Illud Divinum Insanus
posted on 5/2011 By:
The kings of death metal have returned, and our faith has remained strong in waiting. Although the last time we were blessed with a Morbid Angel album, 2003’s rather uneventful Heretic, many of us considered it to be only a mild stumble in their legendary catalogue, and we remained loyal nonetheless. But that was eight very long years ago, and the playing field has changed greatly since. They wish to be referred to as “extreme” metal, and I sure won’t tell them not to, but when taking in the level of quality to be found on their returning endeavor, their new direction is difficult to view in the positive even with the most forgiving ear. Our convictions let us believe that Illud Divinum Insanus could be a conquering return, especially with the return of David Vincent, the man who led the band to some of its greatest victories. But our faith has been met with betrayal, and our rulers have thrown us to the dogs. But maybe we all should have known better, shouldn’t we? All signs pointed to a departure of vast lengths, but this treason is beyond our imagining.
It wouldn’t surprise me if Trey never turned over the demos to Season Of Mist. Or perhaps the label, thrilled to have signed the highest-priority act in death metal today, wore rose-colored glasses and had no real idea what atrocity was about to transpire. Morbid Angel has all but abandoned everything that made them the top-tier performers they once were, striking down their death metal aesthetic in favor of an outdated, lazy techno/industrial vibe that sounds hilariously out of place. This attempt at diversity is really not funny at all, but the disbelief when hearing songs like “Radikult” and “Too Extreme!” is profound, and laughter is only a defense mechanism. Something has gone terribly wrong here, and it is utterly baffling that this was allowed to happen.
About three-fifths of this album should have been relegated to the cutting room floor and burned beyond recognition, and the industrialized, dumbed-down Front Line Assembly misstep of “Too Extreme!” has them stumbling badly right out of the gate. The lyrical palette seems to have been culled from the bottom of Rob Zombie’s rejection barrel once he realized he does not play half-baked hip hop, but the problem doesn’t lie with what they’ve done, but how they’ve done it. I’ve heard industrial music and techno vibes being taken to devastating extremes; maniacal, inhuman, mechanical brutality, and Illud incorporates none of those things. Instead, they’ve gone for the easily digested pop side of the coin, showing that Trey and David’s personal listening habits have bled into their own art with disastrous results. And yet, there are still glimmers of hope amongst all this mess, and they come with the inclusion of the brief (and sadly, few) death metal songs that actually do sound like the Morbid Angel we’ve always known.
“Existo Vulgore” takes a bit of the sting off “Too Extreme!” with a traditional approach of tremolo-riddled, blasting aggression that quickly leads into a crunchy verse structure, and a hatefully roared chorus that brings back memories of Domination. The Destructhor-penned “Blades Of Baal” is also a fast-paced slice of rampaging death metal that has the most contemporary feel to it of anything on the album, but that alone speaks volumes. Tim Yeung also shows remarkable restraint in comparison to his usual works, and makes it a point not to show off too often. But even so, there is much of this material that practically begs for exactly that: some wild, reckless pummeling that destroys with force, and it just doesn’t happen. “Nevermore” has been around for quite awhile, throwing off a fair amount of firepower for being a tune we’ve all become very familiar with already, and “Beauty Meets Beast” features roiling, bubbling rhythms that compliment Trey’s incomparably off-kilter style of riffing. But what are we left with after these few faithful Morbid Angel compositions come and go? A steaming pile of fucking balderdash, that’s what. We couldn’t even team up on this with opposing views, because there are no opposing views anywhere on our staff.
How the hell did they think integrating urban hip hop lingo into “Radikult” would be a good idea? The lyrics are a pathetic attempt to appeal to an audience they simply will never have, and as David Vincent cluelessly and arrogantly spouts his Alpha Male bullshit over a disgustingly weak and “happy” musical background, it becomes clear just how far the band has fallen away from its fans. “I Am Morbid” is also horrendously timid, artificial, and lacking in muscle, while “10 More Dead” reaches back into nu-metal grooves and a startlingly unimaginative structure throughout. It’s been eight years, and this is the crud they’ve come up with. It doesn’t even sound recent, but instead like material left over from past ideas of appealing to the revamped Headbanger’s Ball era, with a repugnant Genitorturers feel that has absolutely no place on a Morbid Angel album at all. “Destructos VS The Earth/Attack” serves as mere filler, and very long filler at that, even though there are spots that do stick out next to the dreck that surrounds them, but when “Profundis-Mea Culpa” finally rolls around, I have no idea just what they’re attempting to do, and the rattling, unfocused sound doesn’t indicate that they do either.
