Morbid Angel - Kingdoms Disdained
Silver Lining Music
Death Metal
11 songs (47' 43")
Release year: 2017
Morbid Angel
Reviewed by Andy
Major event

Can Morbid Angel come back from the crash-and-burn that was Illud Divinum Insanus? Since that and the departure of David Vincent in 2015, there hasn't been any new material forthcoming, and I was beginning to think Trey Azagthoth and company might be thinking of putting things on hiatus. He was just getting reorganized, though. Not everyone will think their first new material since the "I" album, Kingdoms Disdained, hits the mark, but it's a reasonable try even if it doesn't.

Some listeners may find it easy to to be skeptical about this new album, which doesn't help first impressions with its picture of a 3D-modelled devil trashing Tokyo or some other burning metropolis on the front (quick, check the logs -- are we absolutely sure they didn't copy one of MR's graphics for the cover art?) The first few riffs on Piles of Little Arms, however, go a long way towards reassuring the listener that the Morbid Angel of 2017 has at least purged the electronic/industrial style from its repertoire. Steve Tucker's murky growls are immediately recognizable from the Formulas Fatal to the Flesh days, and the aggressive crunching of Architect and Iconoclast sounds like the Morbid Angel of old -- or at least pre-Heretic. So does The Pillars Crumbling, which ends with an oily, chaotic solo that warms the heart of the die-hard fan. Trey's riffs bubble slimily up around the drums, which do get a lot of the mix, but which I don't find overwhelming. The whole impression one gets is of the band hitting "undo" on the I album and trying to pick up where they were before it, which isn't the worst thing they could have done.

But like many "recovery" albums done by well-regarded bands who took a risk, Kingdoms Disdained is overwhelmingly a retreat to safe territory; think of Megadeth's production of the paint-by-numbers The World Needs a Hero after weathering fans' unhappiness on Risk. It's not awful, it checks a lot of the right boxes, and maybe they're not going to alienate anyone with forays into electronica any more. But it seems like they've decided that they're also not going to try anything else new for a while, either, and the album gets diminished accordingly. The riffs are mostly good to listen to, Tucker's vocals sound like he hasn't aged a day, and Trey continues to be a hell of a guitarist, but the mean razor edge of the band still seems a bit blunted on this one. That may be the production more than anything else, as it somehow doesn't feel quite as sharp as preceding albums, most noticeably on D.E.A.D.

Those willing to ignore that and just be glad that they get a Morbid Angel album that at least sticks to some strengths will like this one. Those who refuse to forgive the band for the "I" album or who compare Kingdoms Disdained to the best albums of their career may just walk away again in disgust. After listening to it a few times, I have to say that I lean more towards the former camp, especially after hearing the last couple of songs on the album. Listen to the furious riffing right before Trey embarks on a sickness-inducing solo far up on the neck, familiar but still enjoyable, and it'll be hard to conclude, unequivocally, that their best days are completely over.

Killing Songs :
Architect and Iconoclast, The Pillars Crumbling, From the Hand of Kings
Andy quoted 76 / 100
Other albums by Morbid Angel that we have reviewed:
Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus reviewed by Jake and quoted 86 / 100
Morbid Angel - Entangled In Chaos reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Morbid Angel - Formulas Fatal to the Flesh reviewed by Tony and quoted 84 / 100
Morbid Angel - Domination reviewed by Tony and quoted 81 / 100
Morbid Angel - Covenant reviewed by Goat and quoted 95 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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