Morbid Angel made a smart decision when they recently brought bassist/vocalist Steve Tucker back in the fold, but what’s interesting is how that came to be such a smart move in the first place. A reunion with David Vincent proved infamously unsuccessful and subsequent lineup shuffles put the band in even more of an uncertain position. Literally anything would’ve been an improvement considering how low the bar had been set. But even on its own terms, Kingdoms Disdained is easily the most focused Morbid Angel album since 2000’s Gateways to Annihilation.
To everyone’s relief, Morbid Angel has unambiguously returned to old school death metal with Kingdoms Disdained. Guitarist Trey Azagthoth continues to drive the songs with his twisted take on sludge riffing and chaotic song structures, while Tucker’s roar still feels powerful despite his bass only being felt on a few select tracks. The drums also manage to be well executed; Scott Fuller may not hit the unhinged technical highs of Pete Sandoval’s most legendary performances, but his style is a more natural fit than Tim Yeung’s rather mechanical approach.
But in an attempt to placate fans seeking back to the roots death metal, Kingdoms Disdained may be a little too safe. Morbid Angel has always been known for their brutal instrumentation, but their otherworldly ventures were what made them truly unique. Only a couple songs like “For No Master” feature the uncanny solos that defines Azagthoth’s guitar style, and there isn’t a single dive into the ambient synth that gave albums like Blessed are the Sick and Formulas Fatal to the Flesh character. Their absence does make for a leaner product, but it also contributes to the feeling of this being just another good death metal album.
Fortunately, there are some great tracks on here. As someone who gravitates to the band’s slower paced albums like Domination and Gateways to Annihilation, it is nice to see an emphasis on mid-tempo grinding on songs like “Garden of Disdain” and “Paradigms Warped.” “Declaring New Law” is also worth noting thanks to it having a groovy buildup that avoids sounding too cheesy.
While Kingdoms Disdained would’ve benefited from featuring more of Morbid Angel’s “weird” side, it ultimately comes through as a solid return to form. While the emphasis on straightforward death metal makes it seem one-dimensional, the band performances are enough to keep it from dumbed down. In a way similar to The Force Awakens, Morbid Angel’s ninth full-length album serves as a reassurance to fans that the band is back on its feet after a few questionable ventures. Go ahead and add a couple more points if the past interludes were never your thing. I won’t judge.
“Garden of Disdain”
“Architect and Iconoclast”
“Declaring New Law”