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Album Review: Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus

The first of many record reviews to come over here at the Metal Shop blog.
Meet Travis the Virus. He's the unofficial official Metal Shop "man on the streets," a no-nonsense dude who's a walking encyclopedia of all things metal. He originally posted this review over here at the Travirus blog. Here's what he thinks about the long-awaited return of Morbid Angel. Please keep in mind, all reviews are strictly opinions of the reviewer, and may not particularly represent the opinions of KISW or Metal Shop as a whole.

Morbid Angel
Illud Divinum Insanus
Season of Mist

1.5 out of 5 Skulls

I don’t think I ever wanted to like an album as much as I wanted to like Illud Divinum Insanus. This is, after all, Morbid Angel’s first album in roughly 8 years, and the first since Domination to feature David Vincent on bass/lead vocals. I was disappointed that Pete Sandoval had to sit this one out due to health problems, and to be honest I could give less than a s*** about whoever besides Trey Azagthoth plays guitar on the album, since I’m pretty sure Erik Rutan won’t be rejoining. And I’m always skeptical whenever any band talks about “experimenting” on an upcoming release. But what was there to worry about? Morbid Angel have experimented in one way or another on nearly every album, and Tim Yeung has a very impressive track record. It’s not like the band would ever turn their backs on what Morbid Angel was at its very core, right?

Well, I usually love being the bearer of bad news, but this is the most masochistic review I have ever had to write, because Morbid Angel are one of my all time favorite bands, a big influence on my own music, and Illud… is the worst thing they have ever done. I have loved everything else they’ve ever released, even Gateways to Annihilation, but if this is the best they can do in between 8 years of touring and lineup changes, I am not impressed.

Of the 11 tracks on Illud…, only four of them are what I would consider good. “Existo Vulgore” is classic Morbid Angel, like Covenant by way of Heretic. “Blades for Baal” and “Nevermore” are what you would expect from the band at this point. They’re good songs, but a little stock sounding. While “I Am Morbid” may come off as a little corny to some, with its self referencing and pseudo “live” intro, it has a really good groove to it. This is the kind of out of the box playing I can get behind. It’s the most straight forward song Morbid Angel has ever done, and it’s definitely the most overtly personal,like a mission statement without all the “Sumerian Gods” metaphors. The rest of the songs are somewhere between so-so and just plain bad.

The intro track is very lacking as far as Morbid Angel instrumentals go. The beat is dull, and the strings and horns sound really fake. Seriously, the keyboards on some of Blessed Are the Sick’s tracks sounded more convincing. I know that lots of bands use synthesized instruments rather than hire real players when they want horns or strings, but this is Morbid Angel! They can afford to hire a f*****g string section! And besides, after hearing Dimmu Borgir kick so much ass with a full orchestra on Abrahadabra last year, it’s tough to settle for anything less. Speaking of less, I’m suspecting that Tim Yeung was instructed to not deviate from the original demo tracks, because for most of the record his beats just sound kind of half assed. Even when he’s playing closer to what I’ve heard him do in Hate Eternal and Divine Heresy, I can’t help but think how much more interesting the drums would be if Sandoval were playing them. S***, there’s a lot of the record that just sounds like a drum machine! Which brings me to the worst aspect of Illud…: the “industrial” influences...

Let me preface the following by saying that I don’t hate industrial, nor do I think its’ elements have no place in metal. Godflesh, Ministry, Prong, Neurosis and Fear Factory have all shown how Industrial’s heavy beats, samples, loops and dissonant guitar noise can be used to augment metal into brutal, cybernetic music. But Morbid Angel should never have tried to do this, because they suck at it!

Let’s look at the three songs on the album I hate, starting with “Too Extreme!” (how does a band go from titles like “Lord of All Fevers and Plagues” to “Too Extreme!”?). This is the second track on the album, right after the instrumental intro, so I guess the band thought that this song would be THE killer cut to signal their triumphant return, and I can’t for the life of me imagine why. It sounds more like a remix of a Morbid Angel song than their actual work. The guitar riffs are very simplistic (some of them only seem to have 1 chord!), and I don’t know if Azagthoth is using a whammy pedal or what, but it does not sound good at all. I’m not convinced the drums are real on this track. Oh, and there’s no guitar solo. You have to wait until the record has been playing for 12 minutes!

Next we have “Destructos vs. the Earth/Attack”, which sounds like the title of a s***y anime. I’m not opposed to hearing a sci-fi song on a death metal album, but I’m wondering when Azagthoth stopped worshipping Mozart and Hendrix and decided that Rammstien were worth emulating. The chorus is so bad it wouldn’t make the cut on a KMFDM record. It doesn’t even sound like Morbid Angel until the end, when there’s 15 seconds of silence followed by 28 seconds of relentless sonic assault. I get it. The song is about aliens destroying the earth, and the last part represents the fury of their extinction level death ray, very clever. But after listening to nearly 7 minutes of the worst Morbid Angel song I ever heard I just can’t be bothered to give a s***!

Actually, “Destructos…” was the worst Morbid Angel I’ve ever heard, until I got to the song “Radikult” (Radikult? What am I listening to, f****g Soulfly?), which sounds more like Marilyn Manson or Powerman 5000 than I think is acceptable from any band that dares to call itself extreme, let alone "too extreme". Not only are the drum effects dangerously close to hand claps, but Vincent needs to stick to growling and the occasional spoken word segment, because when he tries to ape Raymond Watts he sounds like an idiot. This is a Morbid Angel record; I should not be hearing anything even remotely resembling handclaps! And these 3 songs are not only awful, they’re between 6 and 8 minutes each, meaning a third of this record sounds like the audio smegma I just described.

I’m not against bands trying new stuff, but I gotta call bulls*** when failed experiments are released on official albums as part of a bands’ catalogue instead of being put down like the mistakes they are, or relegated to an artistic side project. Trey Azagthoth can go on and on about shifting paradigms until The Ancient Ones return to Earth, but no matter how I alter my own absolute reality, Illud Divinum Insanus just plain blows.

06/14/2011 10:25PM
Album Review: Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus
Please Enter Your Comments Below
06/14/2011 11:20PM
Wild Mywildersyde
This New Morbid Angel album would make at the very least a very cool light show in the microwave, but really it's not worth even wasting your money on. My boss Jewel Throne who is also a metal guru or encyclopedia also did a review on air which shares the same sentiments as this album just over all blows. However, he had a bit more colorful words to describe this absolute waste of an album.
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