Morbid Angel are playing a shopping mall tonight. It’s OK, though, ‘cos it’s not like they are opening it, or performing exclusively for the switching on of the festive lights. That sorta shit’s demeaning and they’ve already had a tough year of it. There weren't too many organs of record with their ass in the wind hollering that Illud Divinum Insanus was just what the hesher ordered after a fallow eight years since Heretic. Those who did speak up and vouch for Illud... being too extreme, as in “good”, thrusting their mitt in the air to say that it the sort of malevolent comeback that somehow reverses the scabrous tide of NWOSDM and similar gnarly generic evolutions just didn’t sound convincing. Said people's defense of Illud..., and in particular off-piste tracks like “I Am Morbid” and the preposterous “Destructos vs. the Earth/Attack" was delivered a lot like those unconvincing compliments you’d give your significant other after they’ve had one fuck-off horror show of a haircut. “Hey, y’know, it doesn’t look bad at all. No. It suits you… I’m loving how you’re just cutting Evil D. loose. Those people—don’t listen to them, will ya. They just don’t get it.”
Thing is, we got it and can deal with the disappointment accordingly. The Tampa quartet have enough in the bank—their credit’s still good and this show is still the most exciting thing happening on a Tuesday night in London. Sure, the anticipation is juiced from looking at the previous few nights’ setlists and seeing that only the standard issue Morbid Angel DM of “Nevermore” and "Existo Vulgoré" is culled from Illud... and the rest from the hits. David Vincent, speaking to the Deciblog just before showtime was non-fussed over critical shit-storms and tour fatigue—“Man, I could keep quarterbacking those away all day if I have to." The only thing that’s keeping Vincent down is the fact that sticksman Pete Sandoval still laid out on the treatment table with a serious back injury.
“I am hesitant to make any comments about that because I’m not a physician but our hope is that he’ll make as full a recovery as we can expect from somebody who has gone through major, invasive surgery can,” says Vincent. “I mean, I don’t know how full that would be. I know other people who have gone through it, back problems, but what can you say? I mean, case A: someone had back problems, went through corrective surgery and then through the therapy prescribed by their physician helped them come back to 75 or 80 per cent to where they were prior to sustaining the injury. I don’t know what the expectation is. My hope as a friend, a bandmate and a family member that he gets better, he feels great and he gets to be Commando again. Pete is family, so we want him to be better. First and foremost: If I woke up and couldn’t be me I’d be pretty upset about it, and there’s the psychological side of it. The guy wants to be who he is; he has a physical limitation right now that’s keeping him from doing that, so forget about bands, music and all that, just on a human level… That’s my first concern, his health.”
Until such time, Tim Yueng is Morbid Angel’s drummer, and there’s no comparing the two for Vincent. Tonight is business as usual. For all the protracted hiatus since Heretic, David Vincent’s even longer absence, as soon as “Immortal Rites” tears out out of the PA it’s like nothing’s changed, not sonically, anyhow, since Morbid Angel’s ‘90s hegemony. And Yeung's style seems more mechanized, but no less punishing.
Azagthoth kinda looks ageless. He’s the same dude with white hi-tops goofy stance ripping away on the same weird blue Astro-X Dean guitar. That it looks kinda homemade just reinforces his putative rep as death metal’s Eddie Van Halen. Thor Anders Myhren aka Destructhor flanks Vincent, who is clearly relishing the opportunity to throw his throat into the classics. "Immortal Rites", "Day of Suffering", "Fall from Grace", "Rapture"... there's little let-up. If Morbid Angel have suffered from creative vertigo in putting together Illud Divinum Insanus they're hardly sounding like they're spent.
Even live, full-force and full-on, the likes of "Nevermore" are never going to be inducted into Morbid Angel's most exalted canon. But, y'know, of course the smart money would have been on playing the percentages, forecasting some disappointment. Like, most were preaching caution on the grounds that the band would probably struggle to come out with something that’d rest comfortably alongside Blessed are the Sick or Altars of Madness, shit, or even the fucking super-awesome and too often forgotten (certainly, list-wise, as in a template record for horrible, sick DM) Formulas Fatal to the Flesh. So you've got to write off the industrial/techno, and welcome David Vincent back on poisoned sermon delivery: Morbid Angel at least had a familiar voice to them.
Morbid Angel copped shit for dropping the tempo of death metal and could very well look at it now when they drop their Ghostbusters II anthem (in a more just world, maybe) "Where the Slime Lives" and everyone's a slo-mo berserker, and say, In 10 years you'll all be losing your collectives on "Radikult"... Umm, not likely. But shit, if their return to the studio wasn't that much to be celebrated then live, demonic insurgencies like this will always be welcomed. Always. And it's good to have the most charismatic frontman in death metal back where he belongs.