Morbid Angel – Kingdom ComeMonday, 4th December 2017
Lots of things have been a-changing in the Morbid Angel front in the last six years. Their previous full-length, Illud Divinum Insanus, had seen the return of vocalist David Vincent to the studio setting (their first album since 2003’s Heretic). There was plenty of controversy to come, with the album being disowned by many longtime fans due to some of the experimental nature of some of the tracks within. Fast-forward ahead to 2015 and some in-band turmoil led to high-profile departures of Vincent, Tim Yeung, and Destructhor [Thor Anders Myhren].
But after the dust settled, Morbid Angel reunited with vocalist Steve Tucker and the pair began work on new Morbid Angel material. The recently released Kingdoms Disdained is the fruit of their labors, which included the additions of drummer Scott Fuller and guitarist Dan Vadim Von. An unquestionably death metal record, and one that is sure to reel back in those fans who felt alienated by Illud. Everyone loves a comeback, and Morbid Angel may have delivered the biggest of 2017. We reached out to vocalist Steve Tucker to discuss his re-entry into the band, his take on Kingdoms Disdained, and death metal in general.
Dead Rhetoric: How’d you end up getting back into the band in 2015?
Steve Tucker: Plain and simple, Trey [Azagthoth] asked me. He asked if I would be interested in coming back and doing an album together…working together again, and I thought about it. I play music, and I want to play music with the best, and I think that Trey is one of the most talented people I’ve met in my entire life. Of course I wanted to make music with him. I really liked the outcome of what we did together in the past, and I really like the outcome of what we have done now.
Dead Rhetoric: Could you talk about the strengths of the latest Morbid Angel line-up?
Tucker: I think everyone is on the same page, and that’s great. Not that there have been issues in the past, but right now, everybody is in a complete understanding and agreement about what we want to achieve. That [goal] is to be as tight as we can possibly be. With everyone being on the same page and willing to do whatever it takes to achieve that – it’s great. We have a drummer [Scott Fuller] now that is absolutely fantastic. I’m really stoked about Scotty – he is phenomenal. Every night on tour, he is as consistent a dude as he can be. When I am up there and I’m singing, there’s never anything I need to think about. Everything is the way it should be, and that’s what you hope for.
Dead Rhetoric: Was it important, considering the last Morbid Angel album, that this line-up and album be thoroughly death metal?
Tucker: I think when Trey called me and asked, I knew that was exactly what Trey wanted it to be. That’s the way that he has always been. If they ventured off into some other stuff on the last album, I think that’s a combination of people. You put two people together to make music and you get an album. You put three people together, you get a slightly different outcome. I think the combination of Trey and myself, it just ends up being pretty aggressive death metal. I myself, I love death metal. I even love the term death metal. There’s something that’s just cool about it, and I’ve always thought that [laughs]. It’s vast now – the term death metal is so vast now, and Morbid Angel is one of the reasons that it is just hard to put your thumb on what is and isn’t death metal.
Dead Rhetoric: So what does make death metal exciting to you, as someone who has lived and breathed it for such a long time?
Tucker: The lack of, let’s say, necessities in the music. There’s only one necessity that most death metal fans want, and that’s for it to be real. They don’t want fake-ass sounding bullshit, they don’t want you to be something you’re not; they just want you to be the original [person] that you are. With death metal you can do that. You can write something very symphonic and big, or you can write something that is very simple and guttural. For me, it’s not bound by things like say, rock and roll. I think if you are writing a rock and roll album, there is some sort of formula that goes into it. You need at least one or two sort of ballads, and blah blah blah. There’s all these parameters that are considered necessary in the industry. With death metal, it’s not really like that. It’s just ‘write some badass shit’ and there’s not a lot of tags that go along with it. If it’s real and intense, a lot of death metal fans will find the truth in it.
Dead Rhetoric: Definitely – I think with the new Morbid Angel album, its all there. It’s right in your face and it’s very visceral.
Tucker: I’m not a very tongue and cheek guy. I don’t want to spend a lot of time talking in riddles and poetically. Lyrics can be poetic, but that’s not something I’m trying to get across. I’m very literal, and I think that is really the delivery of what you get out of me in Morbid Angel. It’s just very deliberate and very literal.
