Thursday, 14 June 2012

MORBID ANGEL - Heretic (2003)

01  Cleansed In Pestilence (Blade of Elohim)
02  Enshrined By Grace
03  Beneath The Hollow
04  Curse The Flesh
05  Praise The Strength
06  Stricken Arise
07  Place Of Many Deaths
08  Abyssous
09  God Of Our Own Divinity
10  Within Thy Enemy
11  Memories Of The Past
12  Victorious March Of Reign The Conqueror
13  Drum Check
14  Born Again

'Heretic' is the seventh studio album by the death metal band Morbid Angel, released on Setember 22nd 2003. This would be the band's last output under Earache Records, as the band decided not to renew its contract, and it is also the last to feature bassist/vocalist Steve Tucker. The album was recorded at Diet of Worms Studios by Juan Gonzalez. 'Heretic' is the first Morbid Angel album not to be recorded at Morrisound Recording Studios. The cover art was provided by Marc Sasso.

'Heretic' is a record that is practically daring you to like it, taunting you with quality songwriting in, say, "God Of Our Own Divinity", before snatching it away and replacing it with yet another drum fill (as an aside: 'Drum Check' while amusing and very impressive, is totally unnecessary, as are the ambient tracks such as "Place Of Many Deaths"). Frequently, tracks such as "Stricken Arise" feel like grab bags of good ideas that simply do not dovetail together properly. That song's unnecessarily long instrumental bridges are a testament to the amount of padding that goes on this album, which goes pretty far to diminish the enjoyment one derives from this release. This was the poorest selling Morbid Angel album in the band's history, at a mere twenty thousand records sold. Most of this can be blamed on word of mouth; critical evaluation was a mixed bag, but not an across-the-board panning by any stretch. I'd wager that it was a combination of an attempt at modern sound, timing and simple lack of interest from the metal buying populace.

The musicianship of a Morbid Angel record is nearly always beyond criticism, regardless of the methods of recording or the style. Trey Azagthoth is at his usual, cerebrally decadant best, throwing suprising melodies in where you wouldn't be looking for them and then poking your attention with heavy reverb solos strewn with just enough virtuosity to keep it from being chaotic wankery. Pete Sandoval is a monster behind the kit, tossing around tempo change-ups and blast beats that shouldn't fit but always do when listened to in the context of the songs as a whole. Steve Tucker's voice is abrassive, shouty and incomprehensible as  expected. I wish I could tell how his bass playing actually sounds, but he might as well not have bothered. It's all lost in the mix.

There are still some very fine portions on this release, that I would say make it worth hearing. "Beneath The Hollow" is one of the strongest tracks on the album, with Mrobid Angel's patented ability to layer their music in complex and alternating yet lucid compositions, as evidenced by the clever double-tracked vocal passages melding with the logically sequenced riffs. When 'Heretic' does come together (not entirely infrequent, though uncommon enough to gain one's attention) it is fantastic, like all Morbid Angel releases, reflecting the passion of elder times with the logic and intelligence of modern music. True, it's a shame that it must be entombed by such a difficult mentality, but in a way this weeds out those who would not be as truly dedicated. This is one of those albums that you'll have to determine for yourself.

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