Morbid Angel: Illud Divinum Insanus

The soundtrack to the apocalypse? Perhaps. One of 2011's best metal albums? Definitely.  

Iann Robinsonby Iann Robinson


Morbid Angel

Illud Divinum Insanus

Season Of Mist Records


Somebody told me that the world is supposed to end on May 21st. If that’s true then we certainly have a soundtrack for it. After four years of nothing, Morbid Angel have returned with Illud Divinum Insanus an album that promises to rival any others for best metal record of the year. 


Sure there’s a lot of back story to the album but let’s forget that for a minute. Illud Divinum Insanus betrays a principal idea behind Death Metal, by not being dull. Unlike so many of their peers, Morbid Angel aren’t re-treading familiar ground nor are they sticking to the easy 1-2-3 rules of Death Metal. The songs have groove to them, there’s actual song writing going on here not just “hey watch us play fast”.


Illud Divinum Insanus is Death Metal only in the most tattered frays of the genre. Sure it’s fast, sure there are sick guitar parts and blistering drumming, but that’s not the entirety of the album. Morbid Angel are digging into deeper crates here and pulling out influences from industrial to thrash to old hardcore. Illud Divinum Insanus shatters the cardinal rule that implies Death Metal must be repetitive by introducing…gasp…dynamics. While the album does open with a silly “spoooooky” strings and horn intro, when the first track kicks in, everything changes. “Too Extreme” starts with a punk rock feel that quickly gives way to an almost robotic industrial vibe.  The drums and guitar slam over and over like a hammer bashing in a nail. “Existo Vulgore” follows “Too Extreme” and flips the switch by being straight, unabashed Death Metal. 


To the casual Death Metal fan, a song like “Blades For Baal” will sound like another track to head bang to. With a more discerning ear you can pick out flourishes of early hardcore as well as thrash. It’s clear Morbid Angel sees past the common ideas of their genre and strive for deeper textures.  “Blades For Baal” effortlessly combines these elements, all of which come to a head during the solo. As the album continues it becomes clear that each song is it’s own entity, which is what makes the whole record so effective, Often Death Metal albums sound factory built, with one song sounding just like the other. Illud Divinum Insanus counters that idea by keeping each song it’s own entity.


Illud Divinum Insanus is a meaty record, filled with small touches and little nuances that most Death Metal bands reject completely. You have to listen for them, Morbid Angel makes you work for the album’s essence, but it’s worth it once you get there. Don’t let my flowery words fool you, the record is very much a brutal sledgehammer slab of sonic Armageddon, but it’s also tasty. Some Death Metal purists will scoff, some will naturally jump on the “it’s not as good as (insert album)” bandwagon and if so it’s their loss. That kind of blind ignorance has kept Death Metal stagnant for a very long time.  


Lets get into the history. In 1996 David Vincent left Morbid Angel, shocking the metal community. Rather than folding up his tent, Trey Azagthoth soldiered on and Morbid Angel continued to make music. Vincent bopped around various projects, including his wife’s band the Genitorturers, Terrorizor and even Soulfly. Finally, after fifteen years, David Vincent has made a proud return.


While Vincent’s coming back to Morbid Angel is awesome, Illud Divinum Insanus is also the first album without longtime drummer Pete Sandoval. Sandoval was forced to step down after back surgery. Former Hate Eternal skinsman Tim Yeung filled in and does an amazing job. Still, it would’ve been excellent to see what Sandoval could have done with the record.  Regardless of what might have been, Morbid Angel has unleashed an album that’s sure to be seen as a turning point for the genre. Illud Divinum Insanus is a brutal record and a technical record but it isn’t a typical metal record. Morbid Angel have let the metal world see a glimpse of where Death Metal can go and I, for one, like it.