Morbid Angel recently released their new album, “Kingdoms Disdained”, through the German label Silver Lining Music. These are probably good news for the numerous loyal fans of this historical and highly influential band, as they long for something worth listening to, after the disappointment and frustration that the abnormality named “Illud Divinum Insanus” caused six years ago (let alone our raped hearing ability).

To tell the truth, the unsuccessful industrial and gothic experimentations of the previous record and the drastic line-up changes that occurred in 2015 caused many critics and fans alike to speculate that the end of Morbid Angel was approaching. Therefore, the announcement of the new album triggered everybody’s interest; however, at the back of our minds a reasonable question shadowed our thoughts: “Will it be a proper death metal album?” Without hesitation and with great relief, I confirm Steve Tucker’s comment some months ago: “YES, “Kingdom Disdained” is genuine death metal, according to Morbid Angel’s standards”.

First of all, the line-up has changed: Tucker rejoined the band two years ago, replacing again David Vincent, while Scott Fuller and Dan Vadim Von were hired as drummer and second guitarist respectively at early 2017.

“Kingdom Disdained” incorporates traditional Morbid Angel’s elements that we all worshipped, adopting the musical direction of Tucker-era albums (especially “Heretic” and “Formulas Fatal to the Flesh”). That means that the aggressive feeling, up-tempo riffs and blast beats and divine complexity of the first albums are missing, as the band adopted slower paces in general.

Trey has mostly composed mid-tempo songs, using his easily recognizable and distinctive technical riffs, while the proper, solid production gives the necessary crushing heaviness to rhythm guitar (something that didn’t happen in “Heretic”). Scott Fuller proves that he was the best replacement for Sandoval’s position, guiding the others with his tireless blast beats that we hear throughout most of the album. As for Tucker, he overperforms in his vocal duties compared to previous collaborations with Morbid Angel, while his growls are ideal for the ominous messages of his lyrics.

In my humble opinion, what “Kingdom Disdained” lacks is the more complex and imaginative riffing of the past, as the G.O.A.T. did not reveal His Mastery to full extent (remember the effective tempo changes of “Formulas Fatal to the Flesh” and other albums). Therefore, riffs don’t diverse substantially, causing a sense of repetition after a few songs, while I really missed Trey’s lead solos, with a few exceptions. More interesting guitar work takes place in songs were tempos are higher, like “The Righteous Voice” and “From the Hand of Kings”.

Overall, the rather “easy” riffing, compared of course to G.O.A.T.’s insanely divine levels of the past, does not mean that “Kingdom Disdained” is a bad album. On the contrary, it succeeds in setting Morbid Angel back to their proper route in the death metal universe they belong, thus achieving its purpose. However, after the listening session ends, you may have the same feeling when your favorite football team fails to score in an empty goalpost; too close and too far away simultaneously.

♦ 6/10

Alex Nikolaidis