This Week in Badass is going to take a look at all the killer music that has reached my ears in current week, whether it be music that was just released or items coming out in the near future. You might even get some vintage badass to get you through your weekend as well. Music will be ranked on the badass’ness scale — which of course goes to 11, the only true way to measure if something kicks ass. So throw your horns up and get ready to headbang along. Bands are bolded the first time they are mentioned if you want to scroll through to see if there’s someone you like.
This is your one warning. Morbid Angel is simply “Too Extreme!”
Continuing to follow the alphabetical nature of their career releases, Illud Divinum Insanus (badass’ness: 9/11) is the fantastic new album from the sort-of reunited Morbid Angel. I say sort-of because it’s not the original band on the record, but David Vincent has returned! Vincent left the band in ’95 after Domination was released and the departure was certainly noticable in the next three records without his voice on the discs. Replacement singer Steve Tucker was no slouch and that’s also not to say that Trey Azagthoth isn’t the mastermind behind the group but it just wasn’t the same. But Vincent is back, Trey added Destructhor on second guitar and while drummer Pete Sandoval is still part of the group, he had back surgery and couldn’t record, so the duties were taken over by metal drummer Tim Yueng.
The record is taking a high hard one from critics all over the place and it’s easy to see why, I just happen to think that most of the negative reviews are wrong (I’ll let you find them rather than link to something negative – it won’t take long). If you say that you like everything Morbid Angel has ever released then you are simply liking anything with that name on paper or you really have an open mind with your metal. Morbid Angel has never created the same album twice but the one thing they have always done is brought the pain. So, it becomes impossible to pigeon-hole them into a specific genre of music. I know they are considered a death metal band but their reach goes far beyond that and as you will hear on this album, they can get universes away from that sound at times. They are first and foremost, extreme metal.
I don’t want to mix words. This album is a little jolting. There’s a lot of programmed drums and electronic elements to the disc as a whole but there’s also a lot of typical death metal tunes. Songs like “Existo Vulgore” with a great hook or the pretty straight forward and brutal “10 More Dead” aren’t generating the buzz on this album because they do tend to remind you a bit of Morbid Angel past. The focus on Illud Divinum Insanus has been put on the electronic tracks, fair or not.
The real buzz is surrounding a few songs. Just by the title, “Too Extreme!” sounds both lightweight and as if they are trying too hard to be cool. Neither is really the case though. It’s the most jarring of the tunes on the album thanks to the drums sounding like machine gun blasts and the main lick on the guitar like it’s being scraped across the floor rather than played by hand.
Then there’s “Radikult” which is the little bastard brother to Marilyn Manson’s “Irresponsible Hate Anthem.” No matter what way you look at it and even if you had no expecations of a set sound coming in, it’s still a song you wouldn’t expect to have the Morbid Angel name on it. It’s not metal – it’s an electronic tinged, alt rock song. I see no problem with this though. It’s a badass song. Catchy as hell, produced wonderfully and one of the best tunes on the disc. It’s going to the track that makes or breaks the record for a lot of people though.
The other one that might do it is “Profundis – Mea Culpa,” the final track on the disc. It’s another electronic track, slowed down to a crawl at points and at other points over the top loud. In addition to blast beats, at its loudest the dual guitar attack sound like a swarm of bees in your eardum. It’s again another startling track.
Here’s the thing though. As a whole, the album is pretty killer. It’s extremely loud, way extreme and pushes the boundaries of what extreme metal can sound like. If you really break down some of the elements of a track like “Mea Culpa” you find a mix of riffs, pure noise and sonic experiments that really work well together.
I saw one review say that it sounded like a group of outtakes. That’s the one negative statement about the album that I can truly understand. The only flaw is that there is no flow to the disc. The experiments early in the disc give way to two brutal death tracks and then get followed by something like “Destructos vs. the Earth / Attack” which has a bit of a Rob Zombie vibe to it. Then that segues back into more death metal before ending on “Radikult” and “Mea Culpa.” Based on that, it almost does sound like some of these tracks are from different eras but for me, that’s the only problem I have with it and despite being a stickler for proper sequencing, it only bothers me a little bit in the end.
I guess whether or not you like this comes from the approach you take. If you are expecting Covenant Pt. 2 then you’ll be disappointed. But if you come into just wanting to hear a great metal record, then that’s what you get. Personally, I love the sound and the way Trey and Mr. Vincent have really experimented with what death metal can be and a lot of the time that’s really what it’s all about for me, going beyond the norm and wowing us with something that pushes boundaries. Illud Divinum Insanus certainly does that.
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Sometimes I want to listen to albums based on name alone – Doctor Midnight & the Mercy Cult evokes that reaction out of me. But I really knew I had no choice but to listen when I found out that this was the new project of Hank von Hell after he split as the lead singer of underground favorites Turbonegro. Now, I’ve never understood the real draw to the former project though I know they are loved by many but Doctor Midnight & the Mercy Cult is a bit different. Featuring both Anders Odden from Satrycon and Tim Skold, the debut, I Declare: Treason (badass’ness: 8/11) is a blast of loud in-your-face rock ‘n roll. I always felt like there was some gimmick with Turbonegro or maybe I just never understood some of the tongue-in-cheek things the band did but I don’t get that with this record. While it’s first and foremost a rock record, Odden brings some darkness to the riffs, while Skold seems to bring in the electronic influence a bit. “Bleed Idiot Bleed” has harder riffs in it and could certainly be considered metal, while the awesome “(Don’t) Waste It” with layers vocals in the chorus is more on the rock side of the spectrum. I’ve never been a huge fan of von Hell’s voice, but it really works well with the music around him. Overall, it’s a solid debut from sort of a mini-supergroup.
“(Don’t) Waste It”
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The next record on my list this week is one of my most anticipated records of the year and because of it I’m incredibly disappointed to say it doesn’t live up to the high standards set by previous releases. On June 7th, Napalm Records releases V (badass’ness: 7/11) from instrumental stoner rock juggernauts, Karma To Burn. One of my favorite groups in the world, I put each of their last three records in my False Metal, Dead! top 300 metal album of all time list with Wild, Wonderful…Purgatory (badass’ness: 11/11) all the way up at #18. The last three records have been almost purely instrumentals with no real titles (just numbers, presumably the order they recorded them in) with the exception of a song on the last disc, Appalacian Incantation (badass’ness: 10/11) . The thing with every Karma To Burn disc is that in between these heavy chunks of downtuned stoner riffs are some of the best hooks you’ve ever heard. That’s the one big thing that V is missing. “47” wanders with no real purpose and “48” feels almost progressive in nature, failing to develop the one really great riff included in the tune.
The odd thing is, of the short eight songs on the record, three of them include Daniel Davies from Year Long Distaster on vocals. I really don’t know anything about Davies but his presence on the tracks really doesn’t seem to enhance them in any way. In fact, musically “The Cynic” is one of the best songs on the disc but the vocals distract from the riffs more than they compliment them and the straightforward cover of Black Sabbath’s “Never Say Die” really feels like a throwaway. I kind of wish if they could only come up with seven originals and 30 minutes worth of music that they would have just backed away and took their time crafting a few extra and better tunes. I’m not saying it’s a bad record as I don’t know that Karma To Burn could ever put out something not worth listening to but they set the bar so incredibly high for themselves that even a slight miss feels like a tumble down the grand canyon. However, the video for “The Cynic” (that’s how it’s listed on the disc but the video says “Cynics”) is one of the most bizarre music videos you’ll ever see. Even if you stop reading at this line, do yourself a favor and check out the vid below.
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