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Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus

- Wednesday, June 1, 2011

Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus   The iTunes store made pre-orders available for the new, and long anticipated, Morbid Angel album Illud Divinum Insanus. A lot of those minute and a half samples felt ridiculous on first listen. Before listening, I was sure that I would find some enjoyment in the album, but there was nothing in the samples that really grabbed me like the seven studio albums before it. After hearing the full album there still is certainly a feeling of let down here, and that, I feel, is the core of the negativity pervasive over this album.

   This is a departure from what we’ve come to expect from Morbid Angel, but is it a positive new direction, or a trainwreck? Let’s delve deeper…

I. The Accuser

   I have been accused of hating Illud… because I am closed minded and I have some imaginary feud with David Vincent, among other such ridiculous notions. Of course it is different. I’d hoped it would be, as each album was in the past. However, different on its own does not equal quality, gripping music and these samples belie a lack of said measure. It is not a David vs. Steve thing. It is not that it is different or that any of us are closed minded. It is not even the inclusion of electronic elements. The original notion of electronic elements got me excited. The end result does not. There is no God of Emptiness on this record, nor a Beneath The Hollow, Nothing Is Not, Summoning Redemption, Where The Slime Live, Fall From Grace, Chapel of Ghouls, &c. There are no real stand-out songs. Perhaps the entire album will provide a redeeming perspective the long samples do not, though I doubt it.

   I began listening with Covenant (though Domination had just come out) and was blown away. I quickly gobbled up the rest of the albums and listened, enraptured, to one amazing, surprising piece of music after the next. The power, the feeling behind each riff, each vocal phrasing, each beat, each lava, and even every little, subtle nuance, reached deep into the depths of my psyche, gripped a very powerful part of me, and evoked such emotion that no other band, nor piece of music, had before. In 1998, Formulas Fatal To The Flesh came out and, before hearing it, I was a tad nervous. I’d never heard Steve Tucker before (and had a bad taste in my mouth about new singers from that lame Misfits reincarnation a few years before), but I was confident that at least the music would be awesome. I was fucking blown away. Formulas Fatal to the Flesh kicked my ass from here to the Abzu and back. A few years later, Gateways To Annihilation was released and I instantly fell in love with it. Then, in 2003, came Heretic, and although parts of it were very different than what I expected, it held true with some really, really good material and absolutely did not fail to grip me in the same way as every release prior. Now, we come to the present: a mix of decent songs and utter rubbish, but nothing truly captivating.


II. The Tempter

   Illud Divinum Insanus has elements from Domination and Heretic, as well as an altogether game-changing shift to electronic music.

   The first thing that comes to mind is the mix. Those guitars are mixed far too low, with the vocals too high. There’s no way around it. I want to hear Trey’s mind-altering guitars permeating my essence. I want to feel the Abzu come forth in the vibrations of his tone and lava. It’s hard to get that with Vincent’s voice dominating the mix. I believe Sean Beavan had a heavy hand in the mixing process, and this would correlate well with the vocals being high. The music he typically is involved with has high vocals with guitars mixed low, blending in to the industrial elements. This aspect to his style is not something I welcome to Morbid Angel. Trey’s otherworldly guitar lines are a large part of the appeal. If this were done with, say, Covenant’s mixing, it would be quite a bit better.

   Pete did well in choosing Tim Yeung to substitute while he recovers from the laser back surgery he had. Yeung has done well in his place, but I still anticipate Pete’s return to the fold and the creative energy he’ll bring with him.

   There is less electronic portions to this album than I anticipated. This is good and bad. I expected more electronic elements done in a very creative, Morbid Angel vein. What we got was less than expected, but what is there is quite a bit less inspired as well. The electronic elements feel stale and generic.

