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Yep, this is happening. The dust has settled and the room has cleared, so why not tackle this infamous album? I was turned off from initially dissecting “Illud Divinum Insanus” at the time of its release because (a) the ensuing backlash included almost all seven billion assholes on the face of the planet chastising the band, and (b) I found it so godawful I couldn’t finish it from start to finish. For years it dwelled in the musty purgatory that is my music collection, until now. With the news that Morbid Angel has once again joined forces with Steve Tucker and dropped several of its members, I started to refresh my memory of Tucker-era Morbid Angel, especially focusing on “Formulas Fatal to the Flesh”—an album I’m quite fond of, as it was my first Morbid Angel album, and thus holds added value rooted in personal nostalgia.
With my Morbid Angel chubby nearing critical mass, I figured it was time to finally make “Illud Divinum Insanus” face judgment. My memory had mostly been wiped clean of whatever the hell lurked in its chambers, save for flashes of fourth-rate death metal songs and industrial tracks placed into Morbid Angel’s style as delicately as a fart during a moment of silence. Coming back to the CD after four years of what is the equivalent of remembering you have a chained-up monstrosity that has been wasting away (and for good reason) up in the attic served as a painful reminder of whatever the hell Morbid Angel thought they were doing and the bovine, less-pathetic moments of the album that show a once-excellent group artistically crapping out on itself.
The greatest tragedy of “Illud Divinum Insanus” is that it tries. Like a slow-witted scrub who sits open in the end zone on the last play of the game, watching as the pigskin spirals in the air and plummets right in his reach, only for it to bonk off his helmet and hit the turf, it tries. Whatever Morbid Angel thought they were doing creating this hybrid of death metal and industrial stuff took balls the size of Mars. The fact that these songs are so detailed that each track is sort of its own chapter in the grand scheme of Morbid Angel’s wild and wacky world seems clear as day that David Vincent and Trey Azagthoth nitpicked and touched up every square inch of “Illud Divinum Insanus” to the best of their abilities. They tried to make this record the modern marvel of Morbid Angel, and I guess that’s exactly what they got, but for all the wrong reasons.
The performances here are just performances, really. Two radical shifts in the Morbid Angel paradigm occurred a few years before this was conceived. First, David Vincent made his long-awaited return, replacing vocalist/bassist Steve Tucker as Morbid Angel’s voice and bass fingerer. Second, Pete Sandoval, whose role as a technical and physical powerhouse had played an integral role in Morbid Angel’s rise, was replaced by Tim Yeung, whose ultra-clinical style is the opposite of the life-filled, violent assault of Morbid Angel’s longtime drummer. The core mechanics of the Morbid Angel sound are jeopardized by Vincent, whose uniform shouts are more inoffensive than anything, and further complicated by Yeung’s lifeless, human computer performance on the percussion side of things. Trey’s solos are harmless, which is a total shock given how his lead work is usually mind-boggling and among the best.
The mediocre routines littered throughout “Illud Divinum Insanus” serve to augment the utter dreadfulness of whatever Morbid Angel created, or as I like it think of it, shat out. Saying these tracks knock on the door of total garbage would be putting it gently; they are utterly fucking atrocious. The big elephant in the room are these industrial influences, the main reason why “Illud Divinum Insanus” catches hell. Industrial touches, done right, could have actually done wonders in supplementing the modern Morbid Angel assault, and there is certainly no complaint on my end that the band tried to do something new. The problem with the electronic influences is that they work against these tunes, and are generally fucking horrendous.
Any sort of subtle placement or feeling of amplified intensity is blown off the face of the earth by the sheer awfulness of how misplaced and wonky Morbid Angel sounds trying to wrap their arms around the electronic world while juggling a feeble sense of death metal. They come off sounding misdirected, and, in the case of a few special specimens, reach levels of musical crimes against humanity. “Too Extreme!” is almost unbearable, throwing around electronic drums and sound effects and Vincent’s gutless vocals while the band teeters awkwardly on this unnatural chasm between death metal and something I don’t want to hear. The worst song here, “Destructos vs. the Earth / Attack,” deserves a lifetime achievement award for how fucking abominable it is. The groove-dance vibes placed over Vincent’s manipulated vocals and its wobbly rhythms transcend any form of abuse currently whirling around my personal abyss of insults. Needless to say, the industrial elements blow up in the band’s face at the force of an unpinned grenade.
But it’s not like the album gains traction when the musical I.Q. jumps up to double digits. “Blades for Baal,” “Nevermore,” and “Existo Vulgoré” try to find footing on the death metal side of things, though their efforts end up doing little worth mentioning. Morbid Angel’s past was built on subtlety and atmosphere, but these tracks are tedious, directionless, unstimulating. The riffs have no bite, Tim Yeung drums like any death metal drummer on the face of the planet, and Vincent barks his monotonous tone to the point of disgust. At least “I Am Morbid” brings a new flavor to the table, albeit one that manages to somehow rival the album’s stupidest moments with its arena rock vibe and Vincent shouting the chorus like a broken record. “10 More Dead” sounds like Machine Head, therefore it sucks shit, and the infamous “Radikult” uses these cringe-inducing vocals and instrumental bits so appalling that the last tune is covered by its shadow. “Radikult,” in all its objectively awful glory, is the ruler of the retardo kingdom.
Cycling back to the final track, it’s actually somewhat interesting how “Profundis - Mea Culpa,” an industrial tune inspired by the Morbid Angel traits found throughout “Illud Divinum Insanus,” gets a bit of a break from the well-deserved flogging. While not superb, it certainly seems perfect notched up to the other atrocities. At the very least, this one earns a smidge of credit for not having its head jammed four inches up its own bum. Otherwise, having this instable approach of Morbid Angel’s flaccid death metal template next to industrial tracks boasting a proud and flamboyant edge when the intended tenacity is in fact completely misguided makes for an experience on par with a bout between a retarded Superman and a feeb made of Kryptonite. One might be better than the other, but who cares? The sheer lack of quality on both sides of the spectrum is inexcusable.
Here’s the point: “Illud Divinum Insanus” has not aged with poise. In fact, I’m more appalled by the constant onslaught of horrible song after horrible song now than I was back in 2011 when I first heard the electronic bopping of “Too Extreme!” and thought there must have been some kind of pressing mistake. The occasional apologist may pop up and call this ahead of its time, but that’s a bucket of horseshit; there is no redemption here. Long story short, it’s “Illud Divinum Insanus,” and it’s pretty much the worst thing ever.
This review was written for: www.Thrashpit.com
Much ink (and theoretically blood) has been spilled about this album and many of its bad points have been described in brutal detail. To wit:
* It doesn't sound like Morbid Angel. (true)
* Half the songs are Azagthoth-masturbation. (also true)
* The electric elements sound out of place in a death-metal paradigm. (very true)
* The lyrics are cheesy and devoid of any real insight or deep meaning. (painfully true)
* The album comes off as an attempt to energize a younger audience with crappier taste in music than MA's traditional fanbase. (obviously true)
But the above statements could just as easily be attributed to shock and bitterness rather than accurate appraisals of musical quality. What band has taken a radical departure from the style of music listeners had come to expect and NOT taken any flak for it? At least I assume that's the reasoning behind reviewers who praise the album while implying that its critics are simply upset with the band for making its own artistic choices rather than consulting them on the matter. Allow me at this point to unambiguously say that these critics are wrong. This is a horrible album. It's not a radically divergent work of creative genius. It's a radically divergent steaming pile of shit. The legends are true, it's that simple.
And yet, I feel like few reviewers have really expounded the main problem with this album. To put it briefly: it's not so much a collection of bad songs as it is a collection of more-or-less adequate songs that suddenly turn bad at the worst possible moment. "Destructos Vs. the Earth" is the perfect example of this: the tired industrial shenanigans, the "day the earth stood still" plot, the overall comical posturing of the lyrics and vocals, all of it could be forgiven - you could still theoretically fashion a good song out of these components and it almost sounds like Morbid Angel is about to do just that - but then the stupid kids start chanting "destructos! destructos!" and the case is hopeless. And it's the same with "I Am Morbid" (which is, by the time it reaches the chorus, so completely flaccid and unthreatening that it sounds like something the tough-guy character would sing in a G-Rated movie while parents smile patronizingly at the TV over their kids' shoulders). And it's the same with "Existo Vulgoré" which falls back over and over again on a riff that sounds like it was lifted directly from Alien Ant Farm's cover of fucking "Smooth Criminal" (and holy crap I wish I were just making that part up). And it's especially the same with tracks like "Too Extreme!" and "Radikult" which are at least twice as long as necessary. I don't think I've ever heard an album shoot itself in the foot as consistently as this. It's literally painful to witness.
The song-length issue is especially aggravating when considering how fake the music sounds. It's by no means unusual or undesirable for a metal band to stick on a nice riff for a while or even repeat whole portions of a song if it's well-done and interesting enough. But too often this is just copy/paste bullshit. I can imagine Azagthoth (or whoever) discussing the whole thing in the studio something like-
XX: "Hey, you know what this song needs?"
XX: [60-second rewind & press play] "More of THIS!"
YY: "So, something like this section here?"
XX: [rewind again] "No I mean more of THIS!"
YY: "So we should play the same section but change it up a bit..."
XX: [rewind again] "No, dude, you don't get it. We need more of THIS!"
YY: "So, like, play it exactly the same way?"
XX: "Ugh, fuck it. I've got this" [ctrl+C, ctrl+V] "See? Done."
YY: "Dude, you're fucking retarded" (if only...)
I really can't understand why anyone would listen to this album. Except for the standout track "Blades for Baal" it's just fail after grotesque fail. And even the good tracks are less than you'd expect from Morbid Angel... or really any band.
When you look up at the sky and see an approaching black cloud, the normal person wants to get the hell out of the area, or get inside as soon as possible. What we have here, is the backside of the storm that was personified in the previous release "Heretic". That release showed us everything that could go wrong with a release; namely horribly muddy production, terrible songwriting, and pitiful execution. What made it even more painful for fans of this band, was the fact this pitiful plight happened to Morbid Angel! This is a band that released albums that blew people's minds consistently for 6 years, and after David Vincent left, things were never really the same. The "F" and "G" releases were mediocre and Heretic, well, everyone knows what an abortion that was.
I cannot fault Morbid Angel for trying to incorporate some new elements in their music. After the abysmal failure of Heretic (selling less than 50,000 records), the band leaving Earache Records, and Pete Sandoval being sidelined with injuries, it makes sense that Morbid Angel would try to implement a contingency plan. Unfortunately, that plan was poorly thought out and executed.
The transitions between songs are extremely jarring, and the flow of the album suffers because of this. The listener receives an aural case of hypothermia, being thrust into one musical style and then the other. This would not be such an issue, if a little overlap were utilized in incorporating the new styles evenly throughout the album. Either there is a straight death metal song, or there is a dance club DJ remix track. Thus, the continuity is fractured, and leaves the listener focusing more on asking him/herself what the hell that was, than focusing on the next track.
The lack of fluidity between tracks is one issue of the industrial elements. Another is the extremely limited use of the elements. The band does not use any electronic synthesizer as atmosphere. They relegate themselves mainly to drum beats, which in and of themselves are poorly performed. Morbid Angel could have incorporated atmosphere into the electronic and industrial elements but failed to do so. Another reason the tracks don’t flow is the departure from death metal on the tracks that have the industrial drum beats. This is especially apparent on “Radikult”, where it has stanzas of rapped lyrics and an upbeat gothic dance-club feel. Compare this with “Nevermore”, and the difference is readily apparent.
The conventional death metal tracks are great. I enjoyed the driving melodies, Trey’s solos, and Tim Yeung’s well-timed blasts. The new guitarist Destructhor definitely holds his own as well. There are a few elements of the music I don’t like, such as Vincent’s vocals on “Beauty Meets Beast” where he adds woah-woah-woah at the end of some of the lines of lyrics… Despite that, David does a good job on vocals. Morbid Angel sounds more or less like the Morbid Angel of old, with a little more groove infused in the death metal, and different subject matter in the lyrics. The production is great and every instrument is crisp, clear and easily discernable.
Overall, it is a failed experimental album. It could have been much better if there were actual industrial elements dispersed throughout the album, instead of some electronic drum beats on a few scattered tracks. Also, if those tracks with manufactured drum beats kept true to the musical style of the rest of the album, the weakness of the tracks may have been mitigated some. Once the polarity issue is resolved, they could release an extremely potent record.
Illud Divinum Insanus highlights the strength of the current lineup of Morbid Angel - a diversity in songwriting. The classic Morbid Angel styled songs are written by Thor, their new guitarist, who gives them a fresh take, a bit more calculation and less chaos than the Azagthoth-written classics. Trey opts for a more electronic vibe, utilizing some guitar loops reminiscent of videos games of the earlier days of the band, blending chaotic guitar work with a dark electronic vibe.
The most interesting are the songs written by David Vincent - the anthems of "I Am Morbid" and "Radikult" go far beyond what has commonly been heard in death metal. The morbid mix of arena rock and extreme aesthetics makes for really memorable songs - the prominent use of hooks in the songwriting pushes them over the top. It's hardly comparable to the so-called "death 'n' roll", but this is the most potent crossover of death metal and rock since Entombed's "Wolverine Blues".
The hooks are the bread and butter of the album, they hold everything together and they're very memorable. The thumping guitar loop that begins "Too Extreme!", the dissonant riff that leads from the into into the body of "I Am Morbid", and perhaps the most notable, the drum beat that leads into "Radikult". The snare drum starts it, and even ardent haters of the album can probably recite the rhythm as it repeats with the infamous line "kill a cop cop kill a cop kill a kill a kill a cop". It's still far from palatable to the mainstream though, with chaos ensuing as song lengths are stretched with guitar loops and extended structures that push most of the songs past five minutes. The influence from arena rock and goth techno are apparent, but it's far too chaotic to ever appeal to the broader audiences of those styles.
Distinct, varied songwriting gives the album variety, while everything is still distinctively Morbid Angel because of the vocals and the guitar work. The depth of the album is legendary - at first the classic-sounding songs stand out, but as time goes by, the massive hooks come to mind even if the album has almost been forgotten. The twisted death metal versions of 90s video game music match the gratuitous self-indulgence of singing about how they are morbid. While borrowing conventions from both popular music and death metal, they defy all of the conventions about how much should sound, with almost endless self-indulgent defiance of conventional styling and taste.
Illud Divinum Insanus will make you scream "they're too extreme!"
After a painful 8 long years, Morbid Angel finally released a new album. Unfortunately the new release angered most long time fans, rather than pleased them. With the return of original bassist/vocalist David Vincent, one would think that this would prompt Morbid Angel to return to their original sound. However, they not only strayed away from their death metal roots, they changed genres for most of the songs on the new album. This new release titled “Illud Divinum Insanus” has stirred up quite a bit of anger from most long time Morbid Angel fans and the displeasure is not unfounded.
At least long time drummer Pete Sandoval can say that he was not a part of this horrendous disappointment. Morbid Angel had to drop Pete from the band due to back surgery that he had to endure. Tim Yeung was hired as Pete’s replacement, and although Tim is an amazing drummer, it’s just not the same band without the maniacal drum style of Pete Sandoval. On the other hand, it’s not the same band for much of the new album when it comes to the music either. I wish I knew what Trey Azagthoth was thinking when this album was being composed.
