Flesh" is better than this piece of crap, and that is not one of the more inspired MA releases. I hope that Trey and Co. get their act together for the next one, as it sounds to me that Tucker could have toured with the band some more to get himself reinstated better as opposed to rushing in and having it be very obvious he did. Come on, guys, I know you've got it in you somewhere still...do you?
Yes, it's been a long wait, and if you ask me, it was well worth it. I had loved Morbid Angel's previous effort (the controversial "Gateways To Annihilation") and was obviously quite shocked to learn that half of the line-up behind that amazing work - guitarist Erik Rutan and especially vocalist/bassist Steve Tucker - had called it a day with Morbid Angel. But while everything around them was in turmoil and chaos, Trey and Peter were busy working on the songs of the future album, and the job they did you can judge here. Steve also came back in time to write and record his parts on the album, for my great joy. And the final result, "Heretic", did not disappoint me. At all.
Quite simply, this album can be described as a restless assault brought on by three fierce warriors gathered under one unholy banner. The riffs, the rhythms, the growls, the arrangements... we can breathe all the malignant, Doomsday-like atmosphere of the band's post-Vincent production... but there's another energetic element ready to strike us with all its untamed potential, something that harkens back to the days of "Covenant" and "Blessed Are The Sick"... or even, the Ancient Ones forbid, "Altars Of Madness", for that matter. No, Morbid Angel didn't go back in time with their style; they are completely tending towards the future, and mre ambitious goals to conquer. And in order to achieve that, they summoned their whole range of potential - from the harsh, speed-laden early days top the more subtle, cold and clinical atmospheres of their new sound -, and infused this destructive current into the core of "Heretic".
"Cleansed in Pestilence (Blade of Elohim)" begins the assault with no warnings, unleashing insanely fast riffing and drumming topped by a Steve Tucker whose voice has never sounded so aggressive. The choice of going right at the listener's throat rather than slowly wrapping him is spirals of controlled sonic deconstruction clearly defines the borderline between "Heretic" and "Gateways To Annihilation"; yet, in the middle of the song, the pace goes down and the picture fades to an even darker shade, dominated by Trey's ominous riffs and unrelenting solos.
"Enshrined by Grace" awaits after this first strike, and sweeps away any remains of doubts with its repentine accelerations and more great solos. Did I mention that Pete offers a totally inhuman performance behind the skins? Yes, we already knew what he's capable of doing; still, be prepared to have your jaw drop while listening to this album. The real surprise, however, comes from Steve: if one didn't know that he had previously left the band only to come back short before the recording of the album, he could never tell. His increased vocal range and apparent self-confidence reflect a natural progression from his previous contributions, not something coming out of a hiatus. Really impressive.
Further down the tracklist we find the slow, grinding aggression of "Beneath the Hollow", probably the closest song in terms of atmosphere to "Gateways To Annihilation" (although bits of "Domination" and even "Formulas Fatal To The Flesh" can be identified); with "Curse the Flesh", we are taken by surprise by majestic riffs edged with an almost symphonic quality, with Pete switching between slow patterns to full blastbeats assault effertlessly (and, most importantly, without ruining the general feeling); "God of Our Divinity" amazes with its almost Doom Metal signature and subtle guitar harmonies, and features a small bonus in the form of a guest solo by Karl Sanders (of Nile) at the end.
But for those who didn't particularly like "Gateways To Annihilation", here come the great news: there's a whole lot of speed to be fond in this record. Such is the case of "Praise the Strength", a vicious old-styled assaults which descends directly from "Covenant", although of course improved by years of experience and improved musicianship. The real highlight, however, is "Stricken Arise", a deadly injection of Morbid Angel aggression that will definitely appease the most nostalgic of fans: not only do Pete and Trey blaze along at full speed without sacrificing cohesion (and show no signs of uncertainty while going through sudden tempo changes in the middle), but Steve also displays a venomously intense vocal performance - it's all too easy to close our eyes and imagine we are back in 1993 listening to the newly released "Covenant".
The same goes for "Within Thy Enemy", an excellent sequence of stabbing riffs with a killer chorus that could just be the catchiest hook the band has come up with since "Altars Of Madness".
