Sound — 4
Morbid Angel's circumstance in the years since 2003's "Heretic" has been swamped with ambiguity. The exit of perennial sore thumb Steve Tucker and David Vincent's heroic return to the stage are perhaps the only major events from eight otherwise derelict years of rumours and conjecture. PVC cowboy look notwithstanding, Vincent remains an icon and like Dickinson to Maiden, Halford to Priest, only with his involvement as frontman could Morbid Angel ever hope to work at the highest level. The band has now sprung to life and for the first time in sixteen years, David Vincent and Trey Azagthoth have pooled their efforts and made an album together. Predictably, it's no masterpiece. "Illud Divinum Insanus" is a confused and messy effort with little claim to a prevailing force or artistic direction. The death metal on offer is tight and well-produced but rarely transcends the middleweight purgatory of "Heretic" or "Formulas Fatal To The Flesh". Competent, occasionally interesting but nothing that would bring average Joe unsigned more than a round of polite applause. There are exceptions, namely the tunes penned by new guitarist Destructhor, who seems to have a good handle on the way chromatic melody looked to push and pull in the band's classic era; "Blades For Baal" has urgency and dynamic push to it while "10 More Dead"'s enviable groove does at times echo 1995's "Domination". Azagthoth, too, seems to have some life left in him with a number of fantastically creative guitar solos. But this album holds a dark, disgusting secret. The writing was on the wall from the moment the tracklisting was released. Drum machines, industrial noises, bleeps, bloops and "Destructos"; that's right, the floodgates have opened and seven seas of shit have been let loose on Morbid Angel. Fed into the album with a cruel evenness is the influence of hardcore techno, specifically speedcore, terrorcore and gabber. Now these are names as familiar to the average metal fan as black metal to a clubber, but know they are styles often crafted and appreciated specifically for their extremity. And as we know, Morbid Angel are a band who have a reputation for changing things up in the pursuit of extremes, so it's a match made in heaven, right? Well, death metal purism aside, the band's attempt to mediate and combine the aggressive samples and noises with their own guitar tone and vocal style has sucked the extremity right out of both. Only closing track "Profundis Mea Culpa" really achieves the desired effect on any level, and by that point the listener is already disinterested. In both death metal and hardcore techno, Morbid Angel are simply hammering away at a wall that has already been pounded to dust.
Lyrics — 2
The point at which this album ceases to be a misfire and slips into the realm of embarrassment is when you consider the lyrics. They simply defy belief, from the botched Latin of the album title to the child-like "Destructos Vs. The Earth" to the chest-thumping, leg-humping disaster that is "Radikult". Many tracks particularly "Radikult" and inane foot-stomper "I Am Morbid" seem to be written as motivational exercises for the band and their hardcore faithful, and for a man well into middle age David Vincent does have the power left in his voice to force the message home, but there are few fans out there who wish to hear it. What's worse is that the infantile subject matter and embarrassing lack of subtlety is constructed by verse not entirely devoid of sophistication. Vincent can find his way around the English language well enough; why he'd use it to inform us that he's been "banging hardcore radical" nobody's quite sure, but there are brief glimpses of competent lyricism in there, persistently spoilt by lines like "Demanding nothing less but to make you scream/we're too extreme" or "Their juices wind and rain... insane!" Turgid rhymes, mind-numbing repetition - absolutely awful.
Overall Impression — 3
All in all then, not a classic. Incorporating industrial and dance elements is a very brave move but the band haven't really gone the distance with their concept, leaving the controversial tracks in amongst the more conventional ones, plain as day. It fails to play like a death metal album, fails to play like an electronic album and fails too as a cohesive hybrid. "Illud Divinum Insanus" is meant to be extreme music for extreme people, but unfortunately I'm sat at a desk with a mug of tea in a comfortably lit room, and I'm not feeling particularly extreme; nowhere around are there ravaged animal carcasses, semi-conscious hookers or paintings on linen canvas, sketched out with sky blue Crayola and detailed with my own faeces. Maybe it's not for me, then, but let's face it - it's probably not for you, either.