In order to be fair, I will admit that there are some good old school death metal tracks on “Illud Divinum Insanus”. However, the death metal is only present on 4 of the 11 songs of the album. “Existo Vulgore”, “Blades for Baal”, “Nevermore” and “Beauty Meets Beast” are all a musical mixture of Domination & Heretic era material. To a lesser extent, “10 More Dead” is a decent metal track as well. However, for the rest of the album, the music is an industrial, gothic, half-hazard mess.
The album starts off with a generic synth intro track called “Omni Potens”. Morbid Angel typically include instrumental synth tracks on their albums, so to most fans this should be nothing new. Unfortunately the song is ruined by David Vincent’s unnecessary howling and grunting in the background. The next song is a complete disaster. It’s called “Too Extreme!” The best way for me to describe this song is to imagine Morbid Angel partying with members of Rammstein and Ministry. If they decided to collaborate on a song while they were all wasted, something like “Too Extreme” would likely be the end result.
As for the other disappointing tracks on the album. I can say that they are extremely simple, weak and corny. On a lighter note, the corniness demonstrated on the song “Destructos vs the Earth” gave me a bit of entertainment, so there is some saving grace with that song. On the other hand, “Radikult” is by far the worst song on the entire album. I still can’t get through a full listen of the track. It is really that bad. It sounds like a Marylin Manson knock off.
Morbid Angel really need to get their act together. I hope for everyone’s sake that they return to their roots for the entirety of the next album or just call it quits.
Fuck "worst of 2011," "fuck worst of the last decade," "fuck worst the last 25 years." This is hands down the worst death metal album EVER shat forth, and I'd even go so far as to call it one of the worst metal albums of all time. It makes "The Unspoken King" look like "Blasphemy Made Flesh," because when Cryptopsy sold out, they at least did so in a way that was, in at least some small portion, metal. On the other hand, I struggle to refer to Illud Divinum Insanus as either death metal, due to the fact that most of it sounds like "Billy's First Aggrotech CD," or an album, given its miserably complete lack of internal cohesion. It's impossible to explain how painfully bad this album is to the uninitiated, but I've made it my duty to warn future generations from opening this literal Pandora's box of crushing disappointment and underachievement.
I'm not one to be completely opposed to electronic influence in death metal - Flesh Consumed and Sickening Horror, two of my favorite bands, demonstrate how to tastefully incorporate electronic sounds into extreme music. Trey and Dave, on the other hand, show how to piss off fans with an arsenal of electronic sounds that went obsolete in the mid-1990s. The intro track, "Omni Potens," sounds like a rejected piece of an Indiana Jones soundtrack being performed by a 7th grade keyboardist with a broken piano. The tempo almost sounds off-kilter sometimes... how the fuck does that happen in electronic music? Unfortunately, this is not a weak start, but a harbinger of what is to come.
I never suspected four-on-the-floor drum loops would be a word I would use when describing the music of a band who helped pioneer the blastbeat, but there you go. These are a theme - "Too Extreme!" is a haphazard epileptic fit put to vinyl. MA literally found the most annoying tempo to program a snare and bass drum to hit at the same time, and then they fucking did it. Other electronic inspired songs, such as "Destructos Vs. The Earth," "Profundis Mea Culpa," and "Radikult" follow the same damn formula. "Hey Dave, where should we put the bass drum hits?" "For Fuck's sake, Trey, just put them on the downbeats! I'm trying to squeeze into my leathers, quit bugging me! And by the way, Tim keeps bugging me for food. Make him a fucking sandwich or some crackers and cheese."
That reminds me, Tim Yeung is on this album for three songs. He plays some pretty stale death metal patterns and then probably watches Spongebob while the grown-ups play their karaoke. Not much else to say on that front.
Now, the proper meat-and-potatoes of this album lie with the songs "ExistoVulgore," "Nevermore," "Blades for Baal," and arguably "Beauty Meets Beast." The first three aren't horrible songs, they just would have been stale in the late 1990's. They certainly aren't anything Morbid Angel and every other death/thrash band in existence couldn't have written ten times over. "Beauty Meets Beast" falls into the same boat, but also starts sounding like Jamey Jasta from HateBrah might have had something to do with it. All in all, these songs indicate to me that Trey decided that this album needed just a couple of death metal songs to appease the diehards. They reek of patronization, as though MA recycled a bunch of riffs to get the death metal songs out of the way.
"I Am Morbid," while not the worst song on the album by a musical standpoint (close, though), is by far the easiest to hate. The entire premise is a shameless attempt to exploit the Morbid Angel "brand," which is clearly how the boys view themselves these days. The song starts with a cheap emulation of a bunch of fans chanting "MORBID!" while PETE, not fucking Tim, plays a bass drum pattern. Enter the rest of the band - guess Trey Azagthoth thinks he's a blues shredder now. Gone are the sloppy, pedal-driven, hellfire shitshow guitar solos of yore, and instead, we have Zakk Fucking Wylde slobbing his pentatonic knob all over this nauseating abortion of a song.
Fuck this CD. I can't even bring myself to think anything more about this profoundly moronic release from a band that used to mean something. Someone send Pete a bouquet and ask him to just pick up with Terrorizer and never, ever look back.
I'm gonna go drink whiskey, listen to the new Cephalotripsy promo, and forget I ever had to write about this paperweight.
So after the maelstrom of swirling vomit and vitriol that surrounded this release had settled, I figured that I would come back to this one and try and give a balanced judgement. After a cursory, half attentive listen upon its release, I generally fell into the consensus that this was an abomination that should never be listened to ever again. However, months later while I was staring blankly at my work computer screen, I stumbled over "Illud" on my iPod (I assumed I had deleted it). "What the hell?" I said to myself, in a fit of boredom. I had seen some positive reviews pop up over the internet, and I was willing to give this assumed turd another try. So I opened the doors of my mind as wide as they could possibly go, I locked up my inner black metal prick and my baseball cap wearing brutal death tough guy and pressed play.
So was I wrong? Was I just as Mr Vincent had suggested; not open minded enough for this challenging and extreme release? Would I come to like this album for its bizarre and quirky nature? Well, no. The album is dire. I was right the first time. However, some interesting observations cropped up during this listen that had not on my initial romp.
Firstly, it is very easy to classify the tracks on this album (with exception to the bland synth intro, Omni Potens) into two distinct camps. The first of these camps is the fairly obvious "Absolute Crock of Shit" camp, home to the bulk of the playtime of this disc, while the second more muted group is the "Actual Morbid Angel Songs" camp, with four shorter but much more enjoyable songs. The run down is as follows:
Absolute Crock of Shit Songs:
-I Am Morbid
-Destructos vs The Earth
-Profundis: Mea Culpa
Actual Morbid Angel Songs:
-Blades for Baal
-Beauty Meets Beast
Keen eyed readers will however notice that I have missed one song out here, but this is not unintended. The missing song, "10 More Dead" is one that doesn't really fall into either of these categories fully, so therefore seems like a good place to start. The song itself oozes with Domination style riffing, with more than a nod to Where the Slime Live, and this in my eyes is no bad thing. However the song is almost entirely ruined by the face grabbingly childish lyrics and vocal performance. The gang shouting of the chorus is atrocious, and the band sound like Hatebreed playing Murderdolls covers. The mid section of the song picks up, but only to plunged back into Vincent's dismal '14 year old girls at a zombie party style' narrative. What grates on me here is that the song is salvageable; it is fairly well written and the riffs are solid, but you have to scrape away turdulent vocals and lyrics to even come close to hearing what could have been.
However it only gets worse from here. Guitars and discernible riffs are practically done away with for Profundis and Too Extreme (!!!!), in favour of some bizarre high pitched computerised guitar effect. I couldn't care less if it is real or not, but its horrific, and all the while the sheer inanity of the lyrics are pushed right to the front of the mix for all to hear (We are your new religion??? Come on)
Moving on through the crock of shit songs, we find that no two of them sound even remotely similar. The production, the attempt at a genre, the instruments tone and the vocals are just completely inconsistent from track to track, sounding like a mixtape of the worst 90's metal songs. From the Machine Head meets Kiss farce that is I Am Morbid (seriously it sounds like Crazy Crazy Nights rewritten for Bro-core tough guys) to the indistinguishable Marylin Manson cover that is Radikult, the band sound more directionless and confused than Cold Lake era Celtic Frost.
Destructos vs The Earth rears its ugly head, like a terrible dance remix of a Five Finger Death Punch song, with about 20 seconds of crap death metal tacked on the end. I struggled to contain my laughter when the high pitched little "Destructos! Destructos!" comes in during the chorus, and the lyrics sound like what a retarded Orson Welles would write if he joined Mudvayne (did Vincent actually just say "Destructofying"???).
By this point, you must be wondering "where is the balance in this review?" Well, fear not, for Illud is not without its limited charms. Despite drum triggers and vocals being faaaaar too high in the mix, the Actual Morbid Angel group of songs are solidly written, and while far from great, they are enjoyable in places. Nevermore sounds straight off of Covenant, while Blades and Beauty are refreshingly unique when compared to the back catalogue. If these songs were released on their own as an EP without the rest of the dross, I could see a solid 60% average score. Again, nothing spectacular, but worlds away from the afterbirth disaster currently on our plate. Some aspects of the terrible songs are also above board, as Radikult has a decent midsection, which makes it a crying shame that the rest of the song is so shockingly awful.
So I want to wrap up, not by saying this is a total turd (which it undoubtedly is) but by clearing up WHY everyone thinks it is a turd. I am doing this because after the comments from Dave Vincent on the reaction to the album, a view has become unsettlingly common in the metal community. This is the view that fans of Morbid Angel should be more accommodating toward experimentation, and anyone who discredits this album based on the change in direction is an "elitist" or "closed minded."
This is just not true, this album is a failure not because it is an experimentation, but because of how it experiments. The band has chosen the most unoriginal, outdated and, dare I say, most commercial genres of metal music to dabble in. Everything on this album has been done before hundreds of times, by bands thousands of times more popular and with decidedly better results. The songs are woefully written against any criteria, and I doubt even a DJ at a gothic rock club would touch the three SEVEN MINUTE LONG electronic songs on this album.
Experimentation is great. If Morbid Angel came out with a foreboding experimental black metal album that sounded like Blut Aus Nord, this backlash would not be the reaction at all. Its a matter of how you experiment, and what Morbid Angel have done is release an experiment mixing death metal with stale and fetid commercial genres which died out years ago. This is not extreme, challenging or boundary pushing. It is a lame attempt at experimentation rooted in poor songwriting, unoriginality and laziness. And don't try and tell me its anything different.
Morbid Angel has released a new album. That statement alone is enough to make the world tremble with fear, as we’re talking about one of the most legendary bands ever in the metal world, and one of the most influential in the death metal scene. Why then do I give it such a low rating? Keep reading and you’ll find out.
It seems that every now and then a highly controversial album is unleashed unto the metal world, with the more blatant examples being Metallica’s St. Anger and Cryptopsy’s The Unspoken King. Now do I really need to explain why those two albums are highly controversial? Ok then. Metallica’s album was supposed to be “the great comeback” after some radio-friendly efforts in the nineties, and in the end it was one of the worst albums ever to grace our ears. I still have nightmares over that snare sound! A few years later Cryptopsy decided to ditch their five-album legacy as masters of technical death metal and jump on the deathcore bandwagon. Thanks for that Flo, it went really smooth! Both albums share a couple of things; first both were highly anticipated and highly disappointing. Second, they were really bad efforts from bands with an enormous name on the metal scene, and albums that made many people lose their hopes of ever seeing them write good songs again.
Now what do these albums have to do with Morbid Angel’s newest? This album was eight years in the making, or better said it’s the band’s first album in eight years, so it was highly anticipated. And as the albums I mentioned it comes also as an extreme disappointment and an album that has “controversial” written all over it.
Why was it so anticipated? Seriously?! Morbid Angel has a legacy that speaks for itself, Trey and Pete are masters of the universe (Vincent is more or less so considering he was out of the band), and everyone in the world knows them for being death metal legends. So when a band that released albums such as Altars Of Madness, Blessed Are The Sick and Covenant (just to mention some of the best) is on the verge of releasing a new album it is bound to be anticipated.
Ok, so why is it such a disappointment then? Multiple reasons can be pointed out. It isn’t simply a death metal album as half of it is industrial/techno tinged, and yes I just put the words “death metal” and “techno” in the same sentence. It’s an experiment for open minded metal fans, but even so it goes beyond the experiment threshold into the “plain weird” one. It has some good death metal songs but mixes them with a lot of, again, strange stuff. And trust me it’s not in a good way. Did I already mention that Pete doesn’t play on the album? Oh right who we have here is Tim Yeung, which despite having a similar technique to Pete isn’t him, and that’s noticeable. Vincent is back on the band, the legendary throat from the first Morbid Angel albums, but again is that a good thing? Comparing his voice here to Steve Tucker’s on the new Nader Sadek album, and even comparing it to the earlier efforts from the band I can say that he’s clearly on the down side of things. His vocals sound too forced as if he had some sort of throat infection that caused it to become obstructed and inflamed. To sum it up, I love Vincent over Tucker but here that love doesn’t get corresponded. What more? The production isn’t great, and again the drums are one of my main complaints with the triggered sound of the double bass sounding bad, plus the way things are mixed isn’t the best. The voice stands on top of everything but it overpowers the instruments a bit. The bass isn’t there and the guitars are pretty low in the mix, except for the solos when they magically get a few notches up. A strange production job that makes everything sound too blurred.
I’ve covered many of the bad points of the album, but I haven’t quite explained why this is an experiment gone wrong, so let me enlighten you. Listen to “Too Extreme!”, “Destructos VS The Earth / Attack”, and especially “Radikult”, and in the process skip all other tracks. Those sounded like Ministry/KMFDM reject songs but a lot worst didn’t they? By themselves they’re pretty bad songs, now put them into context, or better said in a Morbid Angel album! Add to those appalling tracks the intro and outro and you have half the album sounding like anything but Morbid Angel! Seriously Trey, if you wanted to show your love for the techno scene why didn’t you do it on a side-project instead of tarnishing the name of one of the biggest death metal bands ever? Experimental? My ass it’s experimental, this is some half-assed industrial/techno influenced reject songs intertwined with some death metal. That isn’t experimenting, that’s meshing things that don’t mix! If you want to make an experimental album just make it experimental from one end to the other.
So how about the death metal part of this…death metal album? Well it’s sad to say that it isn’t great either! “Existo Vulgoré” and “Nevermore” are stylistically and rhythmically pretty much the same, with Vincent screaming “Vulgoré” and “Nevermore” in a nearly identical way. Tim needs to give it a rest on the double bass department as it just never stops. That and the choruses turn these two songs into pretty generic death metal tracks. “I Am Morbid” has a strange crowd chant and all I can tell you is that it reminds me of Megadeth’s “Crush ‘Em” of the album Risk. Do you know what I mean? If not Youtube is your friend. A not so bad song gets tarnished by those parts that sound really bad. There’s actually a decent song on this album, “Blades For Baal” is a good track and Trey seems more inspired here than on the rest of the album. This tendency is carried over to “Beauty Meets Beast”, that despite its lame name is actually a decent song.
