Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus (2011)
But frankly, people should be used to this “experimental” trend from MA – Ever since Domination, they’ve changed up their sound significantly enough between albums that they could get away with renaming the band “Fuck it, let’s just play what we feel like playing”. Domination flirted with the mainstream by adding elements of traditional and doom metal back into the sound. Formulas went into complete mind-bending mode with insane riffs and increased speed, Gateways returned somewhat to the methods of Domination but added even more atmosphere to the recordings, and Heretic is basically an experiment in how far death metal can be pushed to its limits, complete with odd production and such.
Still, I don’t think anyone was expecting dance rock. As far as I can tell, there’s more Ministry and NIN in the sound than Godflesh or Berzerker (copying them could’ve had good, if derivative results), and even those industrial ideas are mostly confined to a few songs. The best song here is definitely “Destructos Vs The Earth”, probably because it’s got all the simplistic pummeling groove behind it, and the electronic stuff on full display. Much of this album obviously isn’t death metal, but the rest of it isn’t really industrial, either. A lot of arena fellating rock/metal in this album – some of the songwriting is simplified, there’s lots of headbanging (or at least record selling) grooves here. Grooves are the name of the game here – even the fast songs stuff them into their pants via the drumming.
Anyways, the album begins with martial music for some reason. Perhaps it’s conceptual continuity with ‘Hatework’? I don’t know. The thing about Hatework that made it so fun was that it was a full song, and this is just an interlude – maybe a little bit better than some of the rubbishy ones of the golden age, but still nothing much worth listening to. “Too Extreme!” still feels like an introduction track, but it’s definitely a better introduction, with the way the beat builds tension and intensity and improves the next song. Existo Vulgore, which previously didn’t seem that great, substantially improves when placed there in the album – maybe the song could’ve used a lengthened intro or something. I still like it anyways – while it has the typical chromatic riffing and some degree of melody you would expect from MA (and some decent riffs to boot), the drums play groovy mid paced rhythms at least half of the time. It’s some sort of death metal dance party song – you’d expect it not to work, but it does. The more death metal oriented tracks are aesthetically somewhere between Covenant and Domination, in that they have much of the aggression and blasting of the former, with the grooves and experimentation of the later. Trey remains a good riffwriter – “Blades for Baal” and “Nevermore” are quite ripping, even by the high standards of the genre.
Mostly, it’s the arrangements that suffer – new to the band (but not the music world at large) is a greater reliance on verse/chorus songwriting. When Dave growls “We’re living hardcore Radikult” or “VULGORE, EXISTO VULGORE!” at a concert, we’ll be expected to scream along with him. Probably won’t happen, since the majority of the response to this album has been very negative. I can see it now – a few notes into Radikult and they will be drenched in cheap beer. Frankly, there’s a lot of compositional weirdness, to the point that some of the tracks just sound messy – mostly in the later parts of the album. The last four songs, for instance, all have small sections of incantatory chanting. Not sure why, anyways. Perhaps they could’ve written a real song using the whole aesthetic, continued the whole martial music thing they’ve occasionally experimented with (Note the Laibach remixes released after Covenant). Following the trend of random content grafted onto the asses of songs, “Destructos vs the Earth” has the short hyperblast section known as “Attack”. Odd. Songs like “Beauty meets Beast” and “10 More Dead” also feel rather disorganized, although they manage to have some cool ideas of their own. I don’t really pay much attention to the lyrics, but the industrial sounding songs are substantially simplified – more rhymes, less vocabulary, simpler vocal patterns. Dave never really did complex lines (that was more of a Steve Tucker thing), but it’s definitely stripped down.
So in the end we have basically this messy, poppy album that’s, despite everything, an earworm, and even charming at times. In many ways, this is basically Domination II: Electric Boogaloo, except for the slight fact that the industrialisms are far less prevalent than expected. Then again, Domination was mostly death metal with some degree of doom, and it’s substantially more popular than this is shaping up to be. We’ll see – for now, I enjoy this album.
Highlight tracks: “Blades for Baal”, “Destructos vs the Earth”, “Existo-Vulgore”
For those who still want to listen to electronic/industrial/metal hybrids, but won’t touch this with a 20 foot pole (there are many of you), here’s a few albums you may enjoy – they vary massively in style, but oh well.
1. Aborym – Kali Yuga Bizarre (1999)
2. Whourkr – Concrete (2009)
3. White Zombie – Astro Creep 2000 (1995)
4. Strapping Young Lad – City (1997)
Polysics always deserves a mention, even though they’re hardly metal (although they’re often fast and loud).