Morbid Angel Gateways to Annihilation

Death metal is once again redefined by genre pioneers Morbid Angel, who've gained even more ground with the addition of front man Steve Tucker. The bulk of 1998's blazing Formulas Fatal To The Flesh was penned by founding guitarist Trey Azagthoth, but Tucker pulls his creative weight in a huge way for Gateways, writing nearly all the lyrics and contributing a third of the music. The brief instrumental "Kawazu" begins with eerie drones of a Floridian swamp at night - Azagthoth's playground, as it were - before the Herculean riffage of "Summoning Redemption" plows mercilessly through your skull. "At One With Nothing" plods in a slower vein and spotlights the signature tangential soloing of Azagthoth and guitarist Erik Rutan. Tucker's confidence shines through in his ever-deepening growl, a guttural malevolence that slowly burns through the living slime of "He Who Sleeps" (which harkens back to the doom-y "God Of Emptiness," from 1993's Covenant) and that duets with a scream-y Azagthoth on the mind-crushing "Secured Limitations." Rutan offers spooky soundtrack music on his instrumental "Awakening," but it's nothing that you haven't heard since this Hate Eternal moonlighter wrote "Melting," off 1995's Domination. Drummer Pete Sandoval continues his reign as kick-drum commando in the speedy "Ageless, Still I Am" and "God Of The Forsaken." Artwork by the venerable Dan Seagrave (most early Earache, NBA and Roadrunner death acts) forgives the misunderstood cover of Formulas, and the seamless production by the band and Jim Morris seals their wickedly heavy pact. The band's undeniable teamwork makes Gateways the year's best metal album, and with neighbours Monstrosity, Nocturnus, and Deicide having released career highpoints of their own, the cold black sun of Florida will glow anew for evermore. (Earache)