Now that I’ve covered pretty much the entire album let me just make a paragraph about “Radikult”. Yes I feel the need to write a paragraph about it. It’s such a horrible track that this one alone is enough to light comparisons to St. Anger and The Unspoken King. If the death metal part of the album is by itself shaky and only decent (which by Morbid Angel standards is very low), then the aforementioned industrial/techno parts are plain horrible, and trust me when I say that “Radikult” embodies just how bad it is. Listen to this damn track with a straight face, without laughing, I dare you! Vincent seems like he’s rapping at the sound of “killer cult” or “kill a cop”, I haven’t managed to understand which one given the horrid tone of his voice. Then you have some tremolo-picked guitar playing over a bad drum beat and spoken bits that I can’t even begin to describe how bad they are. Seriously, what were you thinking guys? And “Profundis - Mea Culpa”, the outro, just keeps kicking you when you’re still down.
Let me say it in few words, if you were expecting for the next great death metal album by Morbid Angel then skip this one, because you’ll be left with the will to smash your cd, your house and rip out your ears. It’s borderline offensive because honestly, this isn’t Morbid Angel. This is some band using up their name to release some weird stuff onto us. If you like the Formulas era of the band then do as I said above and just listen to half the album, as you might get something from it. Otherwise, if you pray your sanity, and better off if you want to listen to an old Morbid Angel album and not be remembered of rapping “we’re living hardcore Radikult!”, then skip this one entirely.
Illud Divinum Insanus could be described as an experiment gone wrong because there isn’t a concise amalgamation of the factors at play here, it just sounds too much like two different worlds. And the fact is that everyone listening to Morbid Angel does it for one reason and one alone, death metal. With that being said this is clearly near the level of failure that St. Anger and The Unspoken King were because let’s face it, half of it is terrible and the better half isn’t that good. How to rate this one? It has two decent songs out of eleven and some of the less decent death metal songs aren’t offensive. The rest is really bad, so I can’t give it more than the score it deserves.
Originally written for and posted at Riff Magazine
Honestly said, I don't care very much about death metal. Of course, I have heard stuff from Morbid Angel before and liked it a little bit from a subjective and even more objective point of view but I don’t consider myself as a fan of the genre and won’t judge those albums. But the main reason to check this release out was the high amount of controversial and mostly negative comments not only on this site but also in professional magazines and on different music portals. I'm usually open-minded towards experimental music and thought that I might review this record with a more objective point of view. I'm not a disappointed fan and can face this record from a neutral point of view which may be a different approach compared to most of the reviews written on here. At the same time, I was hoping to expect something innovating and great. The album doesn’t feel that innovating to me but I indeed enjoyed listening to it.
After a first try I immediately understood why this album got so many negative reviews. The record doesn't sound much like death metal and is quite experimental. I would say that the death metal influences on this record are as elevated as the industrial metal influences and even the dark wave and gothic influences. This album would probably get better reviews in the gothic sector and might please to fans of Laibach, Das Ich and Combichrist but also to fans of Ministry, Rob Zombie and Rammstein. That's not exactly what one would expect from a death metal legend that has taken eight years to release a new album. I mean, there are still some rather traditional straight forward death metal tracks on the record that should please to some fans like Existo Vulgoré, Blades for Baal or Nevermore. But all other songs have at least minor industrial or dark wave influences in their sound and those three songs are sort of a break to breathe again and digest this very direct and provoking record. The album has a lack of thrash riffs or crunchy guitar solos that many fans expected. The record focuses much more on team work with a common style than on solo passages, talent show hysteria or impressive technical skills and impressions. The band wanted to create something different and try out something new and they were quite consequent and took no prisoners. Maybe the record should get some more promotion in the gothic than in the metal sector and could reach out for a new and different fan base.
Most of the songs, especially the longer ones, focus on a different approach than the death metal roots. After a kind of weak and artificially flavoured introduction called "Omni Potens" that fits to the underground style of the whole record including a badly translated Latin album title that a black metal band could not have chosen in a better manner, the band decides to open with their weirdest and most unusual track which is "Too extreme!". This song has a lot of keyboard samples, drum computer patterns, dark wave lyrics, danceable beats and weird breaks. I think that the goal of the band was to shock their fans and get a reaction. Far over twenty reviews only two months after the release prove that they succeeded. The closing "Radicult" and "Profundis - Mea Culpa" close the circle and deliver danceable dark beats, superficial but catchy lyrics and a song structure that reminds indeed of Marilyn Manson as many people said. The band put their most extreme examples at the beginning and the end of the record but some songs of that fusion the styles of death metal, industrial music and dark wave can also be found in the middle of the record. "I am Morbid" opens with live sound samples and has some groove metal or new metal approaches. It's the intentional band hymn on the record and it works well for me but probably not for most of the fans. "Destructos vs. the Earth / Attack" sounds like a track coming from an industrial gothic band like Megaherz or Eisbrecher and sounds rather German than American. The song is heavily influenced by the "Neue Deutsche Härte" and even a little bit by the "Neue Deutsche Todeskunst" genres.
I'm quite sure that the band calculated the fact that the experimental tracks of this album would not please to most of their fans. Even for open minded metal maniacs, it's difficult to accept the high degree of courageous experiments on this record after a break of eight years in between the last record and this one. On the other hand, I think that Morbid Angel have already proven in the past that they are one of the most talented and well known death metal bands in the world and don't need to show this again, close their minds and repeat the same patterns over years. They have been there and it was time for them to move on. They always had a slightly experimental touch in some interludes or experimental songs in the past but this time they really focussed on them and I think from an objective and subjective point of view that it's great that the band wants to move on and be creative. That’s why bands like Amorphis, Moonspell, Therion, The Old Dead Tree or Orphaned Land are amongst my favourite bands of all times that all come from the extreme metal scene. I think there is a high amount of talent and quality in this scene but many young bands waste it and play ordinary death metal to get a record deal, make some money and move on afterwards. I don’t want to bash the death metal genre but it’s something I have observed over the years that many bands excelled in their experimental new directions rather than in their first albums even if some fans would argument it the other way around. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t some great bands out there that play only death metal music in their whole career but they are less intriguing for me. Now, Morbid Angel is about to join those bands and I will surely watch out for their upcoming new and also their older stuff right now. Personally, I have grown up with a lot of gothic music in my family and even though I prefer metal music, I don't feel alien to the modern approaches and experiments of "Morbid Angel". I have witnessed myself to dance and bang along to "Radikult", to find "I am Morbid" quite energizing and to feel intrigued about the weird "Too extreme!". The band really hit a nostalgic nerve in me with those tracks and they surprised me in a positive way where many people reacted in a negative manner which I completely understand.
In the end, I like this unusual, courageous and experimental album from an objective and subjective point of view. It was the right choice for me to check this contested album out and I have listened to it several times in the last few weeks and it happens to grow more and more on me. When I take a look at all those heavy reactions, I have probably the same little smile on my face as David Vincent and the other band members of the death metal legends that reaches out for a new creative direction. The new decade seems to be a very innovating transitional one for many extreme metal bands such as In Flames, Dimmu Borgir or now Morbid Angel. The metal world moves on and doesn't get stuck in the past and only hails the glorious eighties or early nineties like many bands did in the last decade. Remember that many courageous records often need time to be understood and accepted as even records like Iron Maiden's "Somewhere in time" or Metallica's "...and justice for all" were heavily criticized by the so called fans when they were initially released and are seen and accepted as masterpieces nowadays. I'm not sure if this will one day happen to "Illud divinum insane" by Morbid Angel but it wouldn't certainly be the worst choice. Personally, I already like the experimental side and only rate this album down because of some weak sound samples, a little bit too many direct inspirations from other bands and a couple of unnecessary traditional death metal tracks for the whining fans that I don't need at all. The rest is a really good discovery and a truly great gem for me even if my review or opinion might get bashed as much as the album itself. And now I'm going to convince my gothic friends to try out "Radicult" with me...
So, I woke up the other day, and thought I'd stepped into some sort of time warp. I mean, with all of the vitriol being tossed about, and the outright hatred resulting from a CD release, surely I'd jumped backwards to 2003, right?
...wait...this isn't St. Anger?
Ok, hold on. Back to reality. Relativity still works, and all that. Physics isn't broken. And apparently Illud Divinum Insanus has become this decade's St. Anger, if the "critics" are to be believed. Except, they'd be wrong. And, ultimately, guilty of not paying attention. Morbid Angel is one of those bands that sets me apart from what in these circles would probably pass for a more "mainstream" listener. Most people worship at the Altar of Madness, and crank Blessed Are the Sick before bowing before Covenant. Me? I've always been partial to Domination. That's why I dig a lot of this album. Yes, there are some serious WTF moments, and some less than stellar tracks, but we'll get to that.
First, a history lesson. Back in the days when David Vincent wasn't yet the ex-frontman for Morbid Angel, the band was progressing on a path of musical evolution that culminated in Domination, a slower, chugging, pummelling assault of death metal. Lyrical themes were morphing away from the often evil and nasty words penned for the A through C releases to something less complicated but still fitting to the music. Then David Vincent departs, the band recruits Steve Tucker, and the F, G, and H albums appear. On these albums the band went nuts with a lot of the mythology-themed lyrics, often harkening back to concepts similar to those found on the three "classic" early releases, although they did taper off a bit on Heretic.
Anyway, this is the point: Illud Divinum Insanus, in terms of lyrical content and presentation, is best described as an evolution of the style the band started to mess with on Domination. At least, that's what my ears are telling me. And it's not really a suprise, is it? Vincent comes back, and all of a sudden the harsher, more mythologically oriented themes present on the last three albums are out the door for the most part. Put another way, if Vincent had stayed and this album represented the follow-on to Domination, it would've made a lot more sense. And fans who were able to put Domination out of their minds wouldn't have had the F, G, and H albums on which to further base their impression of what another Morbid Angel release should or should not sound like. That's where I see a lot of the problem here: you had a pretty similar set of material on the A, B, C, F, G, and H albums (yeah, there was a lot of variety in those, but think big picture), with D often forgotten, and then Illud Divinum Insanus goes and apparently changes everything.
Can everything be explained away with a simple lineup change, or change back as the case may be? Of course not. But the point remains that Illud Divinum Insanus, as a whole, is not that big of a departure from the Domination-era Morbid Angel sound that the David Vincent-fronted Morbid Angel was working with when he departed.
OK, so we've established that Morbid Angel hasn't actually thoroughly lost their minds, just that people honestly weren't paying enough attention. But what about the music itself? Does understanding where the album likely comes from in terms of style mean the album is just glorious? Sure, in some parts. And in some parts, not so much.
From a production standpoint, Illud Divinum Insanus is generally solid. The instruments can all be heard, and the mix doesn't ever allow one facet to overpower another, be it the vocals, guitars, or drums. One thing I generally hate is when death metal bands think that the drums need to be mixed to the front to the point where they drown out the music. Fortunately, this isn't a problem here at all. At the end of the day, what the production highlights is that nobody has forgotten how to play. It allows you to hear everything for the most part, apart from some nuances in select tracks. It should be noted that Trey in particular shows that he can still rip off a solo to melt your face.
Regarding the actual music, there are, in fact, some really good songs in here. 10 More Dead has a really sick intro riff that pops up throughout the song, and the tempo of the first half of the track is a throwback to the plodding power of Where the Slime Live. The lyrics to I Am Morbid may very well be a massive slab of cheese, but musically the song sets up a nice groove. The ower-tempo, groovy style turns up in a few other tracks as well. Destructos vs. The Earth/Attack is one of those weird songs that have managed to polarize the fanbase, but what the hell, I like it. The 10 More Dead riff is my favorite on the CD, but overall this is my favorite song. Personally, I don't get a lot of the "Rob Zombie castoff/whatever" references, but we can chalk that up to a lack of Mr. Zombie's music in my own standard listening experience. The high-pitched voice calling out "Destructos" in places was admittedly almost irritating at first, but I got used to it.
Where Illud Divinum Insanus ultimately fails is that it runs out of steam. About two thirds of the album ranges from solid (the more traditional death-metal throwback Nevermore) to outstanding (10 More Dead). When songs hit, they hit. But when they miss, holy crap, they often miss in an epic fashion. The first track to fall into the latter category that comes to mind is Radikult. You know what? I won't even touch the lyrics. Suffice it to say that they don't do anything to make up for the uninspired music. I don't mind Vincent's different vocal styles in the song, but overall Radikult should be avoided. Further exacerbating the issue is that Radikult is sandwiched between Beauty Meets Beast and Profundis-Mea Culpa at the end of the CD. By this point in the album, the band appears to have run out of good ideas, with those two songs just coming off as a bit bland, relying a bit too much on weird effects to close things out. The positive side of this is that you can just stop the disc after Destructos. A major negative aspect to the production is that whatever effects they've applied to the drums on some of the tracks, Too Extreme! being a prime example, doesn't add anything to the music and often distracts from it.
When all is said and done, Morbid Angel have turned out a decent album on a whole. Yes, there are some decidedly low points, but some of the tracks are pretty damn good from where I sit. The production makes the album an easy listen, which can often be problematic with a death metal release. Overall, I'd give this album a 70. That might seem like a comparatively low score given all the effort expended in justifying the album, but in my mind it really isn't. It damn sure doesn't rate in the single digits or low teens, and there are enough low points to keep it from earning a truly high score, but they have managed to turn out some solid tracks. I really like around half of the album, and the production is mostly solid, so a 70 is a fair rating of the album from my standpoint.
Like it or not, Illud Divinum Insanus is part of the Morbid Angel catalog now. If you want the "classics," pop in a different CD, they've recorded that shit already. But if you enjoyed the direction they were taking with Domination, you may find that this album certainly doesn't deserve all of the negativity it's been attracting. Just like me.
A lot of people were really shocked and horrified by this album. I found it to be almost exactly what I had wanted, minus a few highly irritating points. Not a stretch when one of Trey Azagthoth's favourite bands is Laibach.
Illud Divinum Insanus is not a departure for the band. Morbid Angel has always fucked around with weird elements in their music, but usually in the form of weird interludes. Now they've just combined them in a few tracks with vocals and drums. This is no St. Anger. Morbid Angel have not abandoned their sound. It's more like if Priest would have combined half of Turbo with the best songs from Ram It Down.
As many of you know, there are two parts to this album: the classic, death metal songs, and some bizarre industrial type stuff. The actual death metal is well done. Any of those songs stand up well to Morbid Angel's past glories. Whereas on Heretic, the songs were reasonably straightforward, most didn't stand out. On here they do, and I think that's because of David Vincent's vocal patterns and very nice production. In fact, David's use of clean chanting really brings some much needed variety in the vocal department. And in places like the super pissed off "Blades for Baal," you get pure, unadulterated death metal.
The experimental stuff is a mixed bag. "Destructos Vs. the Earth" combines classic Morbid Angel sludge riffing with a martial beat and robotic vocals. The idea and execution work well, although it does become rather monotonous and screams for a guitar solo. The same can be said of "Too Extreme!" I can overlook the corny lyrics. The warped guitar and pounding drums work well. That chanting in the middle? Epic. I love that. You run into problems when it goes on for over six minutes.
