An adequate return

There are probably few bands that have confounded and baffled their fans more than Morbid Angel over the past fifteen years. 

Metallica comes to mind, but they remain one of the biggest bands in the world and can do – and always have done – pretty much whatever they like; Morbid Angel exist within a niche several tiers below that where more than a few false steps can lead to destruction.

Kingdoms Disdained, only the band’s second album in thirteen years, sees Morbid Angel with just Trey Azagthoth remaining from the line-up that produced the misguided abomination that was Illud Divinum Insanus and Steve Tucker returning to again replace the enigmatic and problematic David Vincent. Vincent’s original return had caused many fans to subscribe to the view that, despite Tucker’s more than adequate abilities, Morbid Angel would somehow rekindle the spark of their early days, a promise unfulfilled not only by the hare-brained Illud experiment but Vincent’s performance on it. This ninth album, then, has become the one on which Morbid Angel fans are pinning their hopes for a glorious death metal resurrection.

These hopes should not be high.

Kingdoms Disdained is adequate as far as a return to death metal goes, but in the wake of Illud – and to a lesser extent the rather weak Heretic – that wasn’t going to take much. The raw production gives the album that much desired old school feel but the murky mix robs the music of any nuance and a lot of its menace. Morbid Angel albums were once not only dissonant, they were frightening. Producer Erik Rutan made Cannibal Corpse’s Red Before Black sound like bodies being ripped apart. This is flat and lifeless in comparison.

If that weren’t disappointing enough, Azagthoth’s normally glorious soloing goes nowhere, his typically elaborate, towering leads just fizzling out on rehashed riffs and tired ideas. By contrast, Tucker provides the few real highlights, his bass playing doing what it can to prop up the muddy sound while his vocals put the whole of Vincent’s efforts on the last album to shame.

Following a series of tracks that are little more than directionless battering  by this band’s usual standards, Kingdoms Disdained picks up into the back half but one is still left with the feeling that Trey Azagthoth simply doesn’t care as much as he really should for a man in a band whose last two albums (one of which was released in 2003!) weren’t very good. In truth, this is a step up from those records, but still very far from the heroic death metal homecoming many fans will want it – even claim it – to be.

1. Piles of Little Arms
2. D.E.A.D.
3. Garden of Disdain
4. The Righteous Voice
5. Architect and Iconoclast
6. Paradigms Warped
7. The Pillars Crumbling
8. For No Master
9. Declaring New Law (Secret Hell)
10. From the Hand of Kings
11. The Fall of Idols