Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus (Season of Mist, 2011)

Morbid Angel’s Illud Divinum Insanus is a bad album.  A shockingly bad album.  An album that doesn’t work on so many levels that it’s difficult to know where to begin.  It’s hard to believe that it comes from the same band that gave us death metal classics such as Altars of Madness and Covenant.  Hell, let’s be honest, it’s hard to believe that this comes from the same band that gave us Heretic (I’ll never understand why that album gets such a bad rap).  After eight years of silence, many were expecting Morbid Angel to come back from the death metal void and blow our minds, but to be perfectly frank, Illud Divinum Insanus just plain blows.

One thing I’ve noticed over the years is that people in positions of “power” within the metal industry are hopelessly out of touch.  Bands, label owners, journalists, you name it, typically the more successful and longer in the tooth one gets, the further and further away they get from being aware of/understanding what’s actually going on in the metal underground. Illud Divinum Insanus is a classic example of this.  This album is the sound of a band desperately trying to stay current, but the problem is that they are utterly clueless as to how to do so.  What we’re left with is a train wreck that sees under-developed death metal slapped haphazardly up against hokey electronic/industrial elements that sound like they were swiped from 1998.  The results are about as stimulating as a Sasha Grey film with the sex scenes edited out.

I can’t help but wonder what Trey Azagthoth and David Vincent were thinking when this album was being conceived and recorded.  Were they looking to go mainstream and live out some sort of twisted rock star fantasy?  Were they genuinely in the frame of mind that what they were doing was cutting edge, groundbreaking or experimental?  Were they doing a shitload of coke and listening to Marilyn Manson’s Antichrist Superstar on repeat?  I would kill to have been a fly on the wall during the sessions, especially when Vincent was recording the “killa cop” bit from the song “Radikult” (Earache’s Digby Pearson claims that Vincent is actually saying “killa kult”, but I’ve yet to see definitive proof. You can read his sac-less assessment of the album here).  That shit is hilarious.  Don’t even get me started on the rest of the lyrics.

I’m not going to lie to you, I enjoy electro-pop metal/shock rock gems such as the aforementioned Antichrist Superstar, Rob Zombie’s Hellbilly Deluxe and the like (if I’ve just killed all my underground metal cred with that statement, that’s just a case of tough shit), but that shit has no place whatsoever on a Morbid Angel album.   If the band had actually worked to make this album a legitimate techno-industrial-death metal freakout, I might have been interested, in fact I would have welcomed it. Death metal could stand a bit of a shake-up, not to mention a bit of futurism to counteract all this retro business that’s currently running rampant.  But Illud Divinum Insanus reeks of shameless (albeit dated-sounding) pandering to the mainstream, not of experimentation or artistic growth.  Songs like “Too Extreme!”, “Destructos vs The Earth/Attack” and especially “Radikult” aren’t good enough to lick Marilyn Manson circa 1996’s boots.  Who am I to tell Morbid Angel what they can and can’t put on their records?  A longtime fan, that’s who.  This album is a slap in the face to all of us that have followed the band and excitedly awaited their return.

And what of the legit death metal tracks on Illud Divinum Insanus?  They sound like afterthoughts, like they were ghostwritten by the bands you’ve never heard of on that used Morbid Angel tribute album that’s collecting dust in the ninety-nine cent bin at your local shop.  Songs like “Nevermore” and “Blades for Baal” feel like half-assed attempts to appease the band’s original fanbase and don’t come anywhere near the past glories of quintessential Morbid Angel compositions such as “Maze of Torment” or “God of Emptiness”.  At this point it’s clear that the bands that Morbid Angel directly inspired, the Niles and Behemoths of the world, have surpassed their once powerful masters.

More interesting than the album itself (at this point about anything would be) is the potential fallout.  The album has already taken a critical bashing, but how will the metal masses react?  How will Morbid Angel and their label Season of Mist handle what is shaping up to be this decade’s Cold Lake?  Will the mainstream embrace tracks like “Radikult” and give them a spot on the Rockstar Energy Mayhem Tour?  Will the band continue to put out albums and go even further down this bizarre path? Will oldschool fans riot when they attempt to play “Destructos vs the Earth/Attack” live?  It is difficult to speculate, but one thing is for certain, Morbid Angel deserves to be called out for releasing this steaming turd.

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Postscript…

You’ll notice that no actual songs from Illud Divinum Insanus were posted along with this review.  I only post good music here.

Click here for a link to what is possibly the only positive review of Illud Divinum Insanus in existence.  Thanks to THKD reader UA for the tip.

