Since first discovering death metal many eons ago, Morbid Angel were my favorite band strictly for their first 3 albums. They lost me shortly after 1993’s Covenant but I’ll always hold a good place in my cold, black heart for them, and their sophomore release Blessed are the Sick will always be my favorite death metal release. They were pretty strictly death metal for the past nearly 30 years until 2011, when they released the ill-advised Illud Divinum Insanus to unanimously bad reviews. Now they’re back to they’re death metal roots with returning vocalist Steven Tucker, and it’s time to dig into it.
My first immediate impression of Kingdoms Disdained comes from that decent opening riff on “Piles of Little Arms.” They’ve fully embraced their death metal roots on this album, thank God. Longtime band leader and guitarist Trey Azagthoth seems newly inspired to show that the band never really lost it here. Their latest drummer Scott Fuller is a phenomenal addition to the band, much to the chagrin of my love for Pete Sandoval. Steve Tucker has a much better voice than David Vincent ever had. All three musicians in the group are on point here and trying to prove a point.
But I just can’t seem to help but think that they haven’t succeeded. Don’t get me wrong here; this is death metal. There’s no denying that. It just feels like very lifeless death metal; like old legends trying to relive the halcyon days. If you’re a long time listener, your standards after the abomination of a previous album are pretty low so when you listen to this you’re overjoyed that they seem to get it again.
But after multiple spins through this album you begin to discover there isn’t a whole lot here. The riffs are fine and serve the songs but they are not memorable. Steve Tucker has always been a phenomenal vocalist but his lyrics don’t stick with you the way David Vincent’s “Necronomicon” inspired lyrics did. This collection of songs feels more like an attempt to get back in the good graces of the extreme metal community than it does to write a legitimately great album, and that just makes me sad.
As I said before, Morbid Angel will always be my favorite death metal band. And this isn’t by any means a bad album; it serves its purpose and shows Azagthoth can still write death metal and still loves it. My standards for these guys knowing what they’re capable of are just so high that I can’t accept anything less than stellar. I’m willing to hope that this is just growing pains and they’ll find their way to greatness again, but I’m an optimist.
I give Kingdoms Disdained a 3/5.
Check out “Piles of Little Arms” here.