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Raising the standards of death metal - 90%

wild_man_fisher, September 24th, 2004

Morbid Angel's fifth studio effort was one of the most anticipated albums ever to me. After the departure of Dave Vincent following the listener-friendly "Domination" album, I wondered what Morbid Angel's next move would be. With all but a few of the major bands in the genre evolving to more gentle styles, splitting up or plainly dissapointing, Morbid Angel carried the hopes of thousands of brutal death metal fans.

I honestly believe that "Formulas Fatal To The Flesh" breathed life back into death metal. Every single regular track (excluding the instrumental interludes) are blistering, ravaging chunks of high-speed death metal, mixed with the swampy, crawling sounds that seem to emerge from some mysterious H.P. Lovecraftian abyss underseas. Opening tracks "Heaving Earth" and "Prayer Of Hatred" introduce a faster-than-ever Morbid Angel. Pete Sandoval drums amazingly creative and accurate and lets the competition know that he is the standard they have to live up to. "Nothing Is Not" slows the pace down, and contains highly memorable lyrics and masterful dynamics, reminding somewhat of "Where The Slime Lives".

Other outstanding tracks include "Chambers Of Dis", where Sandoval again excells in speed, an updated version of "Hellspawn" (which was also featured on the "Abominations Of Desolation" album) and the epic (!!) "Invocation Of The Continual One". This song again has its roots deep in the eighties, some of the riffs were written by Trey Azagtothback then. Hence the old fashioned catchiness. If ever you want to hear psychotic mastery of the guitar, listen closely to the final solo Trey whipps out. It sends shivers down my spine just thinking of it.

"Formulas..." is almost a Trey Azagtoth solo project, having written all the lyrics and by far most of the music. Newly recruted vocalist Steve Tucker does a decent job to enhance the depths and eeriness of the songs, even though he is not as versatile as his predecessor. Poor guy though, to have to memorize all the ancient Sumerian mumbo jumbo Trey writes in. "Formulas..." bares a very distinctive production (again, Azagtoths work) which is not clear at all, but very old school and very deep. Lyrically the whole album stands out against all the other Morbid Angel albums for its philosophical impact. Songs like "Heaving Earth" and "Nothing Is Not" are extremely metaphorical and reveal their true depth only after close examination. Trey Azagtoth obviously walks the thin line between madness and genius.

Closing off, I like to state that "Formulas Fatal To The Flesh" paved the way for bands like Nile and Hate Eternal by pushing the boundaries of speed and style. Unfortunately Morbid Angel has chosen to simplify their themes on the following albums and mellow their sound with it. As it stands, "Formulas..." has no peers besides Morbid Angels first two albums.