Justify Your Shitty Taste: Morbid Angel’s ‘Illud Divinum Insanus’

Almost every band has that album: you know, the critically and/or commercially reviled dud in an otherwise passable-to-radical back catalogue. Occasionally, a Decibel staffer or special guest will take to the Decibel site to bitch and moan at length as to why everybody’s full of shit and said dud is, in fact, The Shit. This time around, Greg Pratt defends Morbid Angel’s Illud Divinum Insanus.

Listen, I’m not here to troll you or to try to defend the hot garbage on Morbid Angel’s Illud Divinum Insanus, because I know this album has a bunch of hot garbage on it. But I am here to try to convince you that this record is better than we give it credit for being. It turned 10 recently, and that inspired me to halfheartedly start picking through the songs again, and it hit me: once you get past the preteen-latex “shocking” can’t-wait-until-I-can-get-into-an-S&M-club electrocrap and the song that is over six minutes long and is, unbearably, titled “Too Extreme!” (seriously, I’ll never get past that), there are several really good Morbid Angel songs here.

Still with me? I just heard the distinct click of several hundred people clicking away, but I think I get paid a base rate here, so even if ya’ll leave by the end, I’m fine. So, here’s the thing: the death metal songs here are good. I mean, it’s Morbid fucking Angel, man: them sleepwalking through some DM is still better than most bands giving it their all, and they ain’t sleepwalking through these songs.

Check out “Blades for Baal,” for example, and just forget about the stigma surrounding this album. It’s awesome, and you can’t deny that. “I Am Morbid” is one of the songs here that I suspect people roll their eyes at, but it’s a killer, man: it’s “Where the Slime Live” filtered through Pantera at their arena-crushing height. Sure, it’s groove metal, but that doesn’t ALWAYS have to be a naughty term, you know. This song is absolutely huge, a sludging trawl through stadium death metal, and, man, do they do this right. It’s a crusher, a morbid victory indeed, even the goofy chanting sounding downright cool.

“10 More Dead” hits with a mid-paced sludge groove DM that would fit in perfectly on most other Morbid Angel records; “Existo Vulgoré” is as great an opener as one could want from this band. Seriously, what do you people want? Listen to the drumming here, the riffing, the songwriting finesse, it’s everything I want Morbid Angel to be. “Nevermore” has memorable riffs that most other death metal bands would kill for; “Beauty Meets Beast” is prime mid-era Morbid Angel, comfortable in all it needs to do, glorious solo bringing it all home, the band locked in together like a machine. Make no mistake: these are all really great songs.

Hmm, there go a lot more of you, but for the dedicated who are still reading, let’s do this: this album, of course, featured the return of polarizing man with cowboy hat David Vincent, one of death metal’s more boisterous characters. And, I’ve always liked Morbid Angel with Vincent, because I’m a death metal guy: I basically can see no reason to ever not put on any Morbid Angel record at any point in any day. And if I skip through the parts of this record that sound like someone’s edgelord younger step-brother concocted them, I can see no reason to not put this record on at any point in any day, really.

So, let’s break it down, and my math skills are currently lesser than my middle child’s, who is in elementary school, so work with me here. We’ve got 11 songs on this record. Four of them (“Too Extreme!”, “Radikult,” “Destructos vs. the Earth/Attack,” and “Profundis – Mea Culpa”) totally suck. Like, they’re super bad. We know that. Although maybe we’ve forgotten just how much “Radikult” sucks. I must have blocked this rap-metal piece of braggadocio out of my brain because, well, it’s Morbid Angel laying down a seven-minute (ugh) slab of rap-metal braggadocio. That’s ugly, man. So, definitely skip over these four songs, there’s nothing redeeming about them.

One track (“Omni Potens”) is a pointless and pretty bad intro, which many extreme metal albums have, unfortunately. The remaining six songs are actually really good. That’s 54.55 percent of this album being actually really good. And you know what? Morbid Angel’s actually really good is approximately 50 percent better than most death metal bands’ actually really good, and, like, 20 percent better than most death metal bands’ best effort.

Damn, there’s not many of you left, but, listen, the above number-crunching means this album is, I dunno, man, like 15 percent better than the average death metal album we give an 8 out of 10 to in the mag. Or something. I don’t fucking know, but you can’t argue the numbers: this album ain’t half-bad. Literally! It’s 45.45 percent bad, with the good stuff being really good. It’s also far too long: there’s a decent album length of great material here, a solid half-hour of killers. You just gotta do the editing that Season of Mist was too terrified to tell the band to do on their first record together to get rid of the 26 or so minutes of agony.

That’s it, you’re all gone. Whatever, it’s just me, me and this album, alone together forever, Vincent rapping sweet nothings into my ear before I nervously switch to a different song (there are six winners here, so take your pick!) and let the glorious sounds of a comfortable and confident Morbid Angel work its magic, a soothing sound that I can justify all day long, because I’m a death metal guy, and these are A-grade death metal songs performed by Morbid fucking Angel, who—Baal bless ’em—wanted to stretch out their latex wings a bit but just flew way too close to the space heater this time around. But the death metal on this album? It’s not Too Extreme! It’s just extreme enough.