Illud Divinum Insanus is an insulting, confusing, egotistic attempt of a band to force its listeners into liking an aesthetic the polar opposite of what they’ve known, and it debases the views of longtime fans that refuse to accept this garbage without being labeled “unfaithful” by the band and their shameless PR team. This record has no redeeming value, no goal in mind other to slap their fanbase in the face with the fact that this pointless detritus is the best they could come up with after all this time. Even the production, which is even more hollow than Heretic, comes across with a castrated clarity that pushes Vincent’s tired, blown-out vocals and Yeung’s nondescript drumming to the forefront. You literally have to strain to hear the riffs in the faster songs, even at high volume.
I bet Pete Sandoval is sitting in recovery shaking his head at the wretched predicament his bandmates have brought upon themselves, casting handful after handful of dirt upon the coffin of a once-mighty leading light of blasphemous death metal. Call me an elitist/purist--I don’t care--but I shall never dirty my ear with this insufferable claptrap again, but I will strongly encourage you do so in order to witness the fall of one of the greatest acts metal has ever known, and join me in its funeral procession. The kings are dead, and apparently, sufficiently buried headfirst.
posted on 5/2011 By:
You’ve probably heard the rumblings in the distance. Death metal titans reunite with classic vocalist and return after a lengthy hiatus with an album that has the advance press all but tattooing a giant St. Anger on the band’s collective forehead. So, the looming question is, are we talking iconoclastic success or legendary failure? Well, it does take a special kind of boldness to be willing to alienate music critics, all imaginable past, present, and future fans, and any sentient beings with the basest capacity for hearing all in one fell swoop, so in that respect, Illud Divinum Whateverthefuck is a sparkling success. In every other respect imaginable, however, Morbid Angel’s eighth studio album is an abomination.
The martial synths of the “Omni Potens” intro sound like they could go either in a Laibach or Summoning direction, and while that’s a little goofy for my conception of what Morbid Angel should sound like, it is not on its own a bad start to an album. What it is, however, is an absolutely inadequate preparation for the complete aural bloodbath that is to follow. “Too Extreme!” (yes, the song title has a fucking exclamation point) springs to life in a credibility-incinerating blur of terribly blunted industrial drum beats and pogo-bouncing non-riffs. The guitars sound like differently-pitched vacuum cleaners being smashed repeatedly into a brick wall by a housecleaner driven to suicidal ideations by the tedium of these faux-electronic/industrial beats. OH, AND FOR FUCK’S SAKE, GIVE THIS MAN A SNARE DRUM, YOU ASSHOLES.
There is so much about this album that is essentially begging to be mocked – for example, entitling a song “Too Extreme!” only serves to call attention to the fact that there is nothing extreme, interesting, or in any way laudable about it. Additionally, calling the outro to your shit-fest of an album “Mea Culpa” (the Latinate equivalent of “My bad”) seems to go beyond a palatable level of wink-and-nudge critic-baiting, and instead approaches the level of reckless self-harm that typically requires civil commitment. I am not the first to point this out, either, but the intermittent telephone rings that Season Of Mist inserted throughout the promo download of this album actually improve upon what has been recorded.
When “Existo Vulgoré” kicks in, you might think, “Oh, thank goodness, here’s some actual death metal.” And yeah, it’s good to hear double bass blasting and an ACTUAL FUCKING SNARE DRUM, but once the relief of hearing these death metal signifiers cools a little bit, you realize that this is a pretty mediocre song, marred by David Vincent’s vocals being WAY too high in the mix. Plus, listen to that goddamn chorus: what the hell is going on there? I can’t make heads or tails of what goddamn rhythm they think they’re playing, and Vincent’s overbearing vocals make absolutely no rhythmic sense whatsoever against the riffing.
“Blades for Baal,” thankfully, is a proper ass-kicking tune, with some blistering riffs, an ominously grooving midsection, and a tasteful solo section that actually pays attention to the rhythm guitar tracks for its melodic and rhythmic construction. The entire song is extremely well constructed, thoughtful, and satisfyingly intense. Which is all fucking sunshine and moonbeams and roses and Dio throwing his heavenly horns from beyond the grave, right? Well, sure, except that it just puts in sharper relief the jaw-dropping musical ineptitude that characterizes the rest of the album. An album’s worth of “Blades for Baal”s would be fucking tight, but here’s the thing: the new Hate Eternal album is an album’s worth of “Blades for Baal”s; this is an album’s worth of creatively stagnant bowel evacuations masquerading as experimental death metal.
