overground scene

Autopsy and Morbid Angel: Intolerance and conformity in the metal community

Early Summer is the time for new releases and this year these include releases from two bands that constitute cornerstones of Death Metal; I am talking of course about the new Autopsy and Morbid Angel albums.

Autopsy – Macabre Eternal

This album marks the return of one of Death Metal’s finest and most inspirational bands. However, this is hardly the truth. The spirit of Autopsy has always been burning bright after the demise of the band in 1995, through the involvement of Chis Reifert and Danny Coralles in Abscess. Although Abscess’s sound, especially in “Seminal vampires…”, is quite different from the classic Autopsy sound, it also has similarities with Autopsy’s two last albums, “Acts…” and “Shitfun”. And after ” Tormented” Abscess started sounding increasingly like the classic Autopsy. So, although Abscess were different, probably more so due to the involvement of Clint Bower who contributed amazing compositions and vocals, the philosophy is pretty much the same. Now, regarding the reformation of Autopsy… The songs written by Reifert, Coralles and Joe Trevisano on this album sound more like Abscess than traditional Autopsy. Which means that they are awesome. Danny’s song (the eponymous one) is an amazing classic Abscess bluesy/death metal song. Joe once again contributed only one song (Sewn into one) but, as in “Dawn of inhumanity”, it is one of the best songs in the album. The lyrics are inspired by the movie The human centipede and the first verse reminds me a lot of “Greenflies” by Nuclear Death! Chris’s songs are also great, as usual, although I sense a bit of repetition, thing which did not seem to be present during the Abscess years. The song “Bridge of Bones” sounds too familiar… Now about Eric Cutler. Eric wrote a few songs all by himself and some others in which Chris wrote the lyrics. On the ones Eric wrote the lyrics he also sings. These songs I cannot listen to. It is not that I don’t like his voice. I indeed dislike it and sounds nothing like 20 years ago on “Slaughterday”, but the real problem is the content of the lyrics. They give me the impression that they have been written by a five-year old person with serious psychological problems. The lyrics are plain mean. He obviously has an issue with women which he should seek expert help for. However, I have to admit that his other songs (seeds of the doomed, deliver me from sanity) with Chris’s lyrics are probably the best on the album. The music these songs have is as haunting and inspiring as those two first Autopsy albums. Cutler definitely has some amazing things to offer. Chris’s vocals are once again unique and flawless and his performance simply awesome. In conclusion, the new Autopsy album sounds to me pretty much like the average Abscess album (not the phenomenal “Through the cracks of death” though) with some nice touches of old Autopsy and some songs that I find distasteful. I am afraid that people who never gave a chance to Abscess will rally around the reformed Autopsy for the wrong reasons, which are image, reputation and conformity. Which takes me to my second review.