"Mea Culpa-Profundis" is my favourite track on the album, and Morbid Angel's most fucked up sounding song ever. This is where the industrial drumming, chanting, cryptic lyrics and processed guitars work wonders. It sounds sick. Twisted.
David Vincent's contributions to this album are, not surprisingly, the very cheesy yet very catchy "I Am Morbid" and "Radikult." Both of these songs contain some good ideas, but the way they are hashed out is wrong. The opening bass line to "Radikult" is good, and could have been a dark song, had it not taken a horrible turn when Dave's vocals kick in. There are also two great solos and a kick ass outro to "Radikult" which makes the vocal sections just all the more repugnant. "I Am Morbid" fares much better. But you can tell that it was written to be a crowd pleaser.
If you are expecting blazing fast death metal, this will disappoint you. But in that case, just skip the experimental stuff, and Illud Divinum Insanus is at least good. If you want to hear Morbid Angel being as weird as they possibly can be...than you'll be pleased. When you look at any long running band, like Sabbath, Priest, or Maiden, they have experimental albums. And with a large discography, they can, and should, throw a few curve balls.
Just make sure the hit the skip button when "Radikult" comes on.
“It’s worse than cancer.” “The next St. Anger.” “The 9/11 of death metal.” Shit, man, how could I not check this out?
I consider myself a casual fan of Morbid Angel, a “cafeteria consumer” of their music. By that, I mean that I can throw on an album like Altars and say to myself, “Yeah, this is good”, but I’m not so much emotionally committed to them like I am with bands who played more active roles in my musical development. I think it’s fair to say we’re all a little colourblind when it comes to our favourite bands, so I hope this will make it easier for me to step back and view this, instantly one of the most maligned releases to ever drop into the metal lexicon, in a measured way.
Now, Morbid Angel has always been eager to expand its sound: they began with the fast-and-loose riffwork and snarled hymns of Altars Of Madness, and eventually found themselves within the labyrinthine, cavernous structures of Gateways To Annihilation (I never bothered with Heretic, so no comment). But unlike their previous releases, parts of III go way beyond what would be considered ‘acceptable’ variation in metal social circles: how would you like your industriagoth influences in Radikult, or the rap-influenced vocal rhythms of 10 More Dead?
Most noticeably, this album sees the returned David Vincent, who has adopted a more hardcore type of vocal, which the production pushes right in your face. He sounds completely different than his rasps of Morbid’s early days, or his gutturals of Domination, so it’s weird in hindsight that his coming back was actually hyped up at all for any reason other than to push more units of a fundamentally demographic-confused release.
The production also pushes the drums up, and – in a truly bizarre move for an extreme metal album – downplays the guitars whenever possible. I had a tough time making out some of the riffs in Blades For Baal with noise-cancelling headphones, so deeply buried under the shout-growled vocals and pounding drums.
That’s not to say that Tim Yeung is a bad drummer; he definitely goes for feel over precision, and most of the complaints I’ve heard about it accuse his double-bass as being very sloppy. Misty-eyed fans might long for the days when Pete Sandoval effortlessly struck a fine balance between feel and precision, but I don’t actually mind the looser double bass on this release. But if you prefer precision in your percussion, this album’s drum-heavy production isn’t going to be kind to you one bit.
The straight-up death metal stuff here is pretty forgettable, honestly. Nevermore, Beauty Meets Beast, Blades For Baal, et al…the riffs are there, Vincent’s vocals are there, and they’re not –bad-, but I don’t think I’ll single these songs out to listen again unless I choose to give this album another front-to-back. I struggle to give apt musical description of these pieces, but I’m sure you all know what generic modern death metal sounds like, right? The “pure” death metal tracks lack the viciousness of Altars, but also lack the depth of Gateways. They roll from one riff to the next, competently played but without that spark that makes you keep coming back. There were a few vocal lines in Beauty Meets Beast that I found catchy, and Nevermore had some solid riffs, but we’re a long way from the top-tier insanity of Altars, my personal favourite release from this band. I did think that Profundis – Mea Culpa’s interesting riffset made for a decently high note to end on, though. I dig the odd opening riff and the bizarre chanting that ends it.
But that’s not why this release is on the fast track to becoming this year’s single worst-reviewed record from a major metal band, though, is it? If III had consisted of those fairly pedestrian death metal cuts, fans would have sulked for a little bit and then moved on to something else fairly quickly to sate their extreme diets.
No, what seems to have people really up in arms are the more outrageously…unique tracks. There’s really no way around mentioning Radikult; without mincing words, this could have been a B-side from Antichrist Superstar. Now, I’ll go out on a limb and say that’s not an objectively bad thing, but there’s some serious misconception of the fanbase with this song, which I’ll get to in a minute. Like Manson, it actually is pretty catchy in a silly way, but I can’t imagine the kind of pure-bred death metallers who grew up gorging on Altars and Blessed Are The Sick flocking around its ultra-simple guitarwork, angrily whispered vocals, and mantra-like repetition.
Meanwhile, Too Extreme! and Destructos Vs. The Earth / Attack have this kind of industrial stomp running through them, creating a pulsating atmosphere. It is catchy, and I’ll take it a step further and say it’s even memorable – moreso than the average straight-up death metal cuts here – but I can’t help but feel it’s misguided; you have industrial fans who would probably be turned off by the death metal elements, and you have death metal fans who are definitely being turned off by the “danceable”/industrial elements.
Now, there’s no way to classify how much tolerance that “the metal community” (which in itself is a little too blanket a term) is willing to extend to experimentation, style-switching and diversity, because it’s all situational, and if you try to look at it all in black and white, you’ll just end up getting confused. But it seems like Mr. Azagthoth has somehow managed to cobble together all sorts of influences that death metal fans actively voice their hate for whenever it comes up (if not outright, then when said styles are mixed with death metal).
Something is slightly baffling about this, from a marketing perspective. When you play extreme metal, you play it for yourself, because hell, it’s a niche genre and there are easier ways to make money; even the largest of extreme bands, IE Cannibal Corpse, are out there playing clubs instead of arenas (large festivals exempted). Even so, Morbid Angel have been around long enough and have accumulated enough of a fanbase to put them near the very top of the death metal world (they know it, too; the obligatory ‘fan song’ is on this album, I Am Morbid) that Trey probably could have a decent grasp on what his fans generally like in their music.
I’m NOT saying that he should bury all his outside influences and deth methul 4 lyfe. I’m saying, in short, that to release something like Radikult under the Morbid Angel name is setting everyone involved up for a letdown, in the same way as if Bruce Dickinson had released Balls To Picasso under the Iron Maiden name. What gets me is that the main outside influences on display here, the various industrial-lite or quasi-gothic teamsters that Trey seems to have taken interest in, have been decried for a decade and a half now by tons of metalheads, Morbid fans included. Trey had to have, at least in some part, anticipated the reaction that this album would have inspired. (I’m not into Kiss, but remember their disco album? Yeah…)
And for what it’s worth, Mr. Azagthoth is still one of the leading axemen of extreme metal. When he’s not pounding out simpler industrial grooves on the album’s more controversial tracks, his playing is very nice to listen to; the solo in I Am Morbid is a personal favourite.
Despite everything, my recommendation is that if you’re curious, then feed your curiosity and give it a listen, if just to find out what everyone is going up the wall about. There are moments that I actually like; despite its awkward repetition, I have a soft spot for Too Extreme! (It might remind you of early Fear Factory), and despite its weirdness and EBM stomping, I actually like Destructos Vs. The Earth / Attack. In the lexicon of almost-universally hated metal releases, it’s infinitely more listenable than The Unspoken King, easier on the ears than St. Anger, and more interesting than American Soldier.
But that doesn’t mean it’s able to stand up on its own; III is a fundamentally confused release. It has no idea what it wants to be, and it has no unifying musical direction. The backlash against this conceptual clusterfuck has been enormous, so if you’re reading this, then you’ve probably heard III already – but if not and if you’re curious, approach with extreme caution.
Initial Reaction: I don't know what the fuck I'm listening to when "Too Extreme!" is playing, but it makes me want to punch these guys right in the face. Repeatedly. I want to feel the bloody ruin of their skulls against my utterly broken hand as I continually hit them. I guess I'm just not a fan of industrial metal, except that I have listened to Ministry and their ilk in the past and it wasn't even this bad. This is derivative and completely bereft of enjoyable qualities.
After listening to the full album: Among the swill that Morbid Angel are trying to pass off as industrial metal, there are some actual death metal songs thrown in which aren't terrible, but also aren't memorable at all. I can think of at least a dozen other death metal releases this year that I've listened to and have had at least one song pop out at me. The only songs popping out at me from this one are the horrible ones. There are so many things that you shouldn't do taking place on this album that it would take me all day to write up a review detailing them. There are now plenty of other reviews here that have covered the majority of these faults as it is.
There are also a good number of reviewers who seem to be OK with this album, which vexes me. I guess after such a long break in releases, even the most perfunctory of death metal from this band would please a lot of fans. I'm not one of those people, as I've only recently started getting into Morbid Angel's catalog. Comparing just the death metal songs on this album to any one of the past albums is enough to earn it a low score from me... possibly only in the mediocre 50% range. However, this album is highly hampered by the aforementioned atrocities of the industrial segments. Absolutely a change in the wrong direction for this band unless for some reason they learn how to do it right next time around. I have faith in their musicianship, but I fear that they just don't understand that style well enough to do it right. Radikult might be the best one on this album, but it still falls well short of anything I'd ever want to listen to again.
Overall, mediocre brutal death metal songs interspersed with some of the most banal "industrial" metal you'll ever listen to, makes this album out to be one of the worst of the year and not worth your time unless you're a sadistic bastard who thinks there has got to be at least one good song here. Good luck with that. I'm throwing this CD away. It's not even worth using as a beer coaster.
Oh, how the fan boys have wailed. I think's it's impressive that an album with 19 reviews can average 30%. That makes it worse than St. Anger. Worse than Risk.
I liked this album. It's not nearly as bad as they say, though far from their best. It's an industrial tinged album in the vein of Ministry, with some Laiback influences thrown in here and there. This album marks the return of David Vincent on vocals and bass. The album is cut in half between the more traditional death metal songs and the industrial tracks. The death metal is standard issue Morbid Angel, helped along by the crisp production, and the drum program is barely noticeable, and actually helps with the precision. 'Heretic', their last album, was buried in muddy sound, and the clear distinction of instruments is welcome. The best of the death metal songs is 'Nevermore', with it's ferocious mid-pace precision, dissonant riffery, and psychotic ambiance. It's classic Morbid Angel. The other death metal songs chug alongs at varying speeds, but tend to be unmemorable, except come solo time, as Trey Azagthoth is in fine form.
And then there are the new forays into industrial metal, most certainly influenced by David Vincent's tenure with The Genitorturers. They all sound unmistakably like Morbid Angel, except for the awful Radicult, the only real embarrassment on the album. It is a Marilyn Manson throw away, complete with cliche whispers over palm muted riffs, and even if the song contains a few sharp riffs, it's just sad that they are wasted on such a stinker of a song.
But on the otherhand, there is the awesome, monster motherfucker that is 'Destructos Vs. the Earth / Attack'. It is a slow crawling and relentless chugathon, a fun(!) B-Movie romp that explores new territory for the band. The clearly enunciated lyrics and the music meld perfectly in a crushing, earth shattering groove. It is so good that it nearly overshadows all the other songs on the album. The other industrial songs aquite themselves just fine, not The Berzerker heavy or fast by any means, but this is definitely not Rob Zombie territory, either. Above all, the quality of the riffs and guitar solos shine through.
Anyway, this is not a bad experiment by any means. I can understand the change in direction, since they have been treading water ever since 'Formulas Fatal To The Flesh'. So you should calm down, lighten up, and not let your conservative attitudes towards death metal hamper your enjoyment of the good tunes this album has to offer.
first posted here:
Morbid Angel have always stayed this love-hate band for me. I grew up with Altars of Madness, was rather disappointed with side A of Blessed Are The Sick because of those horrible slow moments en dull production. However I liked Covenant once again and I still do even actually like some songs on Heretic like Stricken Arise. But they have done many things I dislike. I hate songs like Caesar's Palace, Where the Slime Live and all the slow stuff happening on other albums. However which each album I give them another chance. As if I expect to once again get another Altars Of Madness.
On the other hand, I like adventure. I admire bands who dare push boundaries. However since my taste in music has become bigger and bigger there aren’t many things in metal that surprising anymore. Well, as long as they are good, I’m satisfied.
The new Morbid Angel album disappoints in many ways. For a death metal album we have about 3 songs of typical Morbid Angel material. Existo Vulgoré, Blades for Baal and Nevermore. Had these songs been released as an EP, the fans, including myself, would have been pleased with a decent to good standard Morbid Angel release. Good to hear Vincent again and a feeling somewhere between Covenant and Domination.
However the twosome ‘I Am Morbid’and ‘10 More Dead’ show that lame slow Morbid Angel again which made me lose interest in them in the first place. These songs are so dull, they make old slow tunes like Where the Slime Live even sound great. Damn you Morbid Angel. Why this tedious crap on each album?
Another disappointment is the half-assed attempt at incorporation industrial, terror and EBM. I love Godflesh and Ministry (and many, many more) but as evil or melancholic or heavy as them this is not. The songs just drag. When I first heard Too Extreme I actually liked it…for about 2 minutes. Then it became painfully obvious Morbid Angel can’t keep up the tension.
‘Destructos Vs. the Earth’ and ‘Radikult’ are failed attempts as well. Why bother with this when you can put up old albums by Nitzer Ebb, Skinny Puppy, Vomito Negro, Pouppée Fabrikk, Front Line Assembly or even new great acts like Feindflug ? No, Morbid Angel don’t even come close to the real EBM and industrial stuff but throw some lame nineties Rob Zombieisms and Manson-MTV sounds around as if they actually have no factual knowledge of how to compose and perform the real deal. I’m sorry but Pungent Stench’s housemix of Blood Pus and Gastric Juice was way better than this stuff and that even was a joke!
Point is, Morbid Angel aren’t extreme anymore in whatever genre. They’re memories. This isn’t a bad thing persé and I love keeping the memory of their early days alive but if you pretend to give the world ‘brutal new music’ then make sure you have actually got some. Now let’s hope a next album will either be old school Morbid Angel death metal again or a GOOD attempt at playing electronic music. This album tries both and horribly fails on both accounts. Just get the 3 good tracks I mentioned.
Reading this as you are in mid-June at the earliest it is inconceivable you have not already borne witness to the hurricane of hate that has been brewing at Morbid Angel's door since the true nature of eagerly-awaited "Illud Divinum Insanus" was exposed. When such words as "St." and "Anger" are used in comparisons you know things are not going well.
I hardly feel the need to describe the details of this here record for it seems every man and his dog has already done so, but as a reviewer I will do, in a minute. Firstly however, listening to "Illud…", a whopping eight years in the making, and reading/listening to much of the feedback has raised many thoughts in my mind of the very status of 'extreme metal' today, fan's perceptions of what is 'extreme' and what ownership fans have, or feel they have, over a band's music. By incorporating a significant helping of industrial into their palette (incase you still didn't know), have Morbid Angel overstepped the mark of what is 'extreme'? Are we as fans too narrow-minded when it comes to accepting change, especially when artists are frequently lambasted for releasing the same albums over and over? Do Morbid Angel owe it to their fans, who have waited so long for a Dave Vincent-fronted album, to give them what they want, or is band leader Trey Azagthoth free to feature collaborations with Rebecca Black if he so wanted?