The biggest risk in trying to judge this album is that one’s mind is so unfavorably blown by the “experimental” tracks that one might overvalue the death metal tunes. “Nevermore” is another of these songs, but my goodness is it ever dull. “Beauty Meets Beast” isn’t terrible, either, but “not being terrible” is hardly the standard one should need to apply to a new album by one of death metal’s all-time greats. So, actual death metal songs: “Existo Vulgoré,” “Blades for Baal,” “Nevermore,” and “Beauty Meets Beast,” and only one of them is actually fantastic. By my count, that means about 19 minutes of this 57 minute earsore are adequate-to-excellent. The remaining 40-ish minutes are taking up by Morbid Fucking Angel sounding like nothing so much as the tired castoffs from a Marilyn Manson or Ministry rehearsal circa, oh, 1995 or so. Steel yourselves, friends; things are not well in our pantheon.
“I Am Morbid” begins with the fake sound of a crowd chanting, and it’s only downhill from there. These lyrics are so abysmal that… shit, they are so bad that words fail me. So try a sample on for size: “Morbid! Morbid! And sordid! Distorted, now bring ‘em to their knees! Morbid! Morbid! Won’t be thwarted from celebrating morbid victories.” This takes place against the backdrop of the blandest, sub-Satyricon attempt at fist-pumping “dark” arena rock imaginable – seriously, listen to the ascending chords of the pre-chorus, and then just try to resist the urge to scream along with me: FUCK YOOOOOOOOOOOOOU. “10 More Dead” swings into stale life with a Pantera rip-off groove, and while the bass sounds great rattling along like a thick branch from a dead tree being dragged by your car’s undercarriage, that dead tree is called Morbid Angel and all of creation weeps rivers of tears that will never dry.
And then, of course, you eventually get to motherfucking “Radikult.” I am using literally no hyperbole when I tell you that this wretched song is the unloved offspring of Marilyn Manson and Slipknot, and therefore to call this pansy-ass syncopated marching guitar garbage “tepid” is an insult to the word tepid, and probably an insult to words in general. Vincent can talk all he wants about all the “hardcore techno” he listens to, and how that has influenced these “experimental” songs, but let’s be clear about one thing: bringing mid-90s nu-metal/industrial rock into an ostensibly death metal record is not “experimental” – it is misguided, heart-breaking, and just straight-up terrible to hear. And yes, for the record, you DID just hear David Vincent sing “kill-a kill-a kill-a cop.”
Elsewhere in the song, you will hear such sanity-eviscerating gems as “We’re radical! Never made-to-order, unpredictable!” Generally speaking, if, in your band’s lyrics, you feel the need to explain to your fans the appeal of your band, something is utterly fucking rotten. Why would you ever say these words to me? Why would you think this is a good idea? These songs have more to do with the worst self-laudatory excesses of hip-hop or “best bros” hardcore than with anything that anyone should ever consider even tangentially related to death metal. At least the programming on album closer “Profundis – Mea Culpa” is a bit more energetic than elsewhere. This doesn’t make it good, of course, but it at least points in the direction of the band’s asinine pre-release press quotes. But that having been said, it still sounds like a rejected Berzerker/KMFDM mash-up, and Trey Azagthoth should honestly know better.
Because I’m not interested in coming across like some kind of genre traditionalist fucknut, let me make clear that the reason I dislike the experimentation on this album is not because it’s not typically a part of death metal. I dislike it because it is fucking terrible, and there is no way around that. This music is embarrassing, cringe-inducing, and frankly unacceptable from a band of this caliber. Sure, I probably wouldn’t be giving this album such a hard time if it was the debut album from some third-tier Belgian hardcore crew’s industrial/death metal side project, but the fact that this is Morbid Angel means that its noxious strains will be heard by tens of thousands of eager fans the world over. I find that upsetting. And really, to be honest, the problem is not that the album is relentlessly awful in any of the usual ways – poor musicianship, terrible production, badly constructed songs, and so forth - but that it is aggressively mediocre for most of its duration, punctuated by the too-frequent spells of shockingly awful half-industrial nonsense. Aggressive mediocrity is several shades more offensive than honestly come-by bad music.
For these reasons and so many more, Illud Dipissoff Fuckyourmother is that rarest of albums: a complete trainwreck. While it may be morbidly (har har) fascinating to watch this insanely ill-considered septic tank of an album unfold in all its bilious anti-glory, the schadenfreude does not last. Long after the album has bled mercifully into silence, all that is left behind is the gnawing, inescapable sadness of knowing that one of extreme metal’s foundational artists has been reduced to such hollow posturing and unforgivable banality. Still, perhaps I can take at least the smallest measure of solace from the fact that, while I have had to live with this album for a scant few weeks, its creators will have to live with it forever.
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