Sunday, 26 June 2011

Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus (Review)

When it comes to offense, where and when does one draw the line? Many times, retaliation is precisely the purpose of the offender. Offenders like to draw those they perceive as weaker into an unbalanced exchanged, a horrible one-sided beating with an inevitable outcome. In such a case, it often better to simply walk away. But there are other times, when an offender bites of more than s/he can chew, when they underestimate the offended where they presume an inevitable outcome but in reality are merely trapped in a self-fulfilling cycle of arrogance. Here again, it is often better to simply “turn the other cheek”.

But then there are times when offense is unjust. We might argue that all offense is harm and thus unjust. Rightly so, I believe. But the world is a complex place and most of us are rarely lucid enough during our waking hours to be aware of all the barbs and cuts we can unwittingly distribute and receive over the course of a day. Nevertheless there are times when we strongly feel that harm is not just damage from blunt, insensitive, ignorant or boorish fools, there are times when it just feels wrong. Like being called a “nigger”, or a “faggot”. Sometimes retaliation, verbal, physical, spiritual simply feels necessary.

That is how I feel about the new Morbid Angel album, “Illud Divinum Insanus”. I came late to the Morbid Angel party, for one reason or another their back catalogue eluded me, their tunes did not have the same grotesque allure as Cannibal Corpse, Autopsy or Obituary. It all seemed a bit “put on”, a little too pretentious. Years later though, I started to understand their position in the death metal hierarchy, I started to feel their “slimy riffs” and their drug addled, psycho-occultism began to take on a more legitimate and less strained vibe in an era of televised beheadings where nothing is shocking.

Everything about “Insanus” simply sounds out of place and out of time. Even in the heyday of the 1990s industro-metal such as Ministry, White Zombie and KMFDM, Morbid Angel’s new LP would have sounded as dated, clichéd and tired as the lyrics. The techno element of this album is plain embarrassing, Morbid Angel were never electronic, so to go down that road this late in their career they should have done something special. Perhaps they could have drawn on IDM, Drill and Bass, Drum and Bass, Dub Step for genre inspiration, after all even the most melodic content in these areas can be utterly crushing, if not in metal parlance: “brutal”. There is so much technological sonic brutality out there, Azagthoth and friends could have looked toward Sunn 0))) or Canadian dronseters Nadja, or even any of Justin Broadrick’s projects (Godflesh, Jesu, Final, God) for total wall of sound obliteration via guitars and computer. Instead, Morbid Angel seem to have not only willfully ignored the last fifteen years of metal and electronic musical development and just cracked the plastic on an industrial-metal sounds sample CD that arrived a decade late in the mail.

As for the metal on “Insanus”. It is not bad. Not great either. Had it been sandwiched between some truly excellent Morbid Angel it would probably sound better than it does.

Did Morbid Angel deliberately set out to offend everyone? Are they just out of touch? What were they thinking? The last word is best left to Hitler.

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