Saturday, 14 April 2012

MORBID ANGEL - Formulas Fatal To The Flesh (1998)

01  Heaving Earth
02  Prayer Of Hatred
03  Bil Ur-Sag
04  Nothing Is Not
05  Chambers Of Dis
06  Disturbance In The Great Slumber
07  Umulamahri
08  Hellspawn: The Rebirth
09  Covenant Of Death
10  Hymn To A Gas Giant
11  Invocation Of The Continual One
12  Ascent Through The Spheres
13  Hymnos Rituals De Guerra
14  Trooper

'Formulas Fatal to the Flesh' is the fifth full-length studio album by death metal band Morbid Angel released on February 24th 1998 via Earache Records. The title of this album is a biblical reference - it contains the letter "F" - the 6th letter of the alphabet (capitalized three times), which refers to the Number of the Beast, 666. This is the first album to introduce singer/bassist Steve Tucker, replacing the departed David Vincent, and has some lyrical content written in Sumerian.

Morbid Angel were obviously keen to take a step away from the somewhat commercial-leanings of previous studio album 'Domination', making this album sound somewhat like a cross between 'Blessed Are the Sick' and 'Covenant', featuring the formers feral, old school iniquity, and the latter's down-tuned malevolent barrage all wrapped into a simple commanding package. Steve Tucker makes his best attempt at out-doing their former vocalist (minus the clean, low vocals that were occasionally used to great effect by Vincent from their 'Covenant' & 'Domination' albums) as he did on any of the releases he covered vocal duty on, sounding as filled with venomous hatred as Vincent ever did, without managing to completely fill his big shoes. His guttural vocals are a good match for the frantic tempo of most of the songs, and he usually alternates between ferocious rasps and intimidating grunts. Unfortunately, you can't help but compare his vocals to David Vincent's vocals on previous albums and there's nothing to really distinguish him from the pack of generic death metal frontmen. He's one of the biggest things holding back the album

The guitar tone is fibrous and crunchy, yet loses nothing in the fits of sheer speed that populate the compositions. Admittedly, the bass lines are predictable and boring, rarely given the top billing, but then, so too were Vincent's. What really drags the album's flow under would be the ambient, instrumental vignettes which feel amateur and cheesy, and don't seem to mesh into the metallic onslaughts. I'm speaking of the forgettable "Disturbance in the Great Slumber" and its shoddy, uninteresting attempts at synthesized chaos, or the flighty and sporadic guitar instrumental "Hymn to a Gas Giant". About the only interlude of interest would be the "Hymnos Rituals de Guerra" and its warlike, programmed percussive sensations, but even this could have done with some better atmospheric accompaniment. In short, these all should have been snipped free of the album, and the metal left to do the talking.

In small doses, tracks like “Chambers of Dis” and “Heaving Earth” are devastating, displaying about the same tonal carnage as a track like “Rapture” or “The Ancient Ones.” Another highlight is "Invocation Of The Continual One" with Trey Azagthoth handling lead vocals, which is a true epic of late 90s death metal, clocking in at almost 10 minutes. 'Formulas Fatal to the Flesh' is by no means a bad album but it is not a great album either. It will not be remembered as a classic within the band's discography, but is still a worthwhile listen and to be honest, there was worse to follow....

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