Dead Rhetoric: What do you think makes Kingdoms Disdained stand out, personally?
Tucker: It’s all about the vibe for the album. There’s a big, grandiose vibe that sort of becomes a little larger than life. That’s really what I like most about the album myself. I think what stands out about it, is that even though it’s really raw and nasty, it’s kind of timely as well. I think it fits into what is going on in the world today.
Dead Rhetoric: Yeah – I was reading one of your recent interviews, and it’s not that you are talking directly to the world around us and social media, but that there was an influence to it.
Tucker: Social media definitely set some stuff off for me in looking at it. Just observing it. Not so much taking a part in it, but just the observation of when people are given this platform…how they choose to react. What it is that they choose to talk about, when they have the ability to talk about anything in the world. What they usually choose to do is bitch and argue about something. It’s really odd. It’s like endlessly ignorant in a way. I’m not saying every person on social media is ignorant. I think there are a lot of people that look at it and just observe. They more observe than actually participate. It’s interesting. You give someone a choice between a quarter-pounder with cheese and some fresh garden herbs and vegetables, and 9 out of 10 times they pick the quarter-pounder with cheese. It’s just weird how this shit works to me. I really started looking at this when I was writing lyrics.
When you are writing lyrics, it’s not real. I’m not trying to run in politics, I’m not trying to persuade anyone to be a part of my religion, or to make them think that my thinking is the only way that should it happen. I’m just observing…a lot of times in writing lyrics you go to this third person perspective. For Morbid Angel, it’s always based upon the soul, and how the soul relates to the universe and things like this. Going all the way back to the “Satanic” days, that’s really where the rebelliousness started with it. For me, I go into this perspective of if there is a God, whichever God you choose to believe in…if there is a God and they truly did make this planet for people to live on, which I’m not going there for myself, but if that’s a belief…then how would your God see this? He lays down rules, you live by those rules…unless it doesn’t fit your social situation.
If it doesn’t fit your social situation, because your God says you can’t like people because say, they are purple. Then you end up realizing, “Wow, purple people are actually really nice people and they are very helpful and caring people” and you want to be friends with them; you are now confused by your God’s rules. To a God, he just made a rule. He made you, he made your rule, and you are questioning your God. The outcome of that is for your God is to wipe you out. In the Christian Bible, there’s the flood. That’s essentially what happened. “These idiots won’t listen, so I’m killing them all.” You kind of have that idea with everyone now. Everyone has their own opinion on what they think God is, which I can get on board with, but their opinion is a little too extreme in the matter of ‘anything else cannot be possible.’ It’s like, you had to come to the conclusion that God couldn’t be what everyone else said it was, it had to be this certain thing to you. Yet you expect people to mold to you and agree with you on all fronts, or you are willing to battle with them. That stuff just doesn’t work. It’s confusing to people’s belief system and their foundation.
I think it leads to a lot of crazy things happening in the world. It leads to people doing things that they normally just wouldn’t do. Their psyche gets all messed up – deep down inside of you, you don’t really know what’s right or wrong. That ties into the lyrics on the album too. There’s a song “The Righteous Voice” which is all about that. It’s about when people do these things, regardless of who it is claiming to come in and do the genocide, they are always righteous in their own opinion. Why they are doing it, no matter how twisted it is to the rest of the population, to them it’s right. It’s the only way. It’s the solution to the problem. That’s crazy. Now we have everybody feeling righteous. Everyone on an individual level is so righteous. In the news everyone is fed, it’s so confusing that I think it’s why half the world is revolting against itself.
Dead Rhetoric: Did Erik Rutan seem a logical choice for recording/producing the album?
Tucker: I think Erik is so obvious for Morbid Angel to use…I don’t know how it didn’t happen on the last record. Where Erik is located is right by where Trey lives. The studio is top-notch. Erik is top-notch. He can sit beside any engineer or producer out there. On top of all of that, he’s our very good friend and knows us all really well. We’ve toured together…once you tour together, you pretty much know somebody. You know them – you know what foods they don’t like, what time they usually get up. You know all kinds of crazy stuff about them. It’s comfortable [with Rutan]. The results – Erik pushes me in a way that I don’t think any other dude can, because they don’t know me the same way he knows me. Any other guy, might be a little bit less confident in saying something like, “Dude, that take sucked.” Saying that something was a little flat, or that it didn’t come across as passionate as it should have. Or even, “Can you change this line a little bit? I think it would make it better.” Rutan will say that stuff just like he did in the rehearsal room. He doesn’t care. There’s a trust there.