These and many more of course are hypothetical but I do believe all extreme metal fans have a part to play in Morbid Angel having taken this route into 'career coma' ('career suicide' has not been attained just yet for they can recover from this) through the demands of expectation and worship that are heaped upon what are just human shoulders. Quite whether it is these pressures that caused the abomination of "Too Extreme!" is particularly hard to fathom though, as the band appeared to have made a conscious effort to sink lower than anyone could have thought possible with not just one, but any number of travesties that litter "Illud…"'s landscape.
"Omni Potens" would actually be a good introduction piece if it was swiftly followed by some classic death metal, but raped as it is by "Too Extreme!" it contributes to an agonising 9 minutes on repeat listens waiting for anything remotely listenable in a DM context. Thankfully what follows in "Existo Vulgoré" and "Blades For Baal" is much better: Azagthoth at last comes to the party and Vincent instantly sounds more convincing than he does spouting out the atrocious lyrics of before, but in Tim Yeung they have a skilled drummer triggered to oblivion, a fact I find goes some way to destroying the goodwill generated by the potent riffing finally on display.
"I Am Morbid" is peculiar - it is not one of the album's industrial stillborns yet the lead riff suggests it should be. No doubt designed as a live track it is nothing more than a distinctly mediocre cheese-fest on record. "10 More Dead" sounds curiously Nevermore-ish (as in the Seattle band) at first as a semi-decent track on the road to a "God of Emptiness" feel, before "Destructos Vs. The Earth - Attack" makes a bold challenge to rival "Too Extreme!" as the worst track ever released by Morbid Angel. Industrial beats and dodgy electronics…it's…just…awful.
"Nevermore" was not surprisingly chosen as the lead track seemingly forever ago now when snippets of the album first started to appear (the halcyon days, when we were all expecting a classic! and it's clear to see why: it destroys everything before it with a power and groove that would not have been out of place on "Covenant". "Beauty Meets Beast" is based around a very strong lead riff, which makes it a pity the overall quality of the song does not maintain this, though Azagthoth does chip with a typically mind-bending solo of his late on. "Radikult" and "Profundis - Mea Culpa" are the fourth and fifth contentious songs in the outcast clan: do we really wish to discuss in detail these any more?
So there you have it, the return of Morbid Angel. Forget the opinions of the knee-jerking reviewers suggesting this is a 10% or below; it is not all bad, there are infect a number of acceptable songs present. Sadly much of those do lack the bite for why MA are so loved, plus they have not aided their cause with the most ridiculous and nonsensical track ordering I've heard this side of Manowar's "Warriors of the World" - bookending the album with the worst tracks is such a basic error I'm staggered it has happened.
In conclusion: this is a poor release from any death metal band, but when it's Morbid Angel the fallout is becoming apocalyptic. The decision to radically alter their sound has backfired; maybe they should have spoken to Autopsy. The question is: will the fans ever take them back?
Originally written for www.Rockfreaks.net
You see, that's a clever review title. Not only is it relevant for being the title of one of Morbid Angel's best songs but it also perfectly describes the overall feeling of their newest release Illud Divinum Insanus. It has to be said that the expectations were quite high for this album, after all it took no less than 8 years to write, record, produce and finally release the damn thing. However, no one expected this.
Before I proceed with the review I feel the need to point out that there are two ways in which a sane and stable person can view this album. You can either take it seriously and suffer a disappointment so vast it may give you cancer or degenerate your entire gene pool for generations to come, or you can take it as a comedy relief and trolling material. And, despite better judgment, I have decided to review the album as if it were a serious release.
Morbid Angel have always been at the forefront of US death metal. One thing that helped establish their cult status as well as dedicated and passionate fanbase was their uncompromising attitude and their unwillingness to accept trends and to pamper the casual listener. Even Heretic, cursed by many, carries that ideal and, despite the botched production, the essence is there. This is where that tradition ends, Illud has destroyed the concept and ruined a nigh perfect streak of these Floridian greats.
Now I must admit that upon hearing and seeing the live footage of Nevermore on youtube oh so long ago I was pretty optimistic. I though, 'Hey, this sounds like Heretic! I'm going to love this!" I completely ignored the, what I've come to call it, The Dave Element of the whole thing. Looking back now I should have seen the warning signs. A PVC outfit, ridiculous prancing on the stage, metalcore vocals (which I've then attributed to bad audio), and most importantly, Dave coming back to Morbid Angel after spending years subjecting the EBM/industrial/goth night clubs dwellers with some of the most mediocre, shallow and downright retarded examples of the three genres combined. The fact that the Combichrist frontman actually collaborated on one of their songs (it's Destructos vs. The Earth, in case you were wondering), should have had me doubting the release, but I didn't know that fact until it was too late.
I will now skip ahead a bit and mention the only positive thing on the album. The riffwork on Nevermore. That's it. That's the only decent thing on the album. No need to look further, I have explored every possible element, I have probed every auditory nook and cranny from every angle. There is nothing more of value on that album than Trey's riffing in that particular song. Unfortunately, that wasn't enough to make me increase the rating of the album. Not nearly. The other thing people might come to like is the album cover. To me it looks like it came from an album of another band which turned to fail after switching styles. Yes, you guessed it - Behemoth. But that's a different story.
The bad points... Well, there are so many that the sheet of paper required to name all of them would be so incredibly long that the entire universe couldn't contain it. Digitally speaking, I'm talking yottabytes upon yottabytes. And I'm not even exaggerating, the album is that spectacularly bad. Not being able to accomplish such an impossible task, I will try and point out the major flaws of this atrocity. First off, the drumming. Tim Yeung is a horrible drummer and the fact that he used the most obnoxious trigger setting, the kind that even the most awful of deathcore bands (I'm talking Waking the Cadaver and its ilk), would never in a million years stoop to using, is downright insulting and, in my opinion, deserves a death penalty. I hope you have a day job, Tim, because the drumming isn't you. The next fatal flaw would be the singing. David Vincent, I hope you get abducted by a serial rapist slash murderer one night and spend the rest of your miserable life as his gimp slash guinea pig. Emulating Randy Blythe, an incompetent vocalist of an even more incompetent band, in a death metal(ish?) release may seem like a good idea on some planet but unfortunately, this is Earth. Dave, when you eventually depart this mortal coil, you, much like Nowitzki's free throw attempts, won't be missed. Now we come to the most disappointing part, Trey Azagthoth. Why, man? I thought you at least had some integrity left. I've always considered Trey to be an innovative guitar player. Consider Formulas, for instance. I could actually see the green ooze seeping through the speakers while listening to Nothing Is Not. It was sick and not sick as in 'awesome' or 'cool' or any other such epithet but sick as in 'diseased'. It was an auditory plague and it was infectious and spectacular. But no. Illud has generic modern metal riffing, the kind you may encounter on an abysmal metalcore/groove metal b-side. Either he's trolling, and I fervently hope it is that and nothing more, or he's lost it and that would be really, really sad and lamentable.
I haven't mentioned the much talked about EBM side of the album and I will not waste many words on it. Simply put, even within that niche, it's mediocre and forgettable. The fact that it stands on a supposed death metal album enhances its mediocrity further, gently ushering it into banality. What has been heard...
The final verdict is: this is beyond a shadow of a doubt the worst metal release I have heard in the past 20 years. The only people who would perhaps like this steaming pile of dung are Lamb of God and Trivium fans, always eager to jump on the next bandwagon. Save yourselves the money. Get Dead Congregation's only full length. You won't regret it.
And once again, it wasn't as gut-wrenchingly terrible as "they" said. Obviously this album doesn't contain the exact same strain of content contained in classics such as Altars of Madness and Covenant. If you're looking for full-out death metal, you might as well turn around and head back from where you came. And I'll admit, this album isn't great or even good - its best moments are within three different songs, and the rest is mediocre at best and laughably terrible at worst. Worthy of universal scorn? No, but I wouldn't buy unless I saw it in a bargain bin.
That out of the way, there are features of this album I really enjoy. David Vincent isn't growling at all on this album - in its place is a venomous shout/half-growl that's the most pissed-off vocals I've heard this side of Phil Anselmoville. A great example is the chorus in "Existo Vulgore", which is probably one of the most forceful moments on this release as a whole. "Too Extreme!" - which, from what I've gathered, is the most abhorred song on Illud Divinum Insanus - is catchy and manages to keep a serious tone throughout its six-minute length, and it sounds like a rather original take on Ministry circa the latter's Rio Grande Blood era. The constant electronic thumps throughout the song don't really get annoying; quite the contrary, as they enforce the over-the-top beat any good, anthemic Ministry-esque song needs. ("Profundis - Mea Culpa" is another follower of the thumping formula that "Too Extreme!" uses, though it's less industrial, a bit more spastic [almost mathcore-like] and slower at times. This song isn't really bad - sounds like Morbid Angel trying to emulate Brain Drill, basically - but you can find better even on this release.) Though "Existo Vulgore" is my favorite death metal song that's offered on this album, "Nevermore" isn't a bad song either - it keeps a good sense of momentum, sounds original, uses good riffs without resorting to fuckloads of retarded grooves, and it doesn't slow down on the listener for long without either using a tremolo riff or a double-bass blast to back itself up. The best song on this release by far, though, is the seven-minute "Radikult". To break it down simply, it's an extremely downbeat song - say, "Man! I Feel Like a Woman!" by Shania Twain - remixed by Marilyn Manson. It's not really metal, more like a country song turned industrial, but I can't be made to give half a fuck about that. It's catchy as fuck, and the main riff is heavy as hell, if not in a dire need of metal attributes. The song is definitely the highlight of this entire release.
Of course, as I'll give compliments where they're warranted, I'll be just as fair and say that there are some parts of this release that could have been a lot better. "I Am Morbid", for instance, is clearly just an attempt for the band to come up with a quickly thrown-together personalized anthem for live shows - a death metal "We Will Rock You", if you will. For a song as slow as it is, it needs a lot more groove and a much more in-your-face guitar tone. The last forty-five seconds, though, are what the whole song should have sounded like - a blasting double-bass pedal, ever-so-slightly melodic guitars, and David yelling at the top of his lungs. Furthermore, aside from "Existo Vulgore" and "Nevermore", the full-blooded death metal songs on Illud Divinum Insanus are mediocre at best. "Blades for Baal" sounds like a slightly less evil, more ominous death metal track, similar to something Deicide would cook up; unfortunately, it seems more like a diluted xerox of Deicide than something interesting. "Beauty Meets Beast" falls flat on its face due to a combination of boring riffs and lack of speed, even though it does use plenty of double-bass to back up its weakness in the tempo department.
Then you have the oddball parts of this release. The intro is pretty much impossible to comment on, as it's just some synths mixed with a choir. Not good, not bad. "10 More Dead", riffwise, sounds like Ministry got caught in a back alley fucking Pantera and the latter subsequently gave birth to a mentally retarded child, because this song takes the most ridiculed aspects of both bands - Ministry's chants and simplistic riffs, Pantera's retarded amount of groove - beefed up the quantity of both those elements, and based the whole main riff around it. The song then speeds up into an alternating blast beat, but the riffs behind said blast are pretty boring, and while the added speed could have supported a really catchy vocal stanza, instead David spends it talking in the same swinging rhythm he's been using this whole song. And while I've been quite kind in my criticism of this album so far, I'm going to be brutally honest for a minute - "Destructos Vs. the Earth", frankly, is one of the most retarded things I've ever heard. Atonal booms for guitar riffs that would make the most chugtastic deathcore bands envious. Robo-vocals of the motherfucking "Destructos", whatever the fuck a Destructo is or whatever the hell it's doing in a Morbid Angel album. Hell, the chorus even has these fruity-ass mini-robo chirps of "De-struc-tos", but there's one problem - THIS ISN'T A FUCKING ALBUM BY THE FLAMING LIPS. If there's one real blasphemy on this release, it's not "Too Extreme!". It's not "Radikult". It's this goddamn abortion of an industrial song that has some of the most retarded song elements I've ever heard. Who actually thought this would be a good song to put in an album?
To the comments saying this album is going to get Morbid Angel a lot of nu-metal fans - no. As an ex-mallcore kiddie myself, I can tell you with a straight face that this shit will appeal to them as much as it does to you and me - little to none. They hate death metal, and by extension they hate about half the tracks on this release. They hate slow songs, and by extension "I Am Morbid". And frankly, even mallcore fans aren't retarded enough to like the abomination "Destructos Vs. the Earth". They hate tracks with no harsh yelling - goodbye, "Omni Potens". And, if you can count down from 11, that leaves one song - "Radikult". I'll admit, Slipknot fans will love that one track. One track. Do people become fans of a band simply because of one song? Smart people don't (but I'm talking about nu-metal fans; I suppose that's an oxymoron). Hell, in retrospect, clocking in at seven-and-a-half minutes in length, "Radikult" is probably too long to keep the attention of modern mallcore fans. So there you have it, guys - from the looks of it, Morbid Angel's fanbase won't acquire a new demographic.
To conclude, everyone was wrong. This album does not suck ass. It simply sucks. Now, I'm not going to be one of the people saying "GET BACK TO THE OLD FORMULA OF DEATH METAL", because frankly I don't give enough fucks about this band to care which direction they turn musically. Instead, I'll give advice on how to improve the formula they have on this album, because it's obviously not broken: out of the three songs I really like on this release, two are in the industrial hybrid style Morbid Angel used on this album. Well, though there's a lot wrong with this album, the possible improvements could best be summarized in two sentences. One, stop writing fucking slow songs, as slow industrial metal does not work well often. Two, stick to two kinds of songs if you're going to do this sort of thing: the thumpy "Too Extreme!" songs, and the fast, tremolo-rich death metal songs like "Existo Vulgore". (Yes, I like "Radikult", but frankly bands can only pull stunts like that off once. Best let it be a one-of-a-kind thing in Morbid Angel's discography.)
I'll bring up one more thing before I shut up, because I've rambled on and on with this review: yes, the lyrics are terrible, but how's this for you - Darkthrone and other second-wave BM bands write shitty Engrish lyrics, people laugh it off. Morbid Angel write shitty lyrics that exhibit a firm understanding of the English language, and suddenly everyone flips their shit, claiming heresy and betrayal. Just some food for thought. Now, I've presented a lot of conflicting views in this summary of Illud Divinum Insanus, so I'll make it all clear with this: it has some great songs, but they're surrounded by shitty failed experiments. If I were the reader of this review, I'd wait for next album, where hopefully the band will have either refined their new sound or gone back to pure death metal.
Morbid Angel’s Illud Divinum Insanus is a bad album. A shockingly bad album. An album that doesn’t work on so many levels that it’s difficult to know where to begin. It’s hard to believe that it comes from the same band that gave us death metal classics such as Altars of Madness and Covenant. Hell, let’s be honest, it’s hard to believe that this comes from the same band that gave us Heretic (I’ll never understand why that album gets such a bad rap). After eight years of silence, many were expecting Morbid Angel to come back from the death metal void and blow our minds, but to be perfectly frank, Illud Divinum Insanus just plain blows.