With that said, those of you who are still having trouble washing the bad taste out your mouths after listening to Morbid Angel’s nadir would do well to give Season of Mist’s other, less-publicized recent death metal release, Nader Sadek’s In the Flesh, a try as a palate cleanser.  The album features ex-Morbid Angel bassist/vocalist Steve Tucker on vox, Cryptopsy’s Flo Mounier on drums and ex-Mayhem six-stringer Blasphemer on guitar.  In the Flesh is concept piece based on the work of Egyptian-born visual artist Nader Sadek, who also played and helped w/ songwriting.  Below is the video for “Sulffer”.

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18 thoughts on “Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus (Season of Mist, 2011)

  1. Pingback: Premature Evaluation: Carcass Surgical Steel - Stereogum

  2. The only positive thing about this album is the guitar solos. Trey still has the fire burning deep down somewhere. I just wish it wasn’t surrounded by shit.

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  3. Pingback: Grave / Dark Funeral / Morbid Angel @ People’s Court, Des Moines IA, 10/07/12 | that's how kids die.

  4. I feel your pain. This album is, without a doubt, the singe biggest betrayal of any band’s fanbase since Celtic Frost released Cold Lake. One of these days, I need to write my own in-depth review of this steaming turd.

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  5. The line “He’s cone of us.” is so true. Most people know about Davey boy’s nazi-esque views on ethnicity, which is why that line is ironic/poignant. It’s interesting how Dave Vincent, and far-right christ-ians all have a penchant for making gay/lame music. Proves that them apples didn’t fall far from the tree…

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  6. Every defense I’ve seen for this album has either been “anyone who doesn’t like it is an elitist” or “Morbid Angel have always been this experimental” and both are equally absurd. If they had added some quality industrial influences like that of Godflesh, I think most fans would love it. Also, none of their past experimentations came anywhere close to filling over half of an album’s run time with ’90s mainstream industrial rock influenced garbage. If the death metal songs had a stronger production, they could make for a decent EP, but they aren’t enough to save this embarrassing mess of an album.

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  7. @ Roger – I have no idea what “terrorcore” is either. As I mentioned in the review, I would’ve been all for the band incorporating electronic elements into their sound, but to me this just sound like Marilyn Manson’s castoffs.

    @ Hank S. – I’m glad to see there are some differing opinions out there and that some are even defending this thing. That’s what makes the metal world go ’round. While I would agree that Morbid Angel’s back catalogue isn’t exactly “all killer no filler” by any means, I don’t recall anything on their previous albums being as downright offensive to my ears as “Radikult” or as limp and tired-sounding as “Existo Vulgore” (granted, it has been a while since I’ve listened to MA’s back catalogue extensively). Here’s the thing, album of downright bad industrial metal songs and passable death metal songs is simply unacceptable for a band of Morbid Angel’s caliber. The fact of the matter is here that we’re going to have to agree to disagree on this one, because I think this album is poorly-produced, uninspired, dated, silly and a total embarrassment for all involved.

    Personally, I’m a big fan of the Steve Tucker era of MA, so I can’t agree with your assessment of them. Formulas is Morbid Angel at their most chaotic, featuring some of Trey’s most warped/abstract guitar wizardry. Gateways, with its mostly slower approach, is probably the closest any death metal band has come to invoking the Lovecraftian crawling chaos that so many of them talk about in their lyrics, yet are unable to replicate musically. Heretic is a solid album, even if it the lesser of three, it takes some pretty weird turns, yet also includes some of Morbid’s most accessible work. So yeah, I think we’re of opposite minds on most things relating to MA and that’s totally ok.

    @ Aaron – It will be interesting to see where the band goes from here. The electronic tracks are executed with such total ineptitude, one can only hope that they abandon that direction altogether or bring in someone with experience in that are… maybe Bill Leeb or Rhys Fulber could lend a hand?

    @ UA – Yes, I think Nader Sadek and also Hate Eternal will get a boost from MA’s failure here.

    @ Waltharius – Yes, the whole ordeal sound horrifically dated and I completely agree that this album is this decade’s Cold Lake… actually after hearing “Radikult”, “Cherry Orchards” sounds downright awesome!

    @ Full Metal Attorney – You should at least give it one listen, just so you can hear how atrocious it really is. Words don’t do it justice. The Haunted have sucked for a while now.

    @ IgnacioBrown – You said it!

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  8. Great review. I too enjoy some industrial rock/metal/pop in the vein of Rob Zombie, although I think I got rid of all my old Marilyn Manson stuff a year or so ago.

