Justify Your Shitty Taste: Morbid Angel’s ‘Domination’

I’m pretty sure we could run a piece called “Justify Your Shitty Taste: 1994-1996” or “Earache Records Presents: We’re Sorry About Everything After 1995” and we’d still be here mining it for a long time. I remember this was around the time I was becoming active in collecting zines and people were bitching about nearly everything that was released on a larger label at the time from Wolverine Blues (awesome) to Swansong (not so awesome). Previous iterations of this column have brought up some records that I think are fucking fantastic (World Demise, Diatribes, even Diabolus in Musica has moments of greatness) and they all seem to originate from this two-year period where the majors were kind of interested in death metal until they found Korn and fucked off. Let's add Morbid Angel’s 1995 blacklight poster, the monumentally heavy Domination to this discussion.

Like a lot of people my age, Morbid Angel were one of the landing pads when you got into metal heavier than Slayer via that window when MTV had the stupid idea to play music on their channel. You’d watch Headbangers Ball and suffer through Silverchair videos and Rikki Rachtman in order to catch “Rapture” or you’d watch re-runs of Beavis and Butthead for “God of Emptiness.” So, when a new Morbid Angel record was announced you were fucking stoked. I had my mom drive me to the mall after school on the day Domination came out because at that point malls, chain record stores and moms were each still a thing. And for the rest of that spring and summer, this record dominated (LOL!) my mixtapes. I used to play it at work all the time while I was busying washing dishes and not realizing that I’d probably be doing similar jobs until I hang myself at age 48. I was blissfully unaware what I was loving, was making older fans across the world upset. I wouldn’t empathize for another five years until Morbid Angel released Gateways to Annihilation… but that’s another story.

What was it that made this a pariah in their discography? It was heavy, it was aggressive, it felt like a natural evolution. It would turn out to be, for me, the end of an era of this band, the last thing I would enjoy of theirs. 

I got drunk a few weeks (months?) ago and revisited the record with the jaded ears of a man nearing 40 (albeit one without a single grey hair) to see if it stood the test of time and if I could understand why people found it to be weak. But from the opener “Dominate” to the closer (and my favorite track on the record) “Hatework,” it still stands as a massive record. Sure, it’s a bit more direct lyrically, shedding a lot of the occult themes from the previous albums, but David Vincent’s vocals are crushing. While musically not as chaotic, it still has a depth and darkness to it that I really feel they lost on subsequent records—though my friends in the comments section will tell me I’m full of shit on that.

One of Morbid Angel’s unsung strengths was their ability to fashion ambient(ish) instrumentals. And the two on Domination (“Melting” and “Dreaming”) both fit well into the cannon. In fact, if they appeared on Nile’s early records no one would bat an eyelash. 

Is it the tempo? The general speed is a bit slower but it seems that it’s an effort to keep an atmosphere different than their other records, an attempt to branch out into a new direction. And we all know how receptive metal fans are with that concept. 

I don’t know. Sure, the video for “Where the Slime Lives” is embarrassing, but so is every single fucking death metal video from that time, regardless of how great the song is (“Black Winter Day,” I’m looking at you. Well, metaphorically because I don’t want to sit through that shit again). It’s probably because it’s different, much like every single record that’s ever been featured in this column on our fine website. So, it might not be the albums themselves, but our own inability to look past what we want from a band and examine what the band want from themselves. Regardless of reason, this album represents a lot of great memories in my youth—for instance, the first time I ever asked a girl out was to go to this tour. It was, however, not the last time a woman has told me “no” in that scenario. As a lifelong fan of death metal, it still stands up as a great record with a fucking sweet dayglo cover and state-of-the-art, circa 1995, graphic design. And we can all agree it’s much better than that steaming pile of shit they released a few years ago. 

Though, in 10 years, some asshole will be justifying it in this very column because time is a flat circle.

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