One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that people in positions of “power” within the metal industry are hopelessly out of touch. Bands, label owners, journalists, you name it, typically the more successful and longer in the tooth one gets, the further and further away they get from being aware of/understanding what’s actually going on in the metal underground. Illud Divinum Insanus is a classic example of this. This album is the sound of a band desperately trying to stay current, but the problem is that they are utterly clueless as to how to do so. What we’re left with is a train wreck that sees under-developed death metal slapped haphazardly up against hokey electronic/industrial elements that sound like they were swiped from 1998. The results are about as stimulating as a Sasha Grey film with the sex scenes edited out.
I can’t help but wonder what Trey Azagthoth and David Vincent were thinking when this album was being conceived and recorded. Were they looking to go mainstream and live out some sort of twisted rock star fantasy? Were they genuinely in the frame of mind that what they were doing was cutting edge, groundbreaking or experimental? Were they doing a shitload of coke and listening to Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar on repeat? I would kill to have been a fly on the wall during the sessions, especially when Vincent was recording the “killa cop” bit from the song “Radikult” (Earache’s Digby Pearson claims that Vincent is actually saying “killa kult”, but I’ve yet to see definitive proof.). That shit is hilarious. Don’t even get me started on the rest of the lyrics.
I’m not going to lie to you, I enjoy electro-pop metal/shock rock gems such as the aforementioned Antichrist Superstar, Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe and the like (if I’ve just killed all my underground metal cred with that statement, that’s just a case of tough shit), but that shit has no place whatsoever on a Morbid Angel album. If the band had actually worked to make this album a legitimate techno-industrial-death metal freakout, I might have been interested, in fact I would have welcomed it. Death metal could stand a bit of a shake-up, not to mention a bit of futurism to counteract all this retro business that’s currently running rampant. But Illud Divinum Insanus reeks of shameless (albeit dated-sounding) pandering to the mainstream, not of experimentation or artistic growth. Songs like “Too Extreme!”, “Destructos vs The Earth/Attack” and especially “Radikult” aren’t good enough to lick Marilyn Manson circa 1996′s boots. Who am I to tell Morbid Angel what they can and can’t put on their records? A longtime fan, that’s who. This album is a slap in the face to all of us that have followed the band and excitedly awaited their return.
And what of the legit death metal tracks on Illud Divinum Insanus? They sound like afterthoughts, like they were ghostwritten by the bands you’ve never heard of on that used Morbid Angel tribute album that’s collecting dust in the ninety-nine cent bin at your local shop. Songs like “Nevermore” and “Blades for Baal” feel like half-assed attempts to appease the band’s original fanbase and don’t come anywhere near the past glories of quintessential Morbid Angel compositions such as “Maze of Torment” or “God of Emptiness”. At this point it’s clear that the bands that Morbid Angel directly inspired, the Niles and Behemoths of the world, have surpassed their once powerful masters.
More interesting than the album itself (at this point about anything would be) is the potential fallout. The album has already taken a critical bashing, but how will the metal masses react? How will Morbid Angel and their label Season of Mist handle what is shaping up to be this decade’s Cold Lake? Will the mainstream embrace tracks like “Radikult” and give them a spot on the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Tour? Will the band continue to put out albums and go even further down this bizarre path? Will oldschool fans riot when they attempt to play “Destructos vs the Earth/Attack” live? It is difficult to speculate, but one thing is for certain, Morbid Angel deserves to be called out for releasing this steaming turd.
Originally written for http://thatshowkidsdie.com
The wait for the hotly anticipated ‘I’ album from Morbid Angel has been a long one. Between the various band reunions (with classic-era vocalist Dave Vincent), the addition of new member Thor Anders Myhren of Zylon along with session drummer Tim Yeung, and the constant news of founder Trey Azagthoth’s recent obsession with techno music and all things anime…
The run up to the album has been tense. The numerous samples and early reviews suggesting Trey’s love of techno and industrial music has seeped through into the music. After the lukewarm reception to the band's last album, surely a return to form is in order. The inclusion of vocalist Dave Vincent, the voice of hate on the band's classic albums, should surely mean a return to the old days of brilliant riffs and evil songwriting – unfortunately this is not the case, as many fans have feared.
The album opens with a generic intro of keyboards, bringing to mind songs from the previous album such as “Victorious March of Reign the Conqueror”, albeit with added grunts from Vincent in the background. The song has a very martial sound, giving the impression of marching to an impending doom, a good sign!
Then the intro to ‘Too Extreme!’ hits and it all falls apart. The song opens with a guitar riff over obvious electric drums playing a repetitive beat akin to the thumping sound of club music more than death metal. This beat continues for the vast portion of the song that rarely alternates at all. The guitar is pushed to the background frequently by the drums, and what can be heard is entirely uninteresting and uninspired riffs used solely for backing. Vincent’s vocals themselves are altered with distortion added throughout the song. Despite this, they appear to be the only extreme sounding part of this song.
Finally, by track 3 the death metal appears in the form of ‘Existo Vulgore’. Despite being back in familiar territory, the song still presents little hope for the album. Despite the occasional decent riff or Trey’s always brilliant lead work, the song sounds entirely uninspired and the clicky drumming feels more like a machine. The vocals throughout the song are a small highlight while Vincent’s voice is weakening. He at least tries to put on a performance throughout the song rather than just going through the motions.
‘I Am Morbid’ is another departure for the band with crowd chants opening the mid-paced number, showing it to be a song created for the live environment. Morbid Angel are no strangers to slower songs as classics like ‘God Of Emptiness’ are proof of this. Unfortunately this song is nowhere near as good as previous efforts, instead being a catchy rock song with the only death metal moments being the vocals. Another boring song built around its chanted chorus and while Trey’s solo is decent, it's not enough to save this one.
I could review the rest of the album, but ultimately it all comes down to the same impressions for each song. The death metal-sounding moments of the album sound tired, almost as if the band were more interested in creating catchy techno-influenced metal, tagging a few paint-by-numbers death metal songs in an attempt to please older fans. The band has adopted a sound eerily reminiscent of nu-metal, only being 10 years behind the trend with songs such as ‘Radikult’ appearing to take influence from Marilyn Manson and the like - a strange move considering the lack of popularity of nu-metal in the present day compared with the time the band was releasing monstrous albums such as Gateways to Annihilation.
Amid the flirting with industrial and techno, the actual death metal the band is famous for has taken a nosedive with weak vocals, mechanical drumming, and uninspired riffs. The moments of decent songwriting are few and far between, appearing in the form of Trey’s legendary soloing or an occasional good riff among the vast majority of generic songwriting, a true indicator of the quality of work put into the album in comparison to Trey’s work on the band's back catalog.
After the previews, the vast majority were expecting a disaster from the band which, unfortunately, is exactly how this album plays out. The perfect example of ‘experimenting gone wrong’ is in the same manner as the last Cryptopsy album.
It's a testament to a band's enormity when so many fans hinge upon each new release as if it were some kind of life changing or universe altering event, and such is the case for Morbid Angel. I've found the Florida vets to have one of the most inconsistent careers in all the death metal genre, peaking on their debut Altars of Madness and then bouncing back and forth between forgettable arrays of half cooked ideas and sudden storms of cohesive creativity and brilliance. I've never been a fan of Blessed are the Sick, Formulas Fatal to the Flesh, or Heretic, for example, but on the flip side I've a highly vested interest in Altars, Domination and Gateways to Annihilation, several of which are themselves divisive offerings.
So, when a leak of the band's latest Illud Divinum Insanus trickled out 'mysteriously' some time ago, it stands to reason that the masses would erupt in predictable poo flinging, metal monkeys on a crusade to protect their natural environment from outside influences (i.e. the deniers of the potential career holocaust that Morbid Angel just might have unleashed). There was quite a wealth of jabber from both the audience and the musicians involved about the 'experimental' nature of this, the band's long anticipated 'I' album, but unfortunately, aside from its stylistic dissemination, there is pitifully little of the innovation or 'avant garde' about what Trey and his ever shifting lunatic parade have conjured forth this time. Illud Divinum Insanus is instead split pretty evenly between monotonous, electronically imbued chargers and then some rather paltry death metal filler that wouldn't have even been worthy of the band's previous disappointments.
So, yes. This time, the clouds of nebulous, negative chatter that acted as vanguard to this album's release seem to have been acute in their shocked and awed reactions, but at the same time, this is hardly the biggest misstep I've heard in the metal genre. It's bad, but not unshakable enough to lose sleep over. Much of the staggering propaganda seems to revolve around expectations that the David Vincent comeback album would somehow be something of magnificence, after his long stint with the Genitorturers. Or that Pete Sandoval would be unable to record the album, and so was replaced with Tim Yeung for the sessions. Or that it was the studio debut for newcomer Destructhor, who had previously impressed some audiences through Myrkskog and Zyklon. I can say with great confidence that none of these musical chairs have anything to do with the lack of quality upon Illud Divinum Insanus. Instead, it's the poor songwriting, poorly chosen pace of the record and stagnant ideas that will drag it into the latrine of infamy.
For starters, the first 9 minutes of this album are incredibly erroneous and weak. "Omni Potens" is a ritual intro piece delivered through boring synthesizer/horn lines and broken chanting, just as vapid as any of the interlude pieces from Formulas. Then there is "Too Extreme!" Do not adjust your screen. That's really the name of this brainless techno banger. Apparently the idea of 'innovation' here is to incorporate pathetic gabber beats that wouldn't have been impressive for a garage DJ in 1987 into a ringing and annoying cacophony of useless riffs that could find no other home, while Vincent rambles out crappy lyrics and a chorus in Spanish?! Once this nightmare has subsided, we get a streak of straight, familiar death metal through "Existo Vulgoré " and "Blades of Baal"; the same, pummeling blend of blasts and chugging that the band had perfected through albums like Domination to Gateways to Annihilation, only rendered wholly uninspiring due to the lack of memorable guitar patterns. Empty fists, beating the bored listless. The latter has a few spikes of excitement through the bridge, just not enough to save the song.
"I Am Morbid" feels like a vainglorious and cheesy march designed for the Morbid Angel faithful, but again it cedes into some pretty generic chugging/groove metal, while the next piece, "10 More Dead" might actually have pulled itself off without the lyrical flow that gives it a near gangsta rap approximation. What a waste of rhythm! Then we've got another of the band's awful techno pieces "Destructos vs. the Earth/Attack". Truly lamentable. In fact, how did this make it onto the album? How did it make muster? "Nevermore" is more of the pseudo-psycho groove driven ballast that many fans were probably hoping for. Perhaps the safest track on the album, so it's no wonder they used it as the advance single, but it's just nonetheless too easily fleeting from the memory chamber, a wax on/wax off of self-derivation. "Beauty and the Beast" is also familiar and forgettable, but still in the vein of Gateways/Heretic; while "Radikult" has some curious, bleeding melodies through it. Despite its 7 and a half minute bloat, I'd have to say it was the best track here. Just when you think the album might find some salvation, though, the generic gabber returns for the indistinct "Profundis - Mea Culpa", its sliding and schizoid guitar lines the only things going for it...
Illud Divinum Insanus plays out like an ill-informed mash of hurried ideas that needed far more time in the cauldron to come to a boil, but even if we were to trim away the needless techno fat, the meat itself is gamey malnourishment. Should we reduce this record to perhaps four tracks: "Radikult", "Nevermore", "Blades of Baal" and "Beauty and the Beast", then you'd have an EP of material possibly on the level of Heretic. The mix is functional, with the same punctuation and percussive tones the band have been using for years, and admittedly more solid than Heretic. Of course, functional is just not good enough, and neither are these songs. Eight years and nothing to show for it. A St. Anger. A victim of its own swollen expectations, sucking at the 'out of touch' trough, its only success riding on brand name alone. Surely Morbid Angel could do a lot better by their fans than this, but more importantly: they could do a lot better by themselves.
So it took Morbid Angel like 8 years to squeeze this yapping, grooving abomination, entitled Illud Divinum Insanus, out on us and it’s pretty much unbearable. I don’t think anyone really expected their 8th album to be any masterpiece, but nobody expected it to be this incredibly awful, in every respect.
The main talking point with this album has been the various electronic club/dance tracks integrated into the mix, but really that’s not what’s wrong with this. Illud is just flat out annoying. It’s like the band was actively trying to irritate my ears. This is grating, intolerable noise comparable to a kid banging pots and pans and screaming at his parents for some trivial piece of junk toy – only the kid is just a kid, and this is a band of experienced grown men who have been playing music for 20+ years, so this is that much worse.
I mean it, people. Everything about this is abominable trash, from David Vincent’s hideous yowling on the vocals – even Alexi Laiho is more listenable these days – to the awful, pukeish groove-plunking from the rhythm guitars and the weak, sniveling production sound. The songs alternate between idiotic, haphazard club-dance pounding to awful, awful “death metal” attempts without an iota of enjoyment packed in. There is no atmosphere to any of this, unless you want to cite ‘yappy dog barking in your ear for 45 minutes’ as an atmosphere, which I don’t.
And Morbid Angel was always about the atmosphere. Their best material absolutely teemed with it. They constructed masterfully arcane songs with twisted riffs and beautifully chaotic melodies. Here you just get idiotic, repetitive song structures that just repeat terrible riffs and one-word choruses until you just want to take a blunt instrument and just go to town on the entire band. The only saving grace here is that most of it isn’t infectious enough to get lodged in your head, so after it’s over you can pretty much just drown all memory of it with some beer or something.
But while it’s playing, there’s no escape – listen to the hideous electro-plonking of “Too Extreme!” and your lunch will come right back up, and the hilariously stupid “Destructos Vs the Earth” with those silly distorted vocals and goofy rhythms. And then gape in awe at how awful faux-death metal groove-bombs like “Existo Vulgore,” “Nevermore” or the absolutely cringeworthy atrocity “10 More Dead” are. Oh, all of these songs are on similar levels of horrendousness – it’s just that I want to finish this review today, and I’d be spending hours sitting here if I went into too much detail.
This is just inherently despicable music for the sheer magnitude of how stupid and wrongheaded it is – there are no good songwriting decisions made, and each track makes you feel dumber and dumber for listening to it. Everything feels sloppy and without any kind of tension or build, just stopping whenever the band feels like stopping as opposed to any measure of drama. There is little attention to detail here, and so even the more subdued parts that should be enjoyable are just messy and irritating, substituting subtlety and nuance for loudly blaring parts that scream LOOK AT ME, LOOK AT ME. Except then when you do look, all you see is an old, ugly husk of a band, a misshapen aberration, a disgusting sewer abomination screaming to be put out of its own misery.
It goes without saying that this album was hyped far more than any other album to be released this year in the metal world. Everyone wanted to hear what Morbid Angel would do now that original bassist/vocalist David Vincent had returned to the fold. Would Morbid Angel release a career defining album, one launching them back to the top of the death metal game, after 8 years of relative silence, and 16 years without original frontman Vincent? Well, ladies and gentlemen, it has arrived. Let's see what we find.
