Latest release: Illud Divinum Insanus (Season of Mist)

For Morbid Angel, the latest album Illud Divinum Insanusachieves a lot of firsts. It’s the first album for David Vincent since 1995, the first for new guitarist Thor “Destructhor” Anders Myrhen and the first without drummer Pete Sandoval. It is also the band’s first album in eight years.

“It has been a long time between records,” David Vincent admits in his deep, rumbling drawl. “There’s probably a million excuses why, but it’s the right time and it’s done and I’m really looking forward to the shows.”

Those shows include two in Australia at the end of the month, before the album is released. Despite this, Vincent suggests that a song or two might end up in the set (the band has been playing “Nevermore” for some time) and if he had his way, that’s all they would play.

“We’re still working on what the setlist is going to be. But I would love to play the new material. I’m anxious to play it,” he says. “It would satisfy me personally to just play the new stuff. But of course we can’t do that. It’s very fun material. It’s challenging, and I can’t wait.”

Vincent is unsurprisingly proud of the latest effort and says that he found the recording process an interesting one, being the first time he had worked with Myrhen and Tim Yeung on an album.  With himself, Destructhor and Trey Azagthoth all contributing tracks, it was both a solid band effort and a test of their abilities.

“We’ve always pushed ourselves with everything we’ve done in the past,” he says. “I think we’ve pushed ourselves even more this time. It was a very interesting experience. I wasn’t used to working with Tim or Thor. But it really was a group effort. Everyone contributed a lot. I think the sound of this album is unique, and I’d like to think that’s something we’ve always done. And the challenge for us is that we are challenging our audience as well.”

As mentioned, Illud Divinum Insanus is Morbid Angel’s first without pioneering drummer Pete Sandoval, who is currently in recovery after extensive back surgery to repair a prolapsed disc. In the lead up to the recording, it was hoped that he would be able to contribute, but in the end his injury was just too severe.

“Initially we were working with him, but he got to a point where he was in so much pain he just couldn’t play,” Vincent explains. “He’d take a few days off and it just wasn’t getting any better. And that’s when he said, ‘I’m just gonna have to go and have the surgery. You guys are gonna have to get someone to do the record.’ And we did.”

Sandoval’s replacement is no less than the very capable Tim Yeung, an experienced drummer who first came to note with Erik Rutan’s Hate Eternal and whose resume now includes Divine Heresy, Decrepit Birth, Nile and Vital Remains. Many are saying there could be no more fitting a replacement for the man who virtually invented death metal drumming.

“I like Tim a lot,” Vincent says. “He’s a great guy; he’s a fantastic player. And I like him as person as well. That helps.”

Sandoval, he says, is doing better but his recovery won’t be short-term or easy.

“Hopefully he will continue to follow the directions of his caregiver, and do the procedures and do the things they tell him to do and not to the things they tell him not to do. We’re looking forward to him getting better and I’m sure he’s looking forward to it too.”

Morbid Angel’s artwork has always been as much a part of their albums as the music and their idiosyncratic method of naming them. The striking Gustavo Sazes design for Illud captured Vincent’s attention immediately, even among all the submissions he and Azagthoth were receiving.

“I love the colour. That piece of art literally looks like [how] the record sounds to me,” he says. “Everyone who’s seen it says that it’s fucking cool.”

Trey Azagthoth also liked it when he saw it, and he too approved it instantly, independently from Vincent.

“The cool thing is,” Vincent explains, “we had separate email chains going about this, and when Trey saw it, that’s the first thing he said too: ‘I love this. We gotta have it.’ He and I hadn’t talked about it. We essentially agreed about it without even knowing. It’s very interesting. It’s religious, but it’s beyond religion. We had to do a couple minor suggestions about it, but I just felt that the colour and the atmosphere of what he came up with was really excellent.”

Illud’s first single release “Nevermore” also features a version of “Destructos vs. the Earth/Attack”, remixed by aggrotech exponents Combichrist. Morbid Angel has licensed tracks for remixing before, including several notable examples by The Berzerker, but David says this one is “a little different to anything we’ve done in the past”.

“To me, it doesn’t sound like the album version – why would it? The band that did the remix, they’re a very bright burning candle in their own right. Obviously they’re not a metal act, but I think it’s really cool,” he says. “Honestly, we were just trying to broaden the horizons of extreme music, and our ways of doing it. We’re exploring at the same time; we always have. This is just one more step.”

For David Vincent and Morbid Angel, experimenting with their basic format is important. He likes to try and expand the boundaries of the extreme music he creates, to break free of the pigeonholing and move outside of the box they’ve been placed in.

“I’m trying to broaden the definition,” he says. “When we say death metal, that’s a term that I would have used… we all like to put things in a box, we all would say this style of music is death metal, black metal, progressive metal, thrash… there’s all these little determiner words that people use to describe stuff. I’m just at that point where I say we play extreme music. Because there’s elements of all sorts of stuff in there and I hate to limit it to just one thing: death metal. I think there’s an audience for extreme music, whether it’s death metal or whatever it is being created. People are going to go off, and I’m part of that audience.”