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Morbid Angel | ‘Kingdoms Disdained’

I’m not about to lose my shit over the fact that Morbid Angel have gone back to being a proper death metal band.

They were finished if they didn’t.

There’s little more to it.

But lifelong fans deserve more than just an expedient u-turn. For starters they deserve a grovelling musical apology for the humiliating ‘Illud Divinum Insanus’.

And, while I’m completely up for bands evolving positively, I’d offer that they also deserve better songs than are on this new album.

Because the effort involved in finding them in this album’s pea-soup production is massive.

And when you do, they’re not even that good.


The first exposure we all got to this was ‘Piles Of Little Arms’: a slightly confounding track both in style and substance.

It’s militaristic, chin up stuff, with doublekick drums that sound like the caterpillar tracks of a tank, establishing new drummer Scott Fuller early as a bulwark in the band’s return to proper music making.

It’s a good if undeniably odd track, underscoring the ‘Formulas’ plus ‘Gateways’ broad approach that’s the calling card of the album.

Okay, so it’s different – it’s a delve into a Tucker-led aggressive and uncomrpomising style. At a push it could be called a decent tune. Let’s suspend judgement.

The (first) problems start creeping in with ‘D.E.A.D.’ and ‘Garden Of Disdian’, two absolutely unforgiving tracks that raise some questions about just how much Trey is really concerned with penning a decent riff anymore.

‘D.E.A.D.’ is impressively leftfield – so much so that it sounds much more akin to Gorguts, with its squidgy bo-jangles guitar tone. But I want Gorguts to sound like this. Not Morbid Angel, from whom I want incredible and memorable death metal anthems.

Yes, I get that it has that early ‘Altars’ style warped D-90 riffing in it. But it also just sounds like a lot of sloppy fannying around to no greater end.

As to ‘Garden Of Disdain’, its first superb fourteen seconds are wasted on what follows. A poor simulacrum of ‘Nothing Is Not’, it hulks about tunelessly in a tired stomp. What are these riffs but some identikit, downtuned crunching?

Worthy Inheritor

Mercifully we do have a standout in the vintage Morbid Angel fashion on here, in the form of the much needed ‘The Righteous Voice’: a worthy inheritor of all their very best efforts, particularly reminiscent of Tucker’s definitive ‘Bil Ur Sag’ era.

God, how we’ve longed for a track like that.

I’ve read a lot of love for ‘Architect And Iconoclast’, which is fair enough. It’s alright, with those throbbing drums and all. But it’s not really all that great shakes past the impressively expansive drumming.

Again, I ask: what are these riffs? What do they actually sound like? Because for the life of me I just cannot make them out.

‘Paradigms Warped’ just happens. There’s no meaningful tune there. It starts nowhere and ends up nowhere.

‘The Pillars Crumbling’ is a similarly completely boring non tune, until, when it’s time to end, Trey awakes from his slumber to come up with something cool and driving, that, while superb, has little to do with the song or the feel of the rest of the album.

Idol’s Fall

It’s at this point that I begin to wonder: just how engaged has he been in writing these songs? In forming this album?

We know the guy’s a genius. But his solos and classic calling cards on this album are scarce, and not invested with the kind of ear to supreme guitar playing that his best work was.

A wah pedal and a bubbling tone is great – yes, it sounds as otherworldly and spacey as ever. But it’s not enough. He’s dialling it in.

Yet again the return to death metal is tainted with ennui as ‘For No Master’ sounds like a rough draft of something that should have been far, far better – along the lines, perhaps, of ‘The Righteous Voice’. Just because it’s fast doesn’t automatically mean it’s excellent.

I like the bounce of ‘Declaring New Law’, but again, removed of the interesting drumming and shit lyrics, what are we actually hearing here?

‘From The Hand Of Kings’ brings back a bit of the old magic, recalling ‘Domination’ if anything, with that lovely detuned ‘Dawn Of The Angry’ riffing. This is surely what we wanted more of on any comeback to death metal. Fantastic.

Fast and furious also is ‘Fall Of Idols’, all rather too late in the day for this album. Once again, it smacks of a Hate Eternal approach to making heavy music (i.e. tuneles) rather than a Morbid Angel one.

Stark Conclusion

Reading back over all of this presents a stark conclusion.

We have, on this supposed return to form, two truly memorable and vigorous songs out of eleven. Not a great ratio.

Some of the tracks are what you’d expect from the deep mid-album content of ‘Gateways’ and ‘Formulas’ only less striking. Others would be absolutely rank average for a band of obscurities.

Rather than the songs (because there are so few) it is in fact the production that is the true hallmark of this album.

It makes the songs sound like the audio equivalent of one of those machines that mulch up tree bark.

Finding any given riff in tracks like ‘Garden Of Disdain’ requires three different stereos and almost microscopic attention to EQ’ing to even allow them out. That is not what classic albums are made of. It’s not even was good albums are made of.

So it’s all well and good that they have delved back down into ultra aggressive, militaristic and uncompromising death metal again. Good for them. I’m more than impressed that they’ve shed the ridiculous ‘Destructhor’ and bumptious Vincent for another shot at blasting frenecity.

But frankly this is the least that Trey should be giving us, from the band that wanted to ‘spread our insane’ just one album ago.