Illud Divinum Insanus starts out in promising fashion, at least for anyone familiar with Morbid Angel's back catalog. Omni Potents is reminiscent of the interludes on Formulas Fatal To The Flesh, or Caesar's Palace off Domination. And I don't want to hear any of you whining about how cheesy it is, these intros are nothing new to Morbid Angel, and they actually work well and are distinctly signature of this band. I like it, and it had me genuinely hoping the next song, "Too Extreme!" would match the apprehension the intro gave me. Needless to say, I was disappointed.
When "Too Extreme!" came in with a fairly standard Morbid Angel riff--only over a synthesized four-on-the-floor bass drum beat--I knew this album was not going to be simply Existo Vulgore's and Nevermore's, the only songs I had heard prior to the official release. I probably should have seen this coming after they announced that Combichrist would be remixing a song off this album for inclusion in the single package for "Nevermore". Alas, I failed to see the warning signs. It looked like Trey and Vincent had finally gone industrial.
This album's ultimate failure is two-fold: the use of electronic drums, and the use of David Vincent. These things alone ruined this album. The guitar riffs on all of these songs are not only still really Morbid Angel-y, they are incredibly interesting and dark at times! Imagine "Destructos Vs. The Earth" with no industrial drums, but instead, more industrial-y drum parts played by Tim Yeung! Or better yet, imagine it without David Vincent yelling "destructos marching on!" over the top of it. "Destructos Vs. The Earth" has riffing that belongs on Gateways To Annihilation, my personal favorite MA album, and the undeniably darkest one (if you don't believe me, just listen to He Who Sleeps and then proceed to shut the fuck up). It is only when it is drenched in faux-electronica bullshit and overpowered by abysmal lyrics performed by Vincent's mixed-too-high-and-not-as-good-as-Steve-Tucker's vocals that the song becomes abominable. This goes for all of the overly experimental songs on this album. Industrial influence is welcomed, I love death metal with industrial influence. The problem is that this isn't industrial-influenced death metal, it's death metal-influenced industrial, and executed poorly. Trey did not fail us on the guitar, folks, you have to admit it. There are memorable riffs all over this album. It is the over-the-top hardstyle/industrialness of the percussion and additional synths when present that made this album as cringe-worthy as it was. The fact that the songs completely devoid of industrial parts were as strong as they were (minus Vincent, of course), is a testament to that fact. "Existo Vulgore", "Blades For Baal", "10 More Dead", "Nevermore", and "Beauty Meets Beast" are all solid tunes, Vincent's awful vocal performance and lyrical facepalming notwithstanding. It's the fucking electronic drums that make this shit suck so much! And everything David Vincent did except for maybe the bass lines! Oh wait, the bass lines in "Radikult" are fucking awful! Anyone notice I don't like David Vincent yet?
It is also due to the too-much industrialness that this album is incredibly disjointed. There are a slough of different musical influences on this album besides death metal, obviously, and they make for a very random listen. It has nothing to do with your opinion on the influences themselves, the album flows very poorly as a result. When you go straight from "Too Extreme!" to "Existo Vulgore", "10 More Dead" to "Destructos vs. The Earth/Attack", and "Beauty Meets Beast" to "Radikult", it makes it seem that the final product is rushed and not properly thought out, which doesn't help the already faltering opinion of this album at all.
In reality, there are no songs that wholly suck on this album. Even the worst one, "Radikult", has an extremely kickass solo section around the middle, with an excellent rhythm riff and everything. As usual, the Vincent vocals/lyrics ("kill a cop", "living hardcore, radical", really?), and over-indulgent industrial percussion that totally kills any momentum it might have had. Otherwise, this song had potential to be the epic-lengther on this release. Instead, it will be shat on as the crown-jewel of this ultimate misstep of an album.
Illud Divinum Insanus had loads of potential, and while filled with awesome Azagthoth riffs and good drumming (when actually performed by Yeung), it was ultimately spoiled by being way too industrial way too often and having lyrics written by David Vincent. Or rather, having anything contributed by David Vincent. If you want a scapegoat, he is definitely it. After all, in "Profundis - Mea Culpa", he does say "I accept all of the blame". Folks, he deserves it. His presence on this album is 90% of why it was disappointing. What I'm trying to say is that David Vincent sucks. And isn't as good as Steve Tucker. In fact, Steve Tucker would have gotten this album a better rating. Because Steve Tucker is fucking awesome, unlike David Vincent.
Fuck you, David Vincent.
Taken from my blog : manehead.blogspot.com
Eight years after Morbid Angel's last effort, the indifferently received Heretic, the godfathers of death metal have finally returned with a follow up - Illud Divinum Insanus, the first featuring David Vincent since 1995's Domination. To briefly recap on the legacy of this band, the first three Morbid Angel albums are timeless masterpieces, phenomenal works sound just as fresh and twisted today as they did back in the day, for any music follower. Even though I'd been listening to a lot of extreme metal before I got into Morbid Angel, and thus been desensitized to the "evilness" of music to a certain extent, the feeling of hearing Altars of Madness for the first time was an unforgettable, almost unsurpassable experience.
When David Vincent (who did vocals/bass on the first four records) re-entered the Morbid fold back in 2004, expectations were understandably high, and judging by the awesome performance at Wacken 2006, with Erik Rutan as the second guitar player, there was a lot of hope for another classic. This, however, was followed by more tours, more stagnancy, and more confusion for the fans. What was taking so long? For a band that averaged an album every three years, regardless of change in band members, concern was justified. However, a new song, Nevermore, surfaced in the setlist in 2008, which helped to appease impatient followers. Finally, the band entered the studio last year to record, without longtime drummer Pete Sandoval (citing a back problem), replaced by the more than competent Tim Yeung, whose impressive CV include Divine Heresy, Nile, Hate Eternal and Vital Remains. Despite the series of delays, things were looking up - Eric Rutan was lending a hand with production, a good omen if any, given his good rapport with the band, and with his faultless work in the studio with Goatwhore and Cannibal Corpse.
Before any music was actually heard, eyebrows were really raised when the song titles emerged, names of juvenile simplicity and banality, a clear contrast from the themes of the classic albums. In an interview back in 1997, following the release of Formulas Fatal to the Flesh, Azagthoth stated that one of his regrets with Domination were the Vincents lyrics - that "they didn't really mean anything". He clearly has changed his perspective since on what exactly constitutes "meaningful" lyrics - there are some pretty laughable examples, as you'll read below. This, therefore dampened expectations, but not nearly enough, since the music was something else...
The album begins with a brooding instrumental, which instantly evokes memories of Doomsday Celebrations from the Blessed Are The Sick album. But the frailties appear when some shoddy industrial and gothic influences pervade the song, and set the tone for the rest of the album.
Lets get the bad points out of the way first. Radikult is embarrassingly bad, featuring some key reasons which let this album down badly - boring guitars, dance beat, tasteless industrial influences, and Vincent's awful, chanting vocals. Essentially, a Marilyn Manson B-side.. Profundis - Mea Culpa is another forgettable song, and Destructos Vs. The Earth/Attack will inspire a similarly distainful reaction. As I mentioned, the lyric writing leaves something to be desired. "We are the new religion...no religion!" might've sounded badass in Chapel of Ghouls", but it just comes across as lame here. Nevermore is full of the usual chest-beating pseudo-macho garb, which again feels tired. Beauty Meets Beast is something else though - "Oh beautiful child/Come to me moist/I’m the great connoisseur" - need I say more?.
The band (read - Vincent) might be trying new ideas, but it just comes across as platitudinous. Destructos Vs. The Earth/Attack can be considered a microcosm for half of the album - it has some alright parts to it, but they are drowned by the dross that surrounds it. In short, lacking all the vitality, aggression, creativity and sheer wow factor that elevated Morbid Angel to the apotheosis of extreme music.
Not wishing to dwell on the weaknesses, there are some ok bits on this record. The aforementioned Nevermore, is an enjoyable effort, as is Existo Vulgaré, both with scything riffage and twinkling hints of genius in Trey's lava solos. 10 More Dead has some genuinely cool grooves in it, but is again stained by the lame chorus with such pointless lyrics "10 more dead, the bodies piling higher, and higher". Yet, there are no riffs here that come close to licking the boots of Rapture, Maze of Torment or Rebel Lands. but there were a few moments when the hairs on the back of my neck gave a vague tingling sensation.
Notably, one of the albums picks, Blades for Baal, was written by Destructor, who joined the band in 2008. This has real death metal ferocity, and Tim Yeung's performance, like the rest of the album, is faultless. If you consider that on the non-Rutan albums, there was only one song written by the second guitarist Richard Brunelle (a minute long instrumental, the divine Desolate Ways), it's notable that Azagthoth has allowed the young Norwegian to write a few on this record - is this simply because Trey has run out of ideas?
Azagthoth has clearly both ceded a lot of creative control to Vincent, and lost interest in the death metal scene, with a notable percentage of the tracks on the album being the input of the latter. In addition, the mix gives too much prominance to the vocals, and not enough to the guitars. The vast majority of press surrounding Illud has been conducted by Vincent, when let's not forget, this is Azagthoth's band. He looks jaded and apathetic in all of the press shoots, whereas Vincent is full of gusto and pride in his work, yet far from the frontman we knew in the 90's - clad in PVC and with a Kiss badge on his jacket, he's looking disturbingly like Nikki Sixx these days. The contrast with Autopsy, making their comeback after a sixteen year absence with a killer new album, is stark.
Vincent claims that you'll like this album as much as the others if you are open minded - even if you take this album out of the context of Morbid Angel, and the huge burden of expectations that go with it, so much of this album is just ordinary, so the argument that just because the band have adopted new, non-death metal influences is invalid. Some critics have claimed that this is another example of Morbid Angel's intransigent attitude - they have, after all, gone against the entire fanbase by creating this album. Perhaps this should be applauded...if the music was of high quality.
Fans (well, former fans) have been joking that "Ignominious" would be a more appropriate album title (given it also follows the MA tradition of alphabetically-ordered releases), which isn't too far from the truth. This album isn't a complete abomination - a few songs save it from being so - but it will nonetheless be filed under "fallen from grace", next to St. Anger, Cold Lake and Risk.
Highlights: "Blades for Baal", "Nevermore".
It pains me to write this review, it really does. Morbid Angel are one of my favourite death metal bands and I literally love every single one of their releases (well Domination wasn't great but I don't mind it) ... except this one. By now you probably know what I'm gonna say about this release. 8 long long long years of waiting. Hearing "Nevermore" before all other tracks and thinking this will be a shredding album, Dave saying shit like Trey's wrist hurts from so much guitar playing and that there's a track (or some? I don't remember) with over 70 different guitar tracks. You know, hype. But hype comes with every album. But when there's a hype about a gods-of-death metal album, ie a Morbid Angel, of course you're gonna be fucking pumped. And then utterly heartbroken when you hear Illud Divinum Insanus.
I'll just start straight off the bat. This record is annoying, boring, confusing and nothing interesting or new. Nothing. Dave's return to the band has been nothing but negative. So far all he's brought back to the band is his ridiculous Nikki Sixx wanna be look, his sleazy shitty lyrics, lame vocals and egotistic attitude (I don't even need to mention bass playing, because well, I can't fucking hear it). I'm trying honestly to think hard about what good he's done for the band, and all I can think of is that he's got more of a stage presence than the other band members. Trey these days clearly doesn't give a fuck and just stands lifelessly there while bellowing out some of the sickest classic MA riffs, and Thor, well let's say he seems a bit scared when live. Anyways, none of this has a bearing on the album so I'm gonna reiterate the fact that David's return hsa been wholly negative.
His vocals are too loud in the mix, and not only that, they really suck. He sounded pretty average on Domination and here it's just the same if not worse. The guy is getting old, and that's fine, I can excuse people not putting on their best vocal performance because of physical constraints but the problem here is he's TRYING too bloody hard. All these "OOOOOOOOOORES" and "OOOOOOOOHs" and "AHHHH"s are really annoying and tiring. He's trying to be the death metal Hetfield (and honestly there can only be 1 Hetfield). To conclude, Dave's vocals are just Domination era vocals trying too hard to sound good that they end up sounding a lot worse than they should be. Alongside his vocals, we have to put up with probably one of the imo worst aspects of the album, the fucking lyrics. Jesus, I'm trying to think of worse lyrics in extreme metal and I honest to god can't. Brutal death metal lyrics may be boring but at least they're suited to the music. These are not. "Because our power is a shining,Sick groove with fucking magic to prove that,The radicals are here to stay!" are something I would never ever expect to hear on a record with the Morbid Angel title. I don't think I'll ever comprehend that this has happened. Even when David isn't writing about how cool they are (shown in other tracks like Too Extreme! and I Am Morbid as well), the lyrics are just silly. Reading past lyrics it's clear MA was all about the occult, spirituality and otherworldly things but, now... "10 more dead,And the stench grows stronger, With many more to go". What the hell is Dave writing about here? What? Just read the lyrics to the rest of the song, it's just aimless writing. Moving on...
The guitar work. Yawn. For the most part it's just crap crap crap boring crap. Trey has a go at trying to do industrial stuff, and yep you guessed it, it's crap. There's nothing wrong with experimentation, I mean pretty much all genres of metal have been created by doing something new, right? The thing is it's just CRAP. There's nothing exciting here, nothing to catch your interest. It annoys me for the most part. The go at breakbeats in Mea Culpa, the constant stop-start riffing in Too Extreme!, roboriffing in Destructos, etc and then his 3 death metal songs are just mundane, Domination-era filler tracks. The only good thing about the guitar work here, and in fact the only good thing about the whole album here is Thor's tracks. 2 solid, groovy death metal tracks. Nothing amazing, but it's something I would definitely listen to. There's also an insanely cool riff in Existo Vulgoré 2 minutes in, which is probably the best thing on the whole album. Yes, that 1 riff. As we all know, Trey has lost interest in death metal so it's no surprise his work is sub-par. And how I can not talk about the guitars and riffs without mentioning the aforementioned Radikult? You know it by now, anyways. The most horrid track ever conceived by a death metal band. Marilyn Manson meets commercial radio rock meets Genitorturers and have a gangbang. Again, boring, crap, not metal in the slightest and yes, annoying.
Now, we all know no one could replace Pete Sandoval, but Tim Yeung is a fine drummer. And that's it. Yep. That's all there really is to it. None of the drum work is different or unique, but I'll admit what he does do in the death metal tracks is pretty solid.
So... there you go. Crap vocals, crap lyrics, weak riffs save some VERY few, poor experimentation, stolen Behemoth cover art and a grammatically incorrect album title to top it off. This is what Morbid Angel has to offer us in 2011. This is what they honestly thought would please death metal fans. But of course, Dave and Trey did this because it's their band and they make the music they want, so in the end I can't hate them. I'll just listen A-H again.
Generally in a band’s lifespan there are bound to be a few hiccups. For example, Morbid Angel, the band on the agenda for this particular review, had three genuinely amazing death metal records in Altars of Madness, Blessed Are the Sick, and Covenant. Most death metal fans you will talk to will generally describe this era of the band as their golden age. Domination would follow in 1995, and while still a good album to me, many people left that record with a bad taste in their mouths. It was after this record that bassist and vocalist David Vincent left the band. He would be replaced by Steven Tucker, and with him the band would create two more very good death metal records in Formulas Fatal to the Flesh and Gateways to Annihilation. Then along came Heretic in 2003. Much like Domination, many people wound up not really liking this record. Tucker would leave the following year to be replaced once again by Vincent. Then in early 2010, the band announced that Tim Yeung of Divine Heresy would record the drums for their then-forthcoming record due to Pete Sandoval’s required back surgery; this action enflamed the band’s fanbase, many of whom swore off the band for good. A little over a year later, Morbid Angel’s 9th studio effort entitled “Illud Divinum Insanus” is released. I can safely say that this is the single biggest musical disappointment I have ever listened to. This is a record that will make haters of Heretic rush to that album over what Morbid Angel have defecated out here. This is not so much a hiccup as a belch which causes the belcher to vomit all over his shoes.
