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"Haters Gonna Hate" - 90%

natrix, December 7th, 2017
Written based on this version: 2017, CD, Silver Lining Music

Sorry for that review title, which would have made a good song title for something on Illud, but there have been numerous complaints about this album, some of which I agree with, but none of which that actually make it a terrible album. In fact, I'd place this one neck and neck with Gateways, close behind Formulas, for best Steve Tucker album. It's definitely a kneejerk reaction to the experimentation on Illud, and a welcome return a more serious approach.

Let's start with the two biggest drawbacks on this album: the production and the straightforward nature of the music. The drums are way too loud, and warped guitars are a bit buried, which demands patience and attention on the part of the listener. They really should have given Flemming Rasmussen a call, as he would have given them a nice, dynamic sound, rather than the standard, sterilized modern death metal sound Rutan has mastered.

The experimentation, as I've mentioned, is gone. Completely. No instrumental tracks, and no keyboards to be found anywhere. I've always found Morbid Angel to be at their best when they're testing the boundaries. It was David Vincent's horrible, horrible lyrics and pedestrian music that hurt Illud, not Trey's foray into industrial sounds. Ah, but there is weirdness to be found here, albeit principally in the realm of the guitars, which tuned down to A in places, and utilize polyrhthymic sections. "D.E.A.D." starts with some riff that sounds like guitars are being strangled, before some other bizarre climbing riff, whereas the main riff of "Garden of Disdain" is a churning wall of ugliness. Trey doesn't go nuts by throwing solos everywhere, but he hasn't been on fire like this since Formulas. There are a few harmonized leads to go along with his usual warped out whammy dives, which add a nice dimension of sickness to the album.

One thing that is especially solid and unsurprising is Steve Tucker's vocals, which sound pretty much the same as always. His lyrics, on the other hand, are hands down the best he's ever written. While you could say the lyrics are "political" they're more a reaction to the times we're living in than anything else. "Piles of Little Arms" and "Declaring New Law" are downright disturbing, but even moreso when taken into context with the real life events in the Middle East and Africa.

Scotty Fuller has far more soul than Tim Yeung's mechanical performance on Illud, bringing in an an aggressive approach that no amount of Rutan's compression and triggered drums can kill. He even gets creative with his tom work, most evident on "Declaring New Law" and "Architect and Iconoclast." When things slow down, like on "Garden of Disdain," his double bass work combines with Trey's riffing to create a lethal saw of notes.

Kingdoms Disdained is not going to convert anyone who already dislikes Morbid Angel, nor will it bring in masses of new listeners, but it certainly proves that Trey and his band still have it after more than 30 years.