When you’re a band with a legacy like Morbid Angel, you’re cursed to have your latest work compared to your other albums. So let’s answer the question that everyone’s asking: yes, this is much better than their last release Illud…
Kingdoms Disdained is squarely a death metal album from a death metal band who have made a huge effort to get back to what they do best: make crazed, evil, sick songs. It is one of their darker efforts, with little of the psychedelia of Heretic or the cheesiness of Illud…. Even their tendency to include pointless instrumentals has been curbed. This is a leaner, more brutal work.
They have returned to their counter-intuitive style of songwriting (tapping along to these is challenging) and the arrangements are extremely busy. The only straightforward 4/4 track is ‘Declaring New Law’, but it helps that the lyrics are about genocide and torture, not Transformer dolls. Steve Tucker is in great form, and demonstrates that a stock-standard yet passionate frontman can eclipse an uninspired legend. He sounds particularly feral on ‘The Righteous Voice’. Scott Fuller has slipped comfortably into Sandoval’s shoes and has a couple of extra tricks up his sleeve, such as the gravity blast at the start of ‘D.E.A.D’. Trey has returned to his demented style of soloing – again, with any indulgent tendencies largely trimmed – and I suspect the saucy melodic solo at the end of ‘Declaring New Law’ is newcomer Dan Vadim Von.
So is this a classic? No.
The production suffers from trying to be TOO brutal. It’s not the catastrophe that Heretic was but all the guitar work is buried. This is a huge shame, because the riffs on this album are fantastic. What I can hear has me scrambling for the EQ. ‘Gardens of Disdain’ and ‘Piles of Little Arms’ have great verses…when you can hear them. ‘Architect and Iconoclast’ in particular suffers, its enormous unique chords barely discernable. One can only wonder how far this album could have soared with a powerful, balanced mix pushing the melodies. Instead, it feels cold and flat and makes some of the more subtle work drag.
The album is still growing on me and despite the immediate payoff of tracks like ‘For No Master’, feels like it will be a slow burner. Old fans will be pleased [hmmm, maybe… – The Ed], Illud… fans will be astonished, but I have no idea what others will make of this.