The single biggest problem of the entire record lies in the fact that most of the tracks just are not death metal. I’m sorry to say it, but it’s true; of the 11 tracks to be found, only four (Existo Vulgore, Blades for Baal, Nevermore, and Beauty Meets Beast) are full on death metal. Trey Azagthoth seems to have taken a massive liking to really bland, boring, lifeless electronic music, and has injected elements of that into Illud’s songs. And by injected, I mean most of the album sounds like the deformed love child of Rammstein and Combichrist. The opening track “Too Extreme!”, the terribly titled “Destructor vs. the Earth/Attack, the absolutely horrendous “Radikult” (more on that song later), and the closing track “Profundis – Mea Culpa”, all sound like an outtake from a drunken Rammstein jam session than what is expected out of a band the caliber of Morbid Angel. Too Extreme! is an absolutely terrible opener, with Vincent’s growls not fitting at all over the drum samples lifted directly from the Fruity Loops Studio audio program. Not helping these songs is that they all have longer runtimes than usual; Radikult for example is a staggeringly stupid 7:37. Radikult is by far the biggest shit biscuit on the record, sounding like the remnants of a load shot on a record player by Marilyn Manson. Profundis – Mea Culpa has sampled techno drums playing blast beats. That’s really all that needs to be said about how fucked up that track is. These songs were physically painful for me to listen to. It’s as if Morbid Angel was trying to make a radio friendly death metal record, in which case they horribly and horrendously fail.
The few songs that are actual death metal, the aforementioned Existo Vulgore, Blades for Baal, Nevermore, and Beauty Meets Beast, are the few shining lights beneath the mound of musical feces. All four of these tracks are the fast, pounding, blast beat and double bass filled death metal songs that Morbid Angel is famous for. In these songs, Tim Yeung shines through with his fast as blazes feet and hands. If I were Tim, I would be fucking embarrassed to be a credited player here. This was supposed to be his shining moment, the absolute pinnacle of everything he’s done. From Hate Eternal to Nile, from Vital Remains to Divine Heresy, the cream of the crop for Tim Yeung was supposed to have been him being able to say “I recorded an amazing record with Morbid Angel.” Instead, he played on a mound of animal manure in disguise as a Morbid Angel record. He deserves much better than this. Trey’s guitar parts on these songs are admittedly well put together, and his soloing is still a thing of beauty. David Vincent using the classic mid-pitched death metal vocal style originated by Chuck Schuldiner and Jeff Beccara in the 80s is a welcome breath of fresh air from the sea of identical sounding Lord Worm impersonators infested in the armpit hair of modern death metal. However, all of these positives simply cannot outweigh the glaring negatives found on Illud Divinum Insanus.
Somewhere, somehow, someway, Til Lindemann is listening to this album and preparing the dual flamethrowers. He’s thinking “I’m gonna get that band that stole my sound!” Then he’ll find out it was Morbid Angel, the supposedly greatest death metal band around, and he’ll just sit in awe of what happened. This album is not a Morbid Angel record, at least not for the seven lifeless techno tracks. This album, for the most part, is not even a metal album. It is bad. Really, really, really bad. Aside from the four death metal tracks, there is nothing of value here. Not even fans of bad music will like this record. Go listen to the new albums from Hate Eternal, Origin, Deicide, Obscura, and Autopsy. They all melt the ocean that this album would have been blown out of. If Trey Azagthoth is so hell bent on making bad electronic music, then he needs to go and make some bad electronic music. Just don’t say that Morbid Angel made it. To do that is a complete disservice to the fans that immortalized them as one of the greats of death metal.
...and this album is all set to receive an average rating of 3%.
Apparently I like all this plodding, dance oriented stuff. Maybe it's because I'm into the whole "industrial metal" thing.
But frankly, people should be used to this "experimental" trend from MA - Ever since Domination, they've changed up their sound significantly enough between albums that they could get away with renaming the band "Fuck it, let's just play what we feel like playing". Domination flirted with the mainstream by adding elements of traditional and doom metal back into the sound. Formulas went into complete mind-bending mode with insane riffs and increased speed, Gateways returned somewhat to the methods of Domination but added even more atmosphere to the recordings, and Heretic is basically an experiment in how far death metal can be pushed to its limits, complete with odd production and such.
Still, I don't think anyone was expecting dance rock. As far as I can tell, there's more Ministry and NIN in the sound than Godflesh or Berzerker (copying them could've had good, if derivative results), and even those industrial ideas are mostly confined to a few songs. The best song here is definitely "Destructos Vs The Earth", probably because it's got all the simplistic pummeling groove behind it, and the electronic stuff on full display. Much of this album obviously isn't death metal, but the rest of it isn't really industrial, either. A lot of arena fellating rock/metal in this album - some of the songwriting is simplified, there's lots of headbanging (or at least record selling) grooves here. Grooves are the name of the game here - even the fast songs stuff them into their pants via the drumming.
Anyways, the album begins with martial music for some reason. Perhaps it's conceptual continuity with 'Hatework'? I don't know. The thing about Hatework that made it so fun was that it was a full song, and this is just an interlude - maybe a little bit better than some of the rubbishy ones of the golden age, but still nothing much worth listening to. "Too Extreme!" still feels like an introduction track, but it's definitely a better introduction, with the way the beat builds tension and intensity and improves the next song. Existo Vulgore, which previously didn't seem that great, substantially improves when placed there in the album - maybe the song could've used a lengthened intro or something. I still like it anyways - while it has the typical chromatic riffing and some degree of melody you would expect from MA (and some decent riffs to boot), the drums play groovy mid paced rhythms at least half of the time. It's some sort of death metal dance party song - you'd expect it not to work, but it does. The more death metal oriented tracks are aesthetically somewhere between Covenant and Domination, in that they have much of the aggression and blasting of the former, with the grooves and experimentation of the later. Trey remains a good riffwriter - "Blades for Baal" and "Nevermore" are quite ripping, even by the high standards of the genre.
Mostly, it's the arrangements that suffer - new to the band (but not the music world at large) is a greater reliance on verse/chorus songwriting. When Dave growls "We're living hardcore Radikult" or "VULGORE, EXISTO VULGORE!" at a concert, we'll be expected to scream along with him. Probably won't happen, since the majority of the response to this album has been very negative. I can see it now - a few notes into Radikult and they will be drenched in cheap beer. Frankly, there's a lot of compositional weirdness, to the point that some of the tracks just sound messy - mostly in the later parts of the album. The last four songs, for instance, all have small sections of incantatory chanting. Not sure why, anyways. Perhaps they could've written a real song using the whole aesthetic, continued the whole martial music thing they've occasionally experimented with (Note the Laibach remixes released after Covenant). Following the trend of random content grafted onto the asses of songs, "Destructos vs the Earth" has the short hyperblast section known as "Attack". Odd. Songs like "Beauty meets Beast" and "10 More Dead" also feel rather disorganized, although they manage to have some cool ideas of their own. I don't really pay much attention to the lyrics, but the industrial sounding songs are substantially simplified - more rhymes, less vocabulary, simpler vocal patterns. Dave never really did complex lines (that was more of a Steve Tucker thing), but it's definitely stripped down.
So in the end we have basically this messy, poppy album that's, despite everything, an earworm, and even charming at times. In many ways, this is basically Domination II: Electric Boogaloo, except for the slight fact that the industrialisms are far less prevalent than expected. Then again, Domination was mostly death metal with some degree of doom, and it's substantially more popular than this is shaping up to be. We'll see - for now, I enjoy this album.
Highlight tracks: "Blades for Baal", "Destructos vs the Earth", "Existo-Vulgore"
I’ve been kicking around this metal music world for many many many years, and have been present to the unearthing of some of the most polarizing albums and events said world would bear witness to. From the alternative rocking of the “Black Album”, the synth-laden banality of “Virtual XI”, all the way to the post-underground success of Cradle of FIlth and the Cristel-hooked, rock-star ambitions of Satyr and Shagrath, I’ve been there, with attention paid at the very least minutely. But I’d really yet to see an album or situation that would divide the metal underworld into a militant Red State/Blue State scenario. And with this, Morbid Angel’s first album in quite a while, I think I may have found that album...
What killed me about this, originally, is that it seemed like many of the bitchers are the ones who wanted Trey and company to release “Altars of Madness” time and again rather than have the band expand their musical repertoire into areas that many would deem “uncool”, “unmetal”, or other such verbs starting with un- that come off as counterintuitive. And what I’ve always dug about Morbid Angel was their ability to pretty much be a different entity with each successive album, and this is clearly a prime example of such an act. So, one must ask; is this easily the worst album of all time? Does this deserve all the vitriol and angst heaped upon it on, what seems to be, a daily basis? The answer, on my end, would have to be…not really. Believe me, I’ve heard far worse albums than this, and chances are, I will continue to be exposed to albums worse than this. Then again, I wouldn’t consider this any of Morbid Angel’s A material, either. What we have here, instead of the bane of metal’s existence, is an interesting contrast of styles that comes off as damn near artistic. This is easily MA’s most experimental album, taking a “something old, something new” approach that, in its own demented way, seems to fit. In the past few years, it’s become no secret that Mr. Azagthoth is quite the connoisseur of electronic music (the good stuff, apparently), and one can easily see such a taste and influence present on “Illud…”; however, rather than pure “NSS-NSS-NSS-NSS!” techno, the listener gets more of an electronic rock vibe that mixes real riffs with artificial percussion and remixed hollering that’s more Rob Zombie than The Crystal Method, such as on tracks like “Too Extreme!” and “Destructos vs. the World / Attack”, making the overall exposure into these new influences a bit easier to take in.
However, one mustn’t discount the group for tackling these new horizons, as there are moments where they remember their position as one of the very few death metal acts that still mean anything in this post-2000 realm, where blindingly violent songs like “Existo Vulgore” and “Nevermore” meet the more trawling, “Domination”-like grooves of “10 More Dead” and “Beauty Meets Beast”, complete with all the damning riffs and dementia-inducing solos that’s morbid to the bone, plugged along with some seriously nasty percussion work thanks to Mr. Tim Yeung, who, though he isn’t Pete the Feet, does his job quite well with his tight rolls, double-bassing and blast beats. One of the biggest, and so far best, things I’d noticed about “Illud…” is that, for the first time in the band’s existence, the album’s production is clear and clean! Nowhere did I hear blurry, scratchy distortion, cardboardy drums, and a complete lack of bass lines (this time around, you can actually hear the bass!), and for that, I’m rather grateful, as I was able to take in every bit of the album easily rather then having to painfully strain myself to hear the most resolute of melodies buried under concrete-like recording means. My main complaint, I’d have to say, is that Mr. David Vincent’s voice isn’t nearly as creepily demonic as it used to be; maybe it’s overuse from all that touring? Maybe it’s due to the fact that he hasn’t done anything that extreme(!) in years? I’m not sure why, but either way, his Max Cavalera-like rants and yells don’t really fit this final product as well as it should (one must refer to “Covenant” to hear the fucker at his best), and at times it serves more as a distraction than mixing in well with the music. That, and I have a sinking suspicion that he’s the one responsible for “Radikult” (for as decent as the rest of the album is, this one is a disgrace…and I even took this as it was and still didn’t like it. Too Manson-like for my taste…)
So in the end, “Illud Divinum Insanus” isn’t really the H-Bomb it’s made out to be. I actually dug it to a certain extent, finding it an interesting and bizarre change of pace, even for these chameleonic metal masters. For proper enjoyment (or at least, a specific amount of understanding), take it as it is rather than what you expect it to be; doing the latter will only cause further pain and suffering in the end. And if that doesn’t work, then bury yourself under your Iron Maiden and AC/DC albums and leave us alone. Thank you.
When I heard the "Nevermore" single, hope glimmered in my eyes as I sensed that Morbid Angel may return with a decent album after 5 long years. Holy shit, was I wrong.
Morbid Angel's 2011 release, "Illud Divinum Insanus", is a disappointment from the very beginning. The intro track, "Omni Potens", is a cheesy, overdone, synth-based, two and a half minutes of horseshit reminiscent of a Playstation 1 RPG soundtrack. "Too Extreme" is next and starts with an extremely stale riff followed by what could be the laziest blastbeat ever recorded in metal. This song seems like a joke and, too, has industrial tones near the end.
"Existo Vulgore" starts sounding like the Morbid Angel I had hoped to hear. The drums are awesome, regardless of the annoying trigger tone used for the bass drum. There are memorable grooves present and I enjoy the strong vocals Vincent performs, a death-thrash style that is fresh and interesting to hear . The guitar solo is solid, but drags on near the end with squeals and dives. "Blades for Baal" is another strong track and is very true to the classic style. The thrash drum beat and ominous bass line in the intro really set the mood. The weak solo is made up for by the solid riffs. One of the better songs on the album. "I Am Morbid"...I don't know where to start. Weak riffs, stupid lyrics, and a chorus/bridge that's softer than my shit after eating honeydew. This song is for fans of Korn and Rob Zombie. I can see what they where trying to do here, catering to a more mainstream audience, but this just sucks. They even had the nerve to add faux audience vocals. Just stupid. "10 More Dead" is track 6 and it is boring. I want to stop listening to this album, but it is my obligation as a Morbid Angel fan and as a metal fan in general. The drums speed up halfway through the song but the boring tremolo-picked guitar riffs stay behind at 15 mph. The groove in this song would be cool if it wasn't overused. "Destructos vs. Earth / Attack"...what the fuck were you thinking, Morbid Angel? This is the worst song on the album. Industrial flavored, ridiculous non-sense. You have to hear this one for yourself. They made it seven minutes long for some reason.
I regain my composure when I hear "Nevermore", a thoroughly awesome track. It starts and ends unrelentingly heavy and is a very straightforward single for the album. "Beauty Meets Beast" Boring. Stupid.
For "Radikult", Morbid Angel rip off Marilyn Manson. This song reeks of him, even sporting the whispers during a palm muted riff. I can tell this is supposed to be the "anthem" for the album, but it is simply stupid. "Profundis - Mea Culpa" is another industrial-tinged track that is painful to listen to. Not worth your time.
As a whole, I was completely disappointed in this release with only "Nevermore", "Blades of Baal", and "Existo Vulgore" being worth any mention. If they had taken these 3 and built an album around their sound, they would have had a solid and acceptable release. Instead, this album is littered with industrial trash and occasionally lazy drumming. The bass could be a little louder, and the bass drum could be a lot heavier, otherwise the production quality is decent. I enjoy the clarity of Vincent's vocals.
A major disappointment from a legendary band. The worst part is that the 3 good songs on this album show great potential for future releases, but they are drowned out by the other crap on this record. Possibly worse than Love for Lava.