If I were to,
admittedly in a crude fashion, outline two camps of musicians, I would
probably speak of on the one hand the craftsmen and on the other the artists. My
model wouldn't be flawless and there would be a zillion border examples that
could be used to punch
as many holes in my thesis, but, please, humour me and go with the argument.
The craftsmen of the music business typically settle on one genre only. They
know that genre by heart, they live it, they breathe it and they deliver within
the framework of the genre to perfection. They may well serve as inspiration for
others, but it is usually for their provess, strength and knowledge of the
genre. They carry the genre to the border and no further.
Examples: Immolation, very death metal, very cool, however never breaking any
boundaries. Testament, excellent second generation Bay Area thrash metal band,
even if there have been flirts with death metal, they remain the epitomy of thrash and
The artists are fewer in number that the craftsmen. They are characterised by an
urge to constantly undergo a change. The artists may be deeply rooted in one
genre, but will constantly challenge the framework and drive the genre in
various musical directions - directions that purist fans will not always approve
The artists will not care much for the opinion of the general public, but
will insist on doing what they will believe is right.
More than often, artists run into a situation where they become craftsmen and
genre carriers rather than genre instigators, reasons being either financial or stalling creativity.
Examples: Pestilence are always changing the recipe for their
albums, even if the foundation is death metal pure. Death, with the late Chuck
Shuldiner, the man and the band that gave death metal its name, kept pushing the
bar for technicality in death metal. Metallica were artists up until 'St.
Anger', which was the point when they started doing exactly what they believed
the public wanted rather than what they wanted themselves.
This finally leads me to the progenitors of a multitude of the bands I listen to promos and
official releases from in my capacity as reviewer for this webzine. It is
amazing how significant Morbid Angel have been to the metal genre - these four
guys from Tampa, Florida, who already with the release of 'Altars of Madness'
(1989) sent shock waves through the death metal world.
With every new album,
Morbid Angel went through the same process as Metallica had done before them:
fans left and new tagged along. Those who fanatically adored 'Altars...'
couldn't necessarily make sense of 'Blessed Are The Sick' (1991), and 'Covenant' (1993) made
new friends for the band and made others again skip them. 'Domination' (1995),
my personal favourite among the impressive Morbid Angel back catalogue, of
course did the same.
When Dave Vincent left Morbid Angel, and Steve Tucker became the front figure of
the band, it was as if Trey Azagthot's madness/genius took over entirely,
resulting in three albums that were in many ways absolutely brilliant, but in my
ears never held the catchiness that Vincent's influence always ensured in the
previous albums. In my ears, those three albums are for the major part introvert
doodling, a feeling that was strenghtened by Tucker's grunting vocal style that
was no match to Dave Vincent's.
Not only the power of Vincent's vocal chords is back in the fold; the catchiness is back with this new and anxiously awaited album. It's as if the
death metal community has held its breath the past few months as more and more
people have realised that there will actually be a new album from Trey and Dave. 'Will
it be another 'Domination'? Will it be a new 'Covenant'? Oh, I really hope so!'
'Will they do something completely insane?'
Well, the answer is this: If there were only purists in the death metal
community, 'Illud Divinum Insanus' is certainly commercial suicide! Already now you can see people
on facebook slamming Morbid Angel for one of the songs that have been
released in advance. 'It's industrial! For f*ck's f*ck! What have they done! I'll
never listen to this shit again!'
Oh, but hang on: Think back for a second. Were you one of those who tagged
along when 'Covenant' came out and marked a departure from what Morbid Angel had
done on 'Blessed...' and most certainly from what 'Altars...' was all about? Or
did you stick from the beginning and listen with an open mind when a new album
Look, I belong to the latter group. I started out with 'Altars...' and I loved
'Blessed...' and still do. 'Covenant' is not my favourite death metal album of
all time, but it was still miles in front of much of the competition back then,
trust me. 'Domination' made me surrender completely (no pun intended), and you
know what, I like what Morbid Angel has done with 'Illud Divinum Insanus' too.
My first thought when I eagerly started the Media Player after receiving the
promo copy? 'I knew it! They had to do this! How could they not do this?'
It could have been country music, it could have been grunge, but anyway you have
it, I would expect
Morbid Angel in this situation to do something radical. And do you know why I
think they decided to do not one, but three industrial tracks (and not just
short ones, they're quite long)? I think they LIKE it.
Remember when Laibach remixed God of Emptiness and Sworn to the Black back in
1994? Do you think Morbid Angel let them do that because they didn't like what
Laibach were doing? I don't think so. They've built on what Laibach did back
then and made it even more industrial in a death metal way. Too Extreme! will
never be my favourite song, admittedly, and a tad too long it is too, but
Destructos VS the Earth/Attack is one hell of a stomper, carried by a simple
riff and beat along with Dave's powerful vocal performance. Radikult, well,
again not one that will be an all-time favourite of mine, but still an
acceptable piece of music by all means.
Whatever complaints there will be, these pieces along with the intro Omni Potens
ensure that Morbid Angel got everyone's attention - I'm tempted to say that they
caught most of us with our proverbial pants down.
And whatever complaints about these industrial tunes there might be out there,
fact remains that the rest of the album deliver the death metal goods in a way
that tends to leave me more impressed with every listen. The details, the
brutality, the speed, the heaviness - it's all there. There's the obscenely
groovy 10 More Dead. There's the in parts ridiculously fast Nevermore and ditto
Blades for Baal. There's the death metal hymn I Am Morbid, one we'll most likely
hear at Wacken this summer.
If you're worried that Pete Sandoval's back problems has lessened the experience,
be not afraid: Tim Yeung is just as scary behind the kit!
In my definition, this is a piece of art. Appreciate or don't, I think it's
massive and is certainly one of the most important releases of this year.
I Am Morbid!