Omni Potens   Dark and creepy, but the drums and "ooWAH" (Really, the “wah” is what kills it. The “ooohh” is fitting.) are pure cheese. The horns that kick in about halfway through are great, though, and lend to the atmosphere well. The ending vocal melody is great as a backdrop for the synth. Overall, this is a decent intro track.
Too Extreme!   Too Extreme! starts powerful and hard hitting. If you can get past the electronic aspect to it, it’s not bad. Musically, this is a song I can get behind, even if the guitars are not what I expected from Trey. It should be noted that the beat is extremely stale. Unfortunately, those lyrics leave a lot to be desired, even if the delivery is moderately alright. Respect to Vincent for the clean parts. He harmonizes well and still has that nice, deep voice we tasted in God of Emptiness.
Existo Vulgore   This is one of my favorite tracks on the album. Existo Vulgore is unrelenting and a true continuation of the Heretic musical feel with pure Domination-style vocals. Trey’s lava is focused and solid. This is a star on the album.
Blades for BAAL   What everyone said is true. Destructhor’s penned track on this album is very much like his work in Myrkskog. It is fast, heavy, and vicious, a torrent of assaulting riffs. When the song breaks down for an interlude, a nice groove is present.
I Am Morbid   My unholy desolate abominable god, the intro is cheesy. The opening guitar riff feels good but the verse and chorus riffs feel too lame-anthem-like to me, a vibe that is all too prominent on the song. The lyrics fit that vibe well. We’re a long way from the serious darkness of yesteralbum, here. At least the lead is somewhat interesting, even if it doesn’t feel like lava. This song will be skipped over in my playlists.
10 More Dead   The opening riff to 10 More Dead really feels like traditional 90s death metal. It’s not a vibe I tend to associate with Morbid Angel, having held them in a tradition all their own, but it is not terrible. The verse riff is good and a bit slimey; a decent bit of Destructhor’s writing. Vincent’s vocal phrasing is powerful. This is another star track.
Destructos vs. The Earth / Attack   This feels like a very beat-oriented song. The guitars seem to accompany the beat, rather than the usual reverse. The lyrics are Robotech themed. The vocals are decent. The high-pitched “destructos, destructos” is fairly off-putting, though. I really can’t get past the amazingly cheesy, “March! March! March!” That said, the song is more fun than I want to admit.
Nevermore   We’ve been hearing this song live for a few years now. The music feels like a continuation of Heretic with some callback to Domination and the vocals are very much like that on Domination. This is a star track on the album and what truly baited my breath for this album.
Beauty Meets Beast   This song feels like a Domination and Blessed Are The Sick mix, but less coherent. The guitars feel twisting and the groove writhes about, but the flow feels stunted at times. The ending lava could have been better only if it were longer. It felt like it was beginning to go someplace transcendent but stopped.
Radikult   This is the infamous Morbid Manson track. (Aptly named for its unavoidable similarity to Holy Wood and Golden Age of the Grotesque Marilyn Manson – not wholly ironic, considering Sean Beavan did some mixing work on this album and is known for his Marilyn Manson and nine inch nails work.) The lyrics are stupid. I mean, literally, they are without any depth whatsoever and irritatingly juvenile. The music is, for what Trey seemed to be going for, not the worst thing in the world. It is cheesy. It isn’t until the lead that the song becomes remotely listenable. The music behind the lead is dark and ominous, as is the equally dark lead itself; but, that ends and the Manson-fest returns and then the outro drags into a callback to Omni Potens (good and dark, a nearly, but not quite, redeeming passage).
Profundis – Mea Culpa   This is the part of the album that says, without saying so, “Hahaha my bad. We hope you got the jokes and silliness scattered through this album. We were just having fun. We’ll be serious next time, don’t worry.” It bounces back and forth between fast hardcore techno beats and slow crawling anger. The guitars are too low in the mix for me to even comment on. I’m sure I’d say something good about them otherwise. The electronic elements feel uninspired and the close of the album seems incomplete.

   I gave the album some time to sink in, to no avail. The great songs still feel mediocre. The terrible songs mostly still sound that way, with the notable exception of Destructos, which became more fun with repeated listens. This album isn’t a complete failure, but it isn’t an evolution either, by any means.

   There you have it. Illud Divinum Insanus is… too varied to rate overall? There are good parts and terrible parts to the album. After rating each song on a 1-5 stars system in iTunes, the program averaged three stars to the album overall. So, lets go with that, eh?

3/5 – Mediocre… good at times, terrible others.

2 Responses to “Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus”

  1. […] Morbid Angel’s new album Illud Divinum Insanus (2011, Season of Mist — read my review here). It references Robotech and the invasion of Earth by an alien race with the sole purpose of […]

  2. […] Tim Yeung (Hate Eternal, Divine Heresy, All That Remains) at the helm. (You can read my review here.) I hope to see his return, but I’ll follow whatever project he […]

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