Morbid Angel – Illud Divinum Insanus

There is a war waged against Morbid Angel and their current musical direction by fans and critics alike. Morbid Angel are, of course, a death metal institution and there is not one contemporary death metal band that has not copied their sound, either directly (by listening to Morbid Angel) or indirectly (by listening to other bands that have copied them). Morbid Angel did not only affect bands in their own genre but their influence has crossed to other genres. Satyricon (post Rebel Extravaganza) were influenced by them and Immortal (post Blizzard beasts) too. Bands such as Vader that we now consider to be cult, have been hugely affected by Morbid Angel. Anyway, the scope of this post is not to praise Morbid Angel. Nevertheless, Illud Divinum Insanus is to my ears brilliant. The first listen of the album made me think that it was pretty good. But subsequent hearings made my skin crawl and when I started being drawn into the atmosphere of the album I even reached the point late one night to think that it is one of the best albums ever made. But it was late at night and people tend to become very emotional during these hours… I think that with this album Morbid Angel perfected what they have been trying to do for many years. All these short instrumental passages on Blessed are the sick, Covenant and Domination and later albums now fall into place and, to my ears, make a perfect impression. This album has the production and overall sound of a different era, both Ancient and Future one. But first things first… I consider Vincent’s return a very good thing for Morbid Angel. I like Vincent’s voice way better than Tucker’s, I like Vincent’s songwriting better than Tucker’s and I like his bass-playing more than Tucker’s. I find Tucker’s vocals very monotonous and hence I did not think that they fitted with Morbid Angel’s flexible and atmospheric music. Vincent on the other hand is extremely versatile and powerful. He sings with a different voice in each song, and he comes up with amazing vocal patterns. Instead of simply growling he sings properly. I still can’t get over the amazing things he did in Domination on songs like “This means war” (Tis time for reparations, tis time to settle scores…). Also he sounds like he is enjoying himself! On this new album, his brutal vocals are more varied than ever and they are a sensation. This fact alone makes the new album great. As far as the songwriting goes, there has been much debate both by the band and the fans. Some of the songs have many elements of electronic music (techno, hardcore, gabba, etc.), fact which has divided traditional death metal fans. Morbid Angel talk about innovation and about not sticking to formulas and so on. I most certainly agree with them they don’t play it safe. They do what they like even if it proves to be a career suicide. From Youtube comments and online music forums, it appears that the majority of people hate this new direction and some of the go as far as to declare it the worst metal album of all times. What most people don’t realise, however, is the difficulty to overcome established music norms and conventions. What is even more difficult is to understand a different music genre once you are unfamiliar with its subculture and the norms and conventions that come with it. Of course, Morbid Angel did not do something completely innovative. The pop (or at least traditional metal) structure of ” I am morbid” has been attempted in the past by extreme bands such as Satyricon (listen to Fuel for Hatred) and many others. Mixing extreme techno music with extreme metal music has also been perfectly done by Dodheimsgard! And of course, there are loads of industrial metal bands. Still Morbid Angel are different because they have their own unique type of sound on which these new sounds build. In the case of songs like “Too extreme” or “Mea culpa”, the infrastructure is techno and so is some of the material used for the execution, but there is the morbid angel element also creeping in the background. In the case of the brilliant “I am morbid“, the foundation is traditional/commercial Rock music, but the orchestration is Death metal. I am not reluctant to say that I am totally chuffed to listen to songs that stick in my head and make me want to sing along and at the same time make my skin crawl through Trey’s creepy riffs and insane solos. The same goes for “Radicult”. It is clearly a commercial sounding song which could be played in a club, but the music behind it is creepy and insane, and Vincent is just genius! With regard to the more straightforward death metal songs there is not much to say really. The new addition to the Band (Destructhor) has risen up to the challenge and he became a worthy replacement for Erik Rutan. The songs he wrote for the new album (Blades for Baal, Ten more dead) are magnificent. The fact that Vincent gives some of his best performances ever helps too. I cannot stop listening to these songs. The main riff of Nevermore and the way the drums come in is pure genius. Only Morbid Angel could come up with something like that. It is important to say that it is finally the combination of factors that make a song excellent. It is a very good production, an amazing drummer, a great guitarist, a great song and a great vocalist. Most new death metal bands are lacking the latter two. But Trey’s guitar playing brings tears to my eyes and Vincent sounds like a Lovecraftian god. The solo on “Blades for Ball” must be one of the best ever written.  Finally, many people didn’t like the fact that Pete Sandoval did not play (although he did write some of) the drums on this album. Initially, I did not like that either. When I heard the news a few months ago I was disappointed. Pete is undisputedly the greatest of all death metal drummers. Gene Hoglan is better than him, but he is more traditional. Pete is the definition of death metal (alongside with players such as Mike Smith of Suffocation) drummer. However, I did not like the choices he made in the last couple Morbid Angel albums regarding the sound of his drums. Furthermore, one of the reasons why I don’t like the latest Terrorizer album is his performance. Therefore, I don’t really mind that he is not present in this album. And Tim Yeung does an amazing job replicating his playing anyway. In conclusion, I consider this album a masterpiece of contemporary death metal, better and more interesting than any other band. Plus the artwork is captivating.

You come to us in torment
And we make your bodies heave
Our sounds invoke your demon
Together too Extreme!


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