Thursday, June 16, 2011

Illud Divinum Insanus - Morbid Angel - 2011

Um, I kinda thought it was OK. In fact, I really liked it. And I'm not just being contrary. After speaking way too soon last week, I picked up a copy of Morbid Angel's newest, Illud Divinum Insanus, and, to tell the truth, have been listening to it - and enjoying it - all week.

Illud Divinum InsanusAdmittedly, it is a rocky start. "Omni Potens" recalls Glenn Danzig's Black Aria and still comes nowhere close to that record's dark depths. The then decidedly non-ominous intro gives way to the album's immediate low point, the much-mocked "Too Extreme!" Did they really need to add the exclamation point? Doing my very best not to imagine the band riding snowboards while guzzling Mountain Dew and pounding Cheetos, I can digest "Too Extreme!" as a throwback to the early days of industrial metal though, frankly, with all its whirs and treated vocals and repetitive, unvaried percussion, it's less effective even than material off of Ministry's embryonic Twitch, the harder edge of which it recalls. That said, after a few dozen spins, I've kind of become attached to the track, feeling a sympathetic fondness for it as you may for your child when they not only fail but fail spectacularly.  From that ground zero, then, Illud Divinum Insanus ascends.

"Existo Vulgore" is a splendid piece of death metal that sets the tone for what appears to be a new age for Morbid Angel. Successful metal, to me, is multi-dimensional. Ever since hearing Sabbath's "Hole in the Sky" I've been particularly obsessed with metal that goes beyond the left and right horizontal and the vertical dimension of volume and scale but that also has depth - you can feel it rolling toward you. "Existo Vulgore" - and all of Illud Divinum Insanus - is not especially heavy in terms of low end (which does disappoint a bit, especially for the return of David Vincent) but reaches outward in all directions. And, for the record, while Pete Sandoval is sorely missed, Tim Yeung's drumming is just fine here (but is also lacking an oopmh that would make a world of difference). "Blades for Baal" continues along the same track and features some downright superb guitar work.

"I am Morbid," an anthemic call to arms, is unlike anything in the band's history. It would be easy to label it is a dumb fist-pumper but, if it demands the fist be pumped, does it not succeed? While Morbid Angel's uber-complexity has long been their calling card, a fairly simple song such as this is, for this listener, an absolute pleasure.

"10 More Dead" makes for a lull mid-album and if anything here is filler, this feels like it. Uninspired and blah, it's an unmemorable number that stalls the momentum. No worries, though, as "Destructos Vs. the Earth/Attack" is as entertaining as its title suggests. A battle-cry for astro-zombies bent on exterminating the whole human race, to borrow a phrase, this is another head-bobbing chanter that would feel right at home in Rob Zombie's ouevre. Does it sound like Morbid Angel? No. Is it a song that entertains that happens to be performed by Morbid Angel? Yes. So now, in 2011, it sounds like Morbid Angel.

"Nevermore" is deservedly the album's acknowledged centerpiece and stands up against Morbid Angel's entire recorded history. A showpiece for every member of ths band, it's destined to become a signature song for the group and, perhaps, if folks can get over their reaction to this record, for the genre.

"Beauty Meets Beast" drones along in the best possible way and radiates intensity, pounding the listener into submission for "Radikult," another number receiving a lot of negative press. As self-referential as KMFDM, it takes a page right out of their book and, again, found me turning the volume up and smiling. It's silly, to be sure, and I can understand why folks wouldn't necessarily want silly from the band that gave them Altars of Madness but, really, how seriously can you take something like "Lord of All Fevers and Plagues?" "Profundis - Mea Culpa" closes out Illud Divinum Insanus and really tells the tale with a wink and a nod:
I will accept all of the blame...we're the monsters...and our sounds are overwrought... we make the mass of charlatans / fall down to their knees / they worship but can't follow us / what stars we must be.

In the end, Illud Divinum Insanus is different enough, fun enough to rekindle my excitement for Morbid Angel. Not only have I pulled out the old classics, I've decided to fill in the gaps in the discography as well. A record well worth my money, welll worth my time and one to which I'll continue to listen. The fact that it's such a departure does not in any way diminish the band's other recordings and, for me, makes me all the more excited to hear what will come next from Morbid Angel.

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