Wednesday, 6 July 2016

Morbid Angel: Illud Divinum Insanus – Is it Really that Bad?

Hello again internet! I know it's been an age since I last graced the international blogosphere with my presence, but you'll be pleased to know I'm not dead.

Instead I have been away in the cruel and lonely world of academia, finishing off my studies. These included a poetry portfolio - some of which I might post here later on - and a 12,000 word dissertation on the changing face of the global Metal culture. These included the role of women, racism, homophobia, etc.

But to recharge my place in the international blogosphere, I thought I'd publish here my thoughts on one of the most hated Death Metal albums of recent history.

Ladies and gentlemen and third gender, I give you my thoughts on Morbid Angel's Illud Divinum Insanus.

June 2016 marks the fifth anniversary of American Death Metal band Morbid Angel’s eighth studio album Illud Divinum Insanus (Divine Crazy). This album received mixed to lukewarm reviews from the press, but I as a fan of the band, can recall the hefty backlash of angry fans who felt their beloved Death Metal veterans had betrayed their musical roots and had delivered what some have gone as far as calling: ‘mandatory suicide.’

Seeing as how it’s been five long years with no new material since, I think it’s time to see if this album has stood the test of time and ask: is it really that bad? 

A Brief History

Before I delve into the album I’ll just give a brief history of the group. 

Formed in Tampa in 1984, Morbid Angel is one of the earliest Death Metal bands who pioneered the genre at the beginning of the 1990s. Along with fellow Florida bands Death, Deicide and Obituary, their use of growled vocals, down tuned guitars, complex rhythm and string structures and focus on blasphemous and occultist lyrical themes; gave birth to what is deemed the most extreme Heavy Metal genre by many.

Illud Divinum Insanus

The first thing you notice about this album is that it’s experimental. You begin by hearing some eeriness that reminds you of cheap b-movie horrors which the band must have used as influences, but soon you hear some odd bass and drum programming that has lashings of Industrial music to it. 

But eventually the tracks begin to drag with first vocal driven track ‘Too Extreme’ annoying the listener with what sounds like a DJ scratching some vinyl over some double bass pedals which you can tell aren’t being played by human feet. Every now and again you hear some guitars reminding you of Morbid Angel in their recent days but the song drags and goes on for too long making you want to turn it off – not the best of starts.

Then you’re subjected to ‘Existo Vulgore’ which sounds a little more like the band you came to listen to. Morbid Angel laid some of the cornerstones of Death Metal so they’re not technical in nature and instead play basic extremes of guitars and drums. This track and next one ‘Blades for Baal’ would make any keen Death Metal listener think of this American classic act. 

David Vincent - Divinely & Utterly Crazy
However, the biggest let down of this entire album is vocalist David Vincent. He’s  known for his death growl vocals which have aided in making classic Morbid Angel albums: Covenant, Altars of Madness and Blessed Are The Sick, bestsellers in the Death Metal canon – but here it feels like he’s trying to ‘speak-growl’ not be as brutal as possible. There are even places where he sounds like he’s rapping, especially on track ‘I Am Morbid’ – something I can only see as an attempt at the band formulating a new battle cry for fans at live shows. Seriously, that track sounds like a football chant by how it opens with clapping and crowd like yells of the word ‘morbid.’

So overall, I can sympathise with anyone who called this album weak or terrible when they heard it. I for one had to turn it off several times and took the best part of two days to listen through it when writing this piece. But am I going to slag off the band and say it’s time to call it quits after 32 years on the road? Well no, I am not. In fact I’m going to talk about what made this album such a bad thing for the band – not the musical failures but the fans being atrociously immature.

Experimenting and Elitism

So what we have here in summary is an experimental album. An experiment that’s gone horribly wrong. From how fans reacted to this album, it does make me ask: have you never heard of a band experimenting before? Has everyone forgotten about Thrash Metal veterans Kreator flirting with Gothic and Industrial music throughout the nineties?

However, it does appear that this is the first experimental album from one of the major Death Metal bands – I cannot recall others like Obituary, Cannibal Corpse or Deicide blending something radical into their output. I think this is one thing that’s led to me distancing myself from the genre in recent years – other such genres like Black Metal seem a bit more open to bands taking a risky step and going on some audible adventure.
Though what angered me most about this album was how some fans even had the nerve to create Facebook groups like ‘RIP Morbid Angel and go as far as saying they’re ‘traitors’ when commenting on the songs on YouTube.

How I feel about Morbid Angel was best summed up by YouTube blogger Ed Veter (InfidelAmsterdam) ‘Compare it with a good friend. They’ve been doing the same thing you do and then make a choice after so many years, which you do not agree with. Are you putting away your entire friendship just because he or she made a decision that doesn’t really affect you?’

Please do remember all you fellow Morbid Angel fans reading this, I despised this album as much as you, but what is most important to a band and the culture of the music is how the fans behave and I do feel metal is changing in attitude. But please, the next time your favourite group makes a terrifying record like this one – just remember the band did what they wanted to do and you can’t control all of that. 

Plus, they’ll still be playing the music you love at the live shows like I’ve seen in recent years. We just need to understand that being so elitist about what our favourite bands do and don’t do, makes all us metalheads look like the immature, vicious, obnoxious people the outside world is so quick to paint us as.

Tipper Gore - Just one of many people trying to silence Metal and paint us all as stupid. Don't give in to the censors.

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