When frontman David Vincent returned to the Morbid Angel fold in 2004, there was much rejoicing. When the result of this reunion, the ill-fated Illud Divinium Insanus (Season of Mist) surfaced in 2011, there was considerably less rejoicing. All of a sudden, internet forums, and websites like Facebook and YouTube found themselves inundated with knee-jerk (over)reaction videos posted by inexplicably angry middle-aged men describing the new album as the worst thing since Hitler, cancer, or stepping on Lego.
The truth is, that although Illud… was obviously disappointing, occasionally perplexing, and yes, in some places, downright terrible, it also contained a healthy amount of quality material. Unfortunately though, reason and rationality were discarded by most in favour of sweeping statements and black and white opinion, and genuinely good songs like ‘Blades for Baal’, ‘Existo Vulgare’, ‘Beauty Meets Beast’ and ‘Nevermore’ were quickly forgotten in a roiling sea of exaggerated resentment and perceived betrayal.
Not entirely unexpectedly, the reunion didn’t last, and in 2015 the band announced that Vincent had left and that they had reunited with his original replacement, Steve Tucker. Strangely, the very next day, Vincent responded by saying he hadn’t actually left at all. Meanwhile, drummer Tim Yeung confirmed his own departure, soon followed by guitarist Thor Anders Myhren, before a couple of days later, Vincent finally conceded and joined them, confirming he was no longer part of the band.
So, six years down the line, and with another revised line-up, the Floridian act are finally set to release the follow up to Illud…; an album which they must surely be hoping will not receive the same brutal and somewhat unwarranted abuse of its predecessor. They need not be concerned. Kingdoms Disdained (Silver Lining) is a massive improvement and is arguably their best release since 1998’s Formulas Fatal To The Flesh (Earache). Even those who may have found Tucker’s output slightly disappointing during his first tenure will find it difficult not to be impressed by his contribution this time.
Re-energized and fiercely determined, Kingdoms Disdained is the perfect old school antidote to the electronic and industrial experimentation of Illud… Guitarist Trey Azagthoth battles with new drummer Scott Fuller for the listeners attention, while Tucker roars and snarls above the barbed wire carnage of it all with an insistence and conviction not heard in years.
‘Piles of Little Arms’, ‘The Righteous Voice’, ‘For No Master’, and ‘D.E.A.D.’ are a pack of slavering, hungry dogs, unchained from their confines to chase down and feed on the first living creature they see, while ‘Garden of Disdain’, ‘Paradigms Warped’ with its Lovecraftian atmosphere, and the quite superb ‘Architect and Iconoclast’ and ‘Declaring New Law (Secret Hell)’ crawl and slither their way, slowly but relentlessly across a blood-soaked post-apocalyptic battleground. Complexity goes hand in hand with simplicity as some riffs uncoil like snakes while others simply exist to pummel you into submission. Things can begin to feel a little one dimensional at times, but it never lasts, and it’s a small price to pay for having the band back to doing what they do best.
There will undoubtedly be those who claim Kingdoms Disdained only appears to sound as good as it does is because of comparisons to the band’s fairly unsteady studio output since the turn of the millennium. Illud aside, both Gateways to Annihilation and (especially) Heretic (both Earache) were also seen as relatively disappointing releases, so there could be a suggestion that anything even halfway resembling an improvement would be embraced and applauded more than it might deserve. And while that may even possibly be true to a point, and that this might not still be classic Morbid Angel, the fact remains that this is the sound of a band doing their absolute best to recapture former glories without once sounding like a legacy act. And surely that counts for something.