MORBID ANGEL — Kingdoms Disdained (review)

MORBID ANGEL — Kingdoms Disdained album cover Album · 2017 · Death Metal Buy this album from MMA partners
3.5/5 ·
"Kingdoms Disdained" is the 9th full-length studio album by US death metal act Morbid Angel. The album was released through Silver Lining Music in December 2017. It´s the successor to the much discussed and critizised "Illud Divinum Insanus" from 2011. There have been quite a few lineup changes since the predecessor as lead vocalist/bassist David Vincent has been replaced by Steve Tucker. The latter was also a member of Morbid Angel in the 1997-2001 and 2003-2004 periods and has recorded three albums with the band (the last being "Heretic" from 2003). Drummer Tim Yeung has been replaced by Scott Fuller (Abysmal Dawn, Havok, Annihilated), and guitarist Destructhor has also jumped ship. He hasn´t been replaced here, so guitarist and band leader Trey Azagthoth handles all guitars on "Kingdoms Disdained".

While "Illud Divinum Insanus (2011)" probably made quite a few Morbid Angel fans scratch their head in disbelief, it was an experiment the band needed to do, but listening to "Kingdoms Disdained" it´s also obvious that Morbid Angel knew what their fans expected from them after their little experimental adventure and in that regard they chose the safe path this time around. So "Kingdoms Disdained" doesn´t feature any flirts with industrial metal or weird electronic music experiments, but instead features the trademark Morbid Angel death metal sound of the 1990s. It´s old school and brutal, but still rather complex and sophisticated death metal loaded with twisted riffs, screaming atonal solos (actually not as many as usual), brutal yet intelligible growling vocals, and quite a few tempo changes. It´s not easy listening death metal, and a few more catchy moments wouldn´t have hurt the overall accessibility of the album, but this is uncompromising death metal, so that´s more or less the premise and nothing unusual for the genre.

The material on the 11 track, 47:43 minutes long album is otherwise well written, intriguing, and powerful. Not quite in the league of their first four albums, but definitely on par with the other Tucker fronted releases and after the challenging experience of getting through "Illud Divinum Insanus (2011)", it´s great to hear the band back on track, doing what they do best. The musicianship is as always on a high level. Tucker is not quite as distinct sounding as Vincent, but he is a pretty strong and commanding growler, and new drummer Scott Fuller delivers a powerful percussive attack. He has a great, and for the genre relatively varied drumming style. Azagthoth is...well Azagthoth. A lot of praises have been spoken of his inventive riffing style and solos over the years, and I can only join the choir here, and send more praise his way. As mentioned above a few more memorable and more straight forward riffs could have made some of the tracks a little more listener friendly, but on the other hand Azagthoth clearly does exactly what he feels is right for the music, and I always praise a bold and adventurous soul like Azagthoth.

"Kingdoms Disdained" features a dark, raw, and powerful sounding production, which is surprisingly organic since it´s Eric Rutan who is credited as producer on the project. I did not enjoy some of his early production jobs, but in recent years he has become quite a skilled producer. Some of the guitar riffs could have been more clearly defined as they sound a bit murky and low in the mix, but other than that "Kingdoms Disdained" sounds pretty great.

Upon conclusion "Kingdoms Disdained" is a high quality death metal release by Morbid Angel and a clear letter of content that the experiment of "Illud Divinum Insanus (2011)" was a one-off. "Kingdoms Disdained" is not what I would characterize as a standout release in the band´s discography, but it´s an important album because of when it was released. A 3.5 star (70%) rating is deserved.
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