Morbid Angel Heretic

Untouchable and without peer, Morbid Angel continue their alphabetically ordered releases with their eighth album, Heretic. Despite the departure of long time guitarist Erik Rutan, the band has tightened the reins even further and generated a record that once again redefines Florida death metal just as Covenant did over a decade ago. Seething with technical polyrhythm, the first three cuts — “Cleansed in Pestilence (Blade of Elohim),” “Enshrined by Grace,” and “Beneath the Hollow” — serve as a wicked preface to the mind-expanding cuts to follow. “Curse the Flesh” features slower beats and fluttering riffs that recall the same from 1995’s Domination, while “Praise the Strength” heaves a Deicide-al gravity. But the band’s copious instrumentals give the album depth of scope much like that of ’98’s Formulas Fatal to the Flesh. “Place of Many Deaths” sounds like a horror-movie interlude with speaking-bursting sampled beats, and the misty “Abyssous” is their most ambient composition yet. The humorous “Drum Check” has drum nonpareil Pete Sandoval playing hurricane style while the recording tech checks levels, and six-string slayer Trey Azagthoth invokes Eddie Van Halen in the final solo of “Born Again.” Azagthoth is quite pleased with the album and the contributions of Sandoval and bassist/vocalist Steve Tucker. “‘Memories of the Past’ and ‘Victorious March of Reign the Conqueror’ were written and performed by Pete,” he says, “and he came up with this drum pattern for ‘Stricken Arise’ that was just amazing — all these blastbeats and rolls plus basic guidelines for rhythm that I thought were brilliant!” Many of the instrumentals arose from simple experimentation three years ago with Azagthoth’s guitar synth. “‘Abyssous’ has guitar synth in the background plus effects, then it has regular guitar added with reverse-shift delays,” he says. “‘Place of Many Deaths’ has syncopated beats and neat ways of mixing and playing with samples.” Though he is the youngest member of the group, having joined in 1997, Tucker proves himself a vital part of the Morbid crew. “Steve has expressed feeling in the singing on certain songs better than anything that had ever been in this band before,” Azagthoth says. “The production was definitely a team effort and this particular mix — how easy-listening it is, how all the details come through, how it sounds like Pink Floyd in headphones — I think that’s a winner.” (Earache)