There’s been so much negative coverage surrounding Morbid Angel’s 9th album that it was really difficult, even with my mindset, to approach this album with an open mind. But open-minded I remained – I was sure that I could see some sort of hidden genius lying within ‘Illud Divinum Insanus’ that could defy the naysayers, the critics, the haters. Sadly, I was wrong.
It starts off tentatively. If ‘Omni Potens’ was designed as an intro track, fair enough. It can’t be anything but a cheap attempt at building some atmosphere. And then comes the head-scratching ‘Too Extreme!’, which will leave many people dismayed – trigger drums, electronica, all done to irritating effect. In my opinion, it’s a fair crack at melding Prodigy-style techno into their trademark sound, albeit somewhat awkwardly. At over seven minutes in length, it’s far too long and outstays its welcome. It really ought to have been at least a couple of minutes shorter.
It does set up nicely for ‘Existo Vulgoré’, which is certainly one of ‘Illud’s…’ better tracks, a pure death metal ripper in keeping with MA-tradition. David Vincent yells ‘VULGORE!!!’ with a real intensity in the chorus. If you looked into the hype as closely as I did, this offers real hope that the album isn’t as bad as first feared. This is followed up swiftly by ‘Blades For Baal’, which is equally fearsome. This is pretty much as good as it gets, however. For inexplicably, following that one-two punch, they head into stadium metal territory with ‘I Am Morbid’, which wouldn’t be entirely bad if it weren’t for some horrible cliché lyrics. If I want to hear an arena-orientated death metal anthem, then surely tracks like Arsis’ ‘Forced To Rock’ are truly the way to go, rather than this shoddy excuse.
’10 More Dead’ is a slow, heavy groover that puts the album back on stable footing for a short time, although it’s not in the same vein as some of their other slow classics. But the descent into the inexplicable is already in motion, and is punctuated by ‘Destructos vs The Earth/Attack’, a ridiculous pastiche of Rammstein at best and an abominable attempt at industrial metal at its very, very worst. The 30 second blast entitled (‘Attack’) at the end feels tacked on and is somewhat an insult to the ears.
‘Nevermore’ sees a return to straight-up death metal and is one of the album’s better tracks for sure. All instruments are focused on bludgeoning attack. But this is followed up by ‘Beauty Meets Beast’, which can only be described as bland and uninspiring in comparison, lacking the impact of the other deathy songs on the record. Which all in all brings us back to the album’s conclusion, the ill-advised ‘Radikult’ and ‘Profundis – Mea Culpa’. The former is another highly-flawed attempt to bring death metal to the dancefloor that leaves Morbid Angel this time coming off resembling Marilyn Manson. It sounds as though they’re trying to create another fan-anthem but it really isn’t working. There’s no intensity at all and doesn’t sound anything at all like ‘Angel. The latter, closing track to the album sees more cheap industrial tinges that leaves it as nothing more than another throwaway track that ought to have been left on the cutting room floor.
Morbid Angel should actually be applauded for taking the experimental approach. They didn’t go for the wonga here, unlike Celtic Frost did with ‘Cold Lake’, or Cryptopsy with ‘The Unspoken King’ – industrial/techno metal certainly isn’t the musical cash cow it was to a certain extent when nu-metal was popular. The problem is, this experiment failed – very badly. And I wouldn’t be so offended if they sounded like they could have been bothered. Don’t get me wrong – ‘Existo Vulgoré’, ‘Blades For Baal’ and ‘Nevermore’ are stellar tracks but they stand out simply because much of this album, particularly the second half of this album, just sounds really lazy, which is the biggest slap in the face of all. New drummer Tim Yeung and guitarist DestrucThor do an ample job on the heavier tracks but are shackled on the industrial moments, which only serves to emphasise how half-arsed David Vincent and Trey Azagthoth’s performances are.
Any true fan of Morbid Angel who are no doubt used to experimentation from the band would have expected no less on this record. The problem is that tracks like ‘Destructos…’ aren’t worth a millisecond compared to, say, ‘God of Emptiness’. They don’t even sound that well-written. Many metal bands have incorporated electronic influences into their sound and aesthetic and have done it supremely well. Morbid Angel sound as though they just tried to lump together any old bleep and effect in the hope they’d be passed off as revolutionaries. The fact is, eight years on from ‘Heretic‘, modern day death metal has evolved and is leaving Morbid Angel behind. They are struggling to keep up the pace and indeed, struggling to live up to their legacy. Moreso if they’re going to be churning out stuff like this.