Trey Azagthoth’s Morbid Angel helped define extreme death metal back in the 1980s, and their brand of dark, concise and brutal grind has spearheaded the scene ever since. Heretic is both an attempt to sum up the state of death metal in 2003, as well an attempt to point out a future direction for Morbid Angel. It’s ambitious, but it’s far from an unanimous success.
While the band’s playing is as technically exhausting as ever, the actual songwriting is less inspired. There is something of a formulaic nature to their sound, and looking at what’s happening elsewhere in death metal and, particularly, in grindcore these days, Morbid Angel doesn’t really shock or disturb much. The interludes and slower tracks that pop up are interesting as such, but they are too loosely incorporated into the album to make much sense, and come off sounding rather accidental and purposeless in context. It would be good to see Morbid Angel explore this aspect of their music in the future, but hopefully in a more focused and concentrated manner.
Morbid Angel could still be setting new standards in extreme death metal, but they desperately need to figure out where to go before they try to go there. As it stands, this is a pretty lightweight album in an otherwise impressive back catalog.
Earache Records: http://www.earache.com/