Pete Sandoval was right to get out when he did.

Though it’s a credible and worthy approach to intense and obdurate elitist death metal, the songs are just mostly shite – and that from a band capable of penning the most supreme anthems of the form.

If you genuinely like this, fair play. It is of course a more than credible death metal album.

But I’ll wager you have had to try very, very hard to; and frankly the effort of cutting through that baffling production isn’t justified by the equally baffling tracks.

2.7 / 5 – Earl Grey ::: 23/12/17

  1. Holy fuck, The Earl has well and truly lost the plot.

  2. A lot of the really great albums require time to absorb , immediate gratification tends not to last

  3. Lets be honest, there’s no use comparing it to the last yoke really. 45 mins of Treys “Lava” noodling complete with intermittent base drum checks would have been an improvement on that. Likewise, was anyone honestly expecting a return to past glories? Honestly!? With a straight face? I’d be more inclined to harken back to the utterly pedestrian Heretic album to draw a realistic comparison.

    This album to me is what I’d have liked Heretic to have been at the time, in a word, memorable. I have to say I don’t get the “buried riffs” thing at all,nor can I find fault worth talking about with the production. Line up is solid,or, as solid as you could reasonably expect for 2017 Morbid Angel. To my ears they do their job and they do it well. Yes, there’s some filler to be had, and it’s not perfect by any stretch, but the songs on the whole are strong IMO,the hooks are there as is the playing, I respect the intent behind it as a whole, and I think they pull it off. It’s an album I’ll be as inclined to reach for as much as any of the Tucker era albums, which is surprising, but credit where it’s due. 7/10 Bollix to Evil D.

  4. Fontana Quansworth Says:

    Exactly, toys been thrown out of the pram regarding production. Ooh where’s the riffs, they’re right there open your ears!!!!!!

  5. Paul Keohane Says:

    Solid ,the last 4 songs are the best on the album.The production and drums don’t bother me at all.

  6. That’s the Anathema, Enslaved, Moonspell and Morbid Angel all panned now, MI, where the gods come to die !

  7. He’s dead right. It’s a crap album.

  8. Fontana Quansworth Says:

    All those records panned and a throwaway Autopsy ep gets full marks.

  9. It’s shite. Like ‘tallica, Slayer and all those other legends of the past, it’s only getting listens because of who it is. With any other name on the sleeve, no-one would give this turgid crap to the end of the CD, never mind a second listen.

  10. Have to disagree there. Personally speaking, I’m long past any sense of nostalgic allegiance to any band. Of the bands mentioned above I don’t own anything post the black album and divine intervention respectively. It’s an easy one to churn out, and if that mentality does exist, then I don’t understand it. I genuinely like the album (good for me) and all that. I’m at a loss to understand some of the so called “flaws” highlighted in the review. The only real negative I can find is I was looking forward to getting up on my high horse to slate another weak offering from MA and this album deprived me of that opportunity. 🙁

  11. King Hostile Says:

  12. Yea like that moron would make a difference to anyone’s opinion!! Fucking bro !!! Anyway this album while being far from perfect is a great record !! Couple of filler tracks but the last few tunes are great , better than anything since Formulas

  13. Pure bullshit how you took this uh ‘Earl Grey’. Nothing is gonna save this site/ Not a review. Not a band. Not a superiority or any sarcastic wit can purify what was originally wrong with this scene. Your competition. Your reflection. You are shaved fannies that’s the truth. get fucked.

  14. Jaysus!

  15. Some people need to get a life. It’s a review, if you don’t like it well that’s fine. Bunch of fannypads

  16. Fontana Quansworth Says:

    Fuck off would ya! People are passionate about music. No fun in being a neutral as you suggest!

  17. You’re a gimp

  18. Fontana Quansworth Says:

    Oooh what a burn. Sap.

  19. Its a shit business

  20. Nhgfdcgh h gfyhbj Morbid Angelo hhfdxfgbhnnj newo albumo hgfc tv hhvfdchhb consternationo metalirelando hfcbhbvggcfhb amazingo hgfcvhbbhbbh poopoo bhgvggdvhjnh 10/10!!!!!! 0/0!!!!!!!!cdfhijbgghbh compromiso? Bggffrgghjfgjnbgh brilliantoshito!

  21. Fontana, like you said in the Autopsy review, a band should alwsys be judged against its previous work. This is nowhere near as good as Altars, Blessed or Covenant, or even Formulas so the review should seems pretty fair to me

  22. King Hostile Says:

    Curiosity. Has anyone listened to the last Warfather album? Grey Imminence. How do you think it compares with the new Morbid Angel?

    The video above – I was trying to say there does seem to be a lot of traction with the production. Now the MP3 off Itunes is shocking bad. The CD production is way way better.

    Writes like an oxy moron! but is there too much gain in the guitar production?

  23. Didn’t care for any Warfather stuff I checked out. Which makes my liking of this all the more surprising, I guess.

  24. Tezcatlipoca Says:

    I reviewed that Warfather album last year and thought it was mostly very dull. I haven’t listened to it since then, but I remember there being far too much reliance on pinch harmonics in the riffing.

    I think the latest MA is much better, for all of its faults. It’s much more creative and diverse by comparison.

  25. paulmcloughlin5 Says:

    a good album,not a great one

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