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Morbid Angel - "Illud Divinum Insanus" (CD)

Morbid Angel - "Illud Divinum Insanus" CD cover image

"Illud Divinum Insanus" track listing:

1. Omni Potens (2:28)
2. Too Extreme! (6:13)
3. Existo Vulgoré (4:00)
4. Blades of Baal (4:52)
5. I Am Morbid (5:16)
6. 10 More Dead (4:51)
7. Destructos Vs. the Earth/Attack (7:15)
8. Nevermore (5:07)
9. Beauty Meets Beast (4:56)
10. Radikult (7:37)
11. Profundis - Mea Culpa (4:05)

Reviewed by on May 27, 2011

"Morbid Angel failed in their execution of the new ideas, proving that just because something is avant garde doesn’t make it brilliant."

Given that Morbid Angel has never made the same album twice, I probably shouldn't have been shocked by “Illud Divinum Insanus.” Whether Morbid Angel's albums alternate between fast ("Altars of Madness"), slow ("Gateways to Annihilation"), atmospheric ("Blessed Are The Sick") or groovy ("Domination"), the band has never made two albums that sound alike. There isn't really any band you can say that sounds like Morbid Angel, although there are groups that borrow Morbid Angel riffs.

So it really shouldn't be a surprise to anyone that the new album, the act’s first in eight years, is something that simply came out of left field, particularly towards the end of the disc. Morbid Angel managed to creating something that feels more like an album made by Nachtmystium than anything that would normally be associated with the group. However, Morbid Angel failed in their execution of the new ideas, proving that just because something is avant garde doesn’t make it brilliant.

After a short opening track, it become apparent that something is very different with "Too Extreme!", as the guitar tone is heavily processed with electronic effects in an otherwise straight-up death metal song. While it's anything but raw, and more than a bit reminiscent of Ministry, it still manages to not come across as too jarring. What's more troubling is the song's title, particularly when the phrase “new religion” is chanted throughout the song. That phrase is a much more fitting title than “Too Extreme!”, as it simply sounds childish when Morbid Angel has always been smarter and more creative than that.

For those put off by the title track's heavy post-production sheen, the next four songs should be a relief. They're straight-up death metal without the heavy effects, even if "Blades for Baal" reuses the riff from “Vengeance is Mine” off the band's third album, "Covenant." It's still a bit more polished and electronic than what Morbid Angel fans are used to, but for the most part still sounds like a cross between “Covenant” and “Formulas Fatal to the Flesh.”

Where the album seems to really become strange is when “Destructos vs. The Earth/Attack" begins. Sounding more like an unused track from David Vincent's other band, The Genitorturers, it's Morbid Angel's take on an industrial track that honestly isn't half bad given Vincent's history with industrial music. It's not a metal track, but that's not the point. While it is enjoyable, Morbid Angel is still a metal band that will never find its music played in clubs. The track should have been reused in Vincent's other band, for which it was probably originally written.

Thankfully, the band makes a return to form on “Nevermore,” which was played years ago at European festivals and sounds just as good now as it did then. It stands out as one of the album's highlights and should have probably been saved for the middle of the album, where it would have flowed better instead of right after the point where “Illud Divinum Insanus” takes a turn for Mike Patton-esque weirdness.

Of course, that leads to my biggest problem with “Illud Divinum Insanus.” After “Nevermore,” the album seems to consist of B-sides that should have been cut from the album. “Beauty Meets Beast” is really just a straight-up death metal number with boring riffs and an absolutely annoying chorus. It stands out as one of Morbid Angel's most forgettable and generic songs, making me wonder why the track was even on the album. “Illud Divinum Insanus” already has eleven songs on it and could have benefited from making a few cuts, leaving no need for obvious filler tracks.

Then there are the two worst abortions that Morbid Angel has ever written. “Radikult” is simply a radio rock song that will never be picked up by radio stations, since it's over seven minutes long and Morbid Angel has already spent two decades as an underground death metal act. It's simply bad butt rock that manages to be every bit as banal as commercially driven hard rock usually is. "Radikult" also manages to go on for far too long, making it fail at everything that it attempts to do. It's too mainstream to please the band's fans, while the rest of the album won't appeal to mainstream listeners. “Radikult” is a song that, if remembered at all, will be remembered for appealing to nobody.

“Profundus – Mea Culpa” is just as bad, since it's an attempt at combining metal with speedcore techno, but not succeeding nearly as well as Agoraphobic Nosebleed or The Berzerker at mixing the two styles. If the band really wanted to use electronic sounds, it should have stuck to the way that they were used on the opener, instead of simply making a techno song with growling and guitar riffs layered over it. It's a truly anti-climactic way to end an album, particularly one as eagerly anticipated as this. If Trey Azagthoth wanted to start a techno side-project, he should have just done that where he'd be better able to realize his vision rather than making music that tries to go in two different directions, but goes doesn’t go far enough to either the metal or techno side to really sound anything other than awkward. He found a way to make it work earlier in the album, but didn't bother to rework his other attempt.

I'm not against metal bands suddenly going avant garde since I love “Miss Machine,” “Grand Declaration of War,” and “Angel Dust” and find them to be three of the best metal albums ever recorded. The problem is that Morbid Angel's experiments failed. Or, more accurately, they could have been onto something new if more of the songs sounded like “Too Extreme!”, instead of making an album split between two different styles.

“Illud Divinum Insanus” probably won't win over a new audience since most of it is indeed traditional death metal, but it's sure to alienate older fans. Despite taking eight years to make, it sadly needed even more time in production for the band's vision to be realized. It has moments of greatness and plenty of good ideas, but simply failed in its execution, oftentimes not daring to experiment enough just as often as it goes too far, creating an uneven mess. The sad part is that this album wasn't rushed at all and cost an enormous amount of time and money to make. While it's not a total disaster, it's an album that should have been a lot better and attempts to do things that other bands have done in more effective ways.

Highs: Morbid Angel finally released the damn thing, the first two thirds are excellent, Trey Azagthoth still plays fantastic guitar solos

Lows: Lame song titles, the quality drops dramatically after "Nevermore," lyrics aren’t as angry as they should be, the album doesn’t flow well

Bottom line: There is too much filler to have been worth the wait.

Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls
2.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)