Morbid Angel – Kingdoms Disdained (Silver Lining Music)

Wednesday, 29th November 2017
Rating: 9/10

While there’s nothing wrong with experimentation in metal, and a band deciding to shift their sound, it doesn’t always work for the better. The outcry that Morbid Angel received for their last album, Illud Divinum Insanus, was a justifiable one considering the severe left turn that some of the songs were in contrast to previous material (even if some tracks weren’t as bad as some made them out to be). But wise is the band that can recover from such an incident to design something that puts them not only on the right track, but continues in a forward-thinking direction.

Kingdoms Disdained is not a throwback or simple catering to fans that griped about Illud. It’s living and breathing death metal, that’s for sure, but it also continues Morbid Angel’s perpetual evolution. Opener “Piles of Little Arms” is completely visceral and seems designed to work as a call to arms for fans. The return of vocalist Steve Tucker cements the death metal aesthetic, as his roars feel intimidating and energetic atop guitarist Trey Azagthoth’s trademark spiraling guitar riffs. New drummer Scott Fuller delivers a pummeling job behind the kit, not content to simply bury the listener in blast beats (though they are here in full force, a la “The Fall of Idols”). Even the grumpiest of Morbid Angel fans will no doubt be won over by the album’s third track, “Garden of Disdain,” where some of the earlier speed grabs are diminished and the muddy, slimy crawl that has become a major component of the band can ooze freely. When coupled with follow-up “The Righteous Voice,” which has a few moments that will make you think of the band’s early work, it is a massive one-two punch sure to raise plenty of horns.

It’s worth noting that there’s no real overtly melodic stuff going on with Kingdoms Disdained. Those hoping for a “Rapture” or “Where the Slime Live” may come off initially disappointed, but Disdained shines in dissecting things over the long run. Some songs shift wildly and with gleeful disregard for simple structures. “D.E.A.D.” is quintessential to this feeling, with three minutes of bludgeoning death metal that never really stays in one tempo or direction for more than a few seconds at a time. It’s not an album without hooks though, with cuts like “Declaring New Law” and “Architect and Iconoclast” utilizing some mid-tempo riffing that while jagged, will still find a way into your skull and stay there. Azagthoth’s riffing and solo style still giving the band the necessary edge and delivering a sound that is instantly identifiable and memorable.

Rounding out the album is a completely fitting production by Erik Rutan. Even though no longer an actual member of the band, it’s clear he has a precise understanding of what the band wants and needs. It’s monstrous and slimy, yet still crisp and clear in tone. Kindgoms Disdained is exactly the type of album Morbid Angel needed to make in 2017. Unabashedly death metal in tone, uncompromising in brutality and structure, and strong enough to push the band forward while retaining some key fundamental elements.

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