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.
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”.