    Honestly, I don’t think I can stomach the disappointment of listening to this after what The Haunted pulled. I could only handle one of those this year.

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  9. The reaction I had to listening to some samples of this album was the same as that when I watched the video for Cherry Ochard from Cold Lake. I could not get through half of it! It is unbelievable for a band who came up with Altars of Madness to create this heap of rubbish. The title Radikult and Too Extreme sounds as if they totally just found out about 90s rave speak or MC Hammer, being 2 Legit 2 Quit.

    You’re right! This has nothing on Antichrist Superstar!

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  10. Very well written and I agree with you completely. I have not personally wasted any hard drive space on this album, but what I have heard on youtube has given me absolutely no reason to. It’s sad that a band as prominent as Morbid Angel had to tarnish their good reputation. Perhaps they will accept that and step down, and transform instead into an electronic band even the technoheads criticize.

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  11. Greetings,

    I don’t agree with your assessment of the record, but this a well-written and -argued review. I was glad you mentioned your enjoyment of Heretic in particular b/c a lot of people commenting on Illud seem to sort of wave their hand backward and refer to “old Morbid Angel” as if it were a single monolithic thing. The fact is that while so many people are calling this album out as a jumping of the shark, I felt that exact same way about the trio of Steve Tucker albums at the time they were released. I’ve since come around on Heretic, and there are some decent moments on Gateways and some very intriguing oddball outbursts on Formulas (that swing breakdown in “Invocation of the Continual One” gets me every time), but honestly I think it’s just as easy to accuse those albums of sullying the legacy of the earlier releases as it is to say the same of Illud.

    Yes, there’s an awful lot of cheese on this record, but I don’t agree with you that the death-metal tracks are negligible. I actually think the slower songs, like “I Am Morbid” and “Beauty Meets Beast” are extremely fun, not to mention heavy and catchy, very much in the vein of “Caesar’s Palace” from Domination, i.e., this sort of poppy doom/death vibe. And the fast stuff, like “Nevermore” and “Blades for Baal,” sounds totally brutal and committed to me, if not as memorable compositionally as similar stuff from the Domination era (which is clearly the closest point of comparison in terms of the MA back catalog).

    As for the industrial tracks, I definitely don’t love them, but I don’t think they’re throwaways. I actually think some of Trey’s most interesting and unusual playing on the record comes on these, esp. “Too Extreme!” The electronic beats are definitely fueling his creativity and songwriting, however dated and silly they might come off. As I’ve written on my own blog—http://darkforcesswing.blogspot.com/2011/05/defending-indefensible-morbid-angels.html—I really think people need to step back and think about how much filler there is in the Morbid Angel back catalog. The last Vincent full-length contained two pointless instrumentals, as well as several uninteresting or negligible songs (“Hatework,” “Inquisition,” “This Means War”). Heretic, as often been pointed out, contains a ton of skippable nonsongs, as does Formulas. Even Blessed Are the Sick has a number of these. Basically the band has always gotten off on throwing these sorts of curveballs, it’s just that here they seem to have spent a lot more time and energy on said curveballs.

    I think Cosmo Lee made a good point here: http://www.invisibleoranges.com/2011/04/new-morbid-angel-song. Namely that each Morbid album has its own weird idiosyncrasies, whether it’s terrible production (Blessed Are the Sick) or a totally generic veneer (Gateways). To me, the only flawless one is Covenant, which I think is literally the best metal album ever made. The fact is that almost any of the albums since then could be viewed as a travesty in light of that masterpiece. I totally understand your negative feelings toward Illud, and I share some of the annoyance at the pervasive cheese, but I don’t think this album is an embarrassment or a letdown to long-time fans. Trey sounds great on it, for one (way more unhinged than on the previous three albums, in my opinion) and Vincent sounds extremely intense, whether or not you agree with how that intensity is channeled. I just think that the left-field nature of this album has led people to forget that there have been some very unusual and in some cases inconsistent entries in the Morbid discography up till now. In other words, it’s not as though you’re dealing with an “all killer no filler” band up that has all of a sudden turned into a loopy and unpredictable one.

    To sum up: As a longtime Morbid devotee, I think Illud is an exciting and substantial album, if also a frustrating one in spots.

    Thanks for reading,
    HS

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  12. I haven’t heard the album, and I don’t plan to, not being much of a Morbid Angel fan, but after reading a recent interview with them, I kinda sympathise with them. Trey seems to be genuinely interested in electronic music (what’s “terrorcore”?)… it’s just a shame that the band (seemingly) couldn’t produce something for the majority of their fanbase.

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