This is for the actual songs. "Heretic" is also notable for having quite a bunch of instrumentals. Two of these ("Place of Many Deaths" and "Abyssous") are more ambient-oriented and serve as a kind of intermission between a storming assault and the other, while the remaining four are crammed at the end of the album... weird, but that's their album, so I guess they can do whatever they want with it.
The highlight has to be "Victorious March of Rain the Conqueror", a spectacular keyboard based symphony (which also includes drums) penned by Pete which almost resembles Vangelis's works at times! Pete also wrote "Memories from the Past", a nice keyboard instrumental notable for its dark mood although it lacks a bit of focus. The aforementioned "Place of Many Deaths" also stands out, as it couples interesting guitar work with a psychedelic-influenced noise background.
The final two instrumentals, "Drum Check" and "Reborn", display Pete's and Trey's talent on their instruments respectively outside of a full song's context. Both are simply impressive, and also interesting to hear.
As a conclusion, I confirm my highly positive judgement for this album. I had great expectations, and none of these have been failed. This is something that only a great album can do, and "Heretic" is one of the best Death Metal albums I've heard in a while - of course if we can still call the band's music simply Death Metal at this point of their amazing evolution. But whatever the genre, Morbid Angel still soars high in my Death Metal hitlist.
Undoubtedly one of the most influential pioneers of the United States death metal movement, Morbid Angel return with a vengeance in the form of a new album entitled "Heretic." They're back to remind us again why they remain one of the most highly regarded and influential death metal bands in the U.S. to this day.
This month marks the release of Morbid Angel's eighth and quite possibly most anticipated album to date. Remaining true to their fans, and keeping the tradition of only getting better with each release, "Heretic" delivers with fourteen crushing, atmospheric, in your face, brutal tracks. Ranging from huge songs lodated with tuned down, hell driven guitar riggs, insane blast beat and intricate drum rolls (Pete's the fucking man!) and vocals eerily reminiscent of David Vincent-era Morbid Angel to the more soothing, trippy atmospheric tracks that Trey enjoys throwing together (because what else is there to think about when all you do is watch cartoons and play video games?).
Trey's signature guitar solos are the most dominant element on this album, as well as the speed-riffs in songs like "Enshrined By Grace" and "Stricken Arise." Trey's talent shines through in all of the tracks, but most noticeably so in the best song on the album, "Beneath the Hollow." The guitar never slows down and is the perfect example of the way a death metal song should be arranged. Each riff flows easily into the next and stays with the beat. Steve Tucker's growls on this song are dark and remind me so much of David Vincent's vocals on "God of Emptiness" that I'm glad Steve is back. Let Dave stay in "Genitorturers", the fuck.
Just as impressive are the many instrumentals dispersed throughout. "Victorious March of Rain the Conqueror" definitely stands out as one of the better instrumentals. It invokes a feeling of chaos, sadness and glory with equal parts mythicism and supernatural. The violin, guitar, piano and synthesizers blend together to create a very imperialistic sound. Defiintely worth the two and a half minutes it takes to listen.
The most obvious change and improvment on "Heretic" as compared to previous Morbid Angel releases is Steve Tucker as a frontman. Having now completed three albums as the bassist and vocalist of the band, he has definitely improved here. His vocals have improved and expanded to amazing new levels with low and wickedly evil growls to the higher pitch rasping. His voice fits the music now and doesn't distract from the rest of the album, adding an extra dimension of brutality as a whole.
The production on "Heretic" is outstanding and wondefully clear. With so much going on, that's a great thing. I was able to pay attention to every detail and to even the smallest of changes. The vocals are in your voice, incredibly crisp and clear. The bass is crushingly heavy and the guitar is brutally sharp. The drums...sweet Satan, the drums are dizzying and hypnotic. The cymbals and kick drum are beautiful and the producation on this album only enhances that. Everything is mixed to perfection, blended together yet separated at the same time.
My only complaint is the weak ending of the album. "Heretic" ends with a track of a drum check that turns into a drum solo followed by a track of a guitar solo. Why these were included, we'll probably never know, but there they are.
Fans of Morbid Angel, you will not be let down by this album. Fans of old Morbid Angel, they have returned to the days of old. Buy this album, and buy it fast.