It’s the same way with Trey. There’s a trust there too. [Rutan] is not trying to change anything, he’s just a part of this. Even though Erik is not in the band, not touring or writing, he’s always going to be a part of Morbid Angel. That’s just how it is. When I think of Morbid Angel in my head, any memory…Rutan is there. Working with him, for me, is a joy. He and Trey get a lot of work done. There’s an honesty among old friends, and that’s why I will always want to go back there.
Dead Rhetoric: It also gives you that extra push to be able to know that whatever you are putting out is going to be at whatever high standard you want to hold it to.
Tucker: Exactly. Erik is right at the edge of the new standards. We did a special lossless audio mix because Erik and the guy that does the mastering for him, Alan Douches, they are on the cutting edge. They know about what’s happening, because they need to make things for the new formats since they are becoming standard. They have to stay on the curve constantly. We ended up doing mastering and special mixes, just because they will be mp3s and not cds or vinyl. There’s different masters for each. It’s pretty interesting. We used to go to Morrisound because we knew we would get the highest quality. But at a place like Morrisound, you are always watching the clock. Everything is done by the clock, including things like when lunch is going to be. It’s regimental. To them, it’s a business but to us it’s a creation. With Rutan, he is in line with the way that we would be used to working at all time. He’s been a part of it and he knows. The work flow is just way better. We get the quality of Morrisound but with a much more personal relationship.
Dead Rhetoric: Morbid Angel is usually at the forefront of everyone’s mind when it comes to death metal. How do you balance expectations, or do you block them out?
Tucker: I just don’t think about it very much. When I got involved with this at the end of 1996 or whenever it was, I always just worked on the task at hand. That’s sort of what I do. I don’t really try to think outside of that. That’s how people end up with obsessive worry and anxiety and things like that – by trying to look at that overall thing and somehow take it in and come to some grand conclusion. I’ve lived long enough at this point to know that not going to happen. I’m just going to work [laughs]. I go with the flow and I do my job. I really like what I do.
Dead Rhetoric: Do you have any plans for Warfather in the near future?
Tucker: No, definitely not in the near future at all. To be honest, it’s not even something that I’m thinking about. I’ve been asked a few times about it, and I’ve told the people making the inquiries that it will be a while. I’m really good with a singular focus. Anytime in my life that I have found myself trying to multi-task, I end up very unsatisfied with the outcome. I really just want to focus on doing Morbid Angel. It’s an important band in a lot of ways, to a lot of different people, for a lot of different reasons. It deserves 100% – for me to be 1000% committed. It’s just necessary, in my opinion, so that’s what I want to do.
Dead Rhetoric: That’s completely fair and a good way of looking at it.
Tucker: For me Warfather was about making music. It was about creating music. I’m creating music, and I’m creating music now with someone that I have created music with in the past and always loved the outcome. It’s a win-win situation for me.
Dead Rhetoric: Looking at the Morbid Angel discography, do you feel that Formulas, Gateways, and Heretic tend to be underrated in the band’s catalog?
Tucker: For me, no. That’s not ever the reaction that I get. But I don’t think many people come up to me saying, “Hey dude, those albums were okay but I really like these albums.” That just doesn’t happen. I have a lot of people coming up and saying, “The first time I heard Morbid Angel was Formulas or Gateways,” or something like that. I get those people. The people that have been with Morbid Angel the longest, they have their favorites. That’s the thing with a band like Morbid Angel – everybody has favorites. There are people out there, who the only Morbid Angel to them…it never got any better than Altars of Madness. You can’t argue with those people. That is truly part of their make-up, and I respect that.
Dead Rhetoric: The album comes out soon – I assume there will be some touring next year?
Tucker: The album is out December 1st worldwide. Sometime in the early spring we will be going out everywhere. We will be starting out, I think, in North America and then going everywhere that we can possibly play.