Morbid Angel, Kingdoms Disdained (Silver Lining Music, 2017)

When the year is up soon, 2017 will have seen the release of two studio albums by the two most important active death metal bands: Morbid Angel and Cannibal Corpse.

While the aural bludgeoning of Cannibal Corpse's Red Before Black further proved that age ain't nothing but a number, many extreme metal fans waited for Morbid Angel's latest full-length, Kingdoms Disdained, with baited breath. Many folks were left with a bad taste in their mouths from Morbid Angel's 2011 Illud Divinum Insanus, an album that was almost universally panned for its songwriting and production experimentation.

Now, armed with the return of bassist/vocalist Steve Tucker, the death metal icons are back to reclaim their crown. Not only is Tucker back in the fold, Morbid Angel have also brought in new drummer Scott Fuller, a double-bass maniac who has also played with Abysmal Dawn, Havok, and Annihilated. Founding guitarist Trey Azagthoth is still driving the tank, but the questions was how would the results fare with the changes to the lineup?

Opening cut "Piles of Little Arms" immediately shows us the Fuller addition will be paying off dividends, with a fury of blast beats and mind-melting footwork from the drummer. On the next track, "D.E.A.D.," Tucker also showcases his tempo-shifting skills, snaking around the labyrinthine arrangement with expert ease. Elsewhere on Kingdoms Disdained, he also tackles the slower-paced material ("Paradigms Warped," "Declaring New Law") like a champ.

Tucker's vocal performances on Kingdoms Disdained also remind us how truly underrated his years (1997–2001, 2003–2004) with the band were. Whether it's the rapid-fire sections on tracks like "The Righteous Voice" and "Architect or Iconoclast," or the sludgy side of the band, the bassist/vocalist's lower register growl sounds more ominous than ever. 

"Garden of Disdain" is the best song on the new album, bringing to mind Domination-era Morbid Angel. But Kingdoms Disdained is much more than a mere nostalgia trip. This collection of songs—when taken in as a whole—represents the finest work of the Steve Tucker-lead version of Morbid Angel.

Kingdoms Disdained will be available on Dec. 1 via Silver Lining Music.

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