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Sworry, Pt. 1: Glory Days - 55%

WhenTheHypeDies, February 28th, 2019

It takes quite a lot to get me to quote from Bruce Springsteen of all people, but alas, I quote from Bruce Springsteen,

“Glory days, well they’ll pass you by
Glory days, in the wink of a young girl’s eye
Glory days, glory days”

As a release, “Juvenilia” needs to be understood in the context of Morbid Angel’s discography. While this would have been a welcome release after “Gateways to Annihilation,” or probably even “Heretic,” offering this as a follow-up to “Illud Divinum Insanus” can really only be understood as a supplicatory attempt at saying “sorry” for Morbid Angel’s breathtakingly confusing “I” album. However, the return to “Altars of Madness” is not necessarily a bad thing in itself, as this is obviously one of death metal’s great albums and hearing it live, in all its fury, imperfection, and hunger, is certainly a treat.

The performance on this release is, front-to-back, a solid piece. The recording isn’t flawless, but the quality – like a poorly mixed live show itself – doesn’t matter if the experience itself is good. And it is this willingness to let the band’s work speak for itself that makes “Juvenilia,” divorced from any context, quite endearing: one cannot help but imagine making their way across town in the dying sunset, finally getting inside the venue and having your nostrils filled with the scent of old-beer layered with the stink of sweat and clandestinely smoked joints, the overwhelming noise of band after band until, finally, Morbid Angel bulldozes the audience with tracks from one of the greatest death metal albums there is. Songs like “Suffocation” and “Bleed for the Devil” are particular standouts in a live context where the visceral pounding of all the instruments is unleashed with absolute reckless abandon. The ferocity of the instrumentals, as anyone who has seen footage of young Trey Azagthoth or Pete Sandoval, can easily be imagined and is well-captured on this release.

But my reaction to this live album is colored by the timing of its release. To reach this far back, especially, seems a little bit juvenile in itself – Morbid Angel is NOT a band that is living off of one album, like certain acts that, for reasons I cannot comprehend, are headlining festivals after one good release twenty years ago. They have a mature discography, a battery of good songs from all eras, and I am sure there are live recordings from throughout these years. This release can only be taken as a transparent reminder of Morbid Angel’s most undebatably illustrious years. And, well, I honestly can’t blame the band or the label for longing for these glory days at this muddled juncture of their existence. While the live album is worth listening to for any devotee to the band, it nonetheless seems a bit of an overdone attempt at pandering to rightfully pissed off fans. At any rate, the album is out there, and whatever the quality of this release the “J” album’s evocation of the glory days stands like a somewhat shaky pillar next to the ramshackle decrepit table-leg of the “I” album. Mending the group’s edifice as a whole will certainly take some much more thorough restoration work.