MORBID ANGEL are one of the greats of death metal, and indeed, heavy metal as a whole. Leading the charge in this new, extreme, evil music back in the late 80s and early 90s in America alongside DEATH, POSSESSED, OBITUARY and CANNIBAL CORPSE, MORBID ANGEL have a back catalogue that is, mostly, stacked with excellence. Following the poorly received, but still worthwhile, 2003 record Heretic, MORBID ANGEL faced a period of studio inactivity – while playing live, no new material would be released until 2011’s Illud Divinum Insanus, an album that is dismissed by many fans for its experimental, industrial sound that left a lot to be desired. Fast-forward another six years, and guitarist Trey Azagthoth is the only remaining original member, being joined by returning MORBID ANGEL veteran Steve Tucker on bass and vocals, guitarist Daniel Vadim Von and drummer Scott Fuller (ANNIHILATED, ABYSMAL DAWN, HAVOK). The quartet are set to release MORBID ANGEL‘s ninth full-length, Kingdoms Disdained, on December 1st.
The last truly exceptional MORBID ANGEL album was released at the turn of the century – Gateways To Annihilation. 2003’s Heretic had a lot of excellent moments and is a very underrated offering, but was ultimately cluttered with instrumentals and interludes, failing to capitalise on the excellence and atmosphere displayed with Gateways To Annihilation. Kingdoms Disdained is, therefore, an unwitting statement from MORBID ANGEL answering a vital question – do Trey Azagthoth and co have more to offer the world of death metal after all these years, or are MORBID ANGEL’S best days gone?
The answer is resoundingly the former. Crammed with classically Azagthoth dissonant riffing and Tucker’s stamp of stomping, old-school savagery, the world can rejoice that Kingdoms Disdained is an offering far closer to Gateways To Annihilation than Illud Divinum Insanus. Released at the start of October to accompany the announcement of the album’s release, Piles of Little Arms opens Kingdoms Disdained with a supremely catchy riff leading onto up-tempo, blast filled brutality. The Righteous Voice is doubtlessly the highlight from the first half of the album, which features a couple of weaker moments in the form of D.E.A.D and Architect and Iconoclast. A five-minute showcase of classic MORBID ANGEL, chopping between classic Steve Tucker groove and the ferocity one expects from MORBID ANGEL, The Righteous Voice serves as a masterclass on how to write a death metal song.
The second half of the Kingdoms Disdained is where the album truly shines, however. Each of the tracks from The Pillars Crumbling offer up something very close to perfection. Memorable riffs, aural savagery and the monstrous growls of Tucker can be found aplenty on Side B, though The Pillars Crumbling, Declaring New Law and The Fall of Idols that stand out most. One of the catchiest tracks on the album, The Pillars Crumbling offers up some fantastically hooky riffing and memorable vocal lines. Declaring New Law has a rhythm and vocal led intro that builds into a more mid-paced offering that offers a respite from the blistering pace felt throughout the majority of the record. Dripping with an atmosphere of evil, it would be an usual but welcome addition to the live set. After slowing things down a notch, MORBID ANGEL uses the final track, The Fall of Idols, to push the pace to its limits. The machine-gun like speed of Scott Fuller’s double bass is almost constant throughout, though once again the guitars dance between a slower groove and unrelenting, unstoppable brutality. A final solo from Azagthoth bring both The Fall of Idols and Kingdoms Disdained to an atonal and abrupt close.
Alongside the previously mentioned weaker moments from Side A, a drawback to Kingdoms Disdained is the production. Though the production of the album grows on the listener with each spin of the album, vocals and drums dominate the mix and some of the wonderful riffing on display across the record could be easily missed.
While Kingdoms Disdained may not rank as the best record penned by MORBID ANGEL, those who enjoy the majority of the band’s discography, particularly the first Steve Tucker era, are set to find a lot to love here. Kingdoms Disdained is an utterly vicious, brutalising collection of tracks that prove those who had MORBID ANGEL written off after Illud Divinum Insanus were dead wrong. Despite a couple of weak tracks and production that has an acquired taste, the vast majority of what is offer with Kingdoms Disdained is thoroughly enjoyable, well written and excellently executed. Unrelenting, savage and instantly classic, this record will be a welcome addition to any death metal fan’s collection.
Kingdoms Disdained is set for release on December 1st via Silver Linings Music.
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