I'm sure everyone's got their own personal list of most-anticipated albums of '09, but there's really only one record I'm dying to check out, and that would be the forthcoming Morbid Angel LP. No street date is set, though the official site tells us this: "The band continue to work on the new album slated for a possible late 2009 release."
The real story here is that this record--which, in accordance with the band's alphabetical album-titling system, is almost certain to bear a name beginning with "I"--will be the first Morbid record since 1995's Domination to feature frontman David Vincent (at left). I know a lot of people were psyched on the first two Vincent-less MA records, Formulas Fatal to the Flesh (I know, right?!) and Gateways to Annihilation, but even after giving them each many, many chances, I still found them lifeless, boring and unmemorable. Morbid's 1986-1995 incarnation is one of the greatest RIFF bands in the history of metal and decently competent vocals (from Steve Tucker) aside, these later discs just didn't cut it in the songwriting department. None of the parts seemed to stick.
The outstanding news is that the band seems to be back on the ball. Morbid has been playing a song from the as-yet-untitled new record live, and it seems to actually measure up to the band's impossibly high early-to-mid-'90s standard. (Covenant *is* the best death-metal album ever made--probably the best that ever will be made. That's not up for debate, as far as I'm concerned. Domination isn't quite as blisteringly ferocious, but it's still a very fine and enduring effort.) There are a whole bunch of versions of "Nevermore" floating around; these five allow you to triangulate (that word isn't really valid when referring to more than three pieces of data, but you see what I mean) an extremely full and clear picture of what the track is all about:
[This first one--sorry, can't get the embed code to work--was officially endorsed by Morbid guitar wizard Trey Azagthoth, via his MySpace page.]
["You know, someone was askin' me the other day, 'So Vincent, what's goin' on with the new Morbid Angel album?'"]
[featuring Vincent's introduction of new Morbid guitarist Destructhor--also of Zyklon and 1349--and a really, really weird and nonsensical monologue about being a member of the "extreme elite," which I take to mean the Morbid Angel fan base]
[This one and the following vid feature phenomenally clear sound quality.]
Note the extremely catchy initial riff, which seems to come straight out of the Domination playbook, and the funny operatic vocal bridge, which nods to "God of Emptiness" and other grandiose Morbid breakdowns. A very sound--and in spots, fast as hell--composition that very naturally inhabits the classic Morbid vibe without trying too hard to ape it. It's as though the band is picking up right where it left off when Vincent departed after Domination, and completely ignoring the three interim albums, which is totally fine by me. (No songs from the non-Vincent records were played either time I saw Morbid live, in--I think--'05 and '06; again, totally cool by me.) Ol' Dave (or Evil D as he's called in his side gig with the Genitorturers, the S&M-metal band led by his wife--also apparently the project for which he forsook Morbid in the first place) looks pretty buffoonish these days with his pentagram-emblazoned nylon t-shirt and dyed-black hair (see above again), but musically, he's still got it happening. I cannot wait to hear what I really feel is going to be a return to form for one of the greatest metal bands of all time (and one of my personal favorite bands, period).
In other classic-death-metal news, the unstoppable Cannibal Corpse has recently anted up with the respectably fearsome Evisceration Plague (the title track--actually one of my least-favorite songs on the record--is streaming here). It's no Kill--the downright unbelievable 2006 effort that completely blew my mind and thoroughly decimated my perception of the Corpse as a fun yet fairly workmanlike, unimaginative and technically mediocre death-metal band--but it's still a lean, badass effort. And in keeping with the recent Cannibal Corpse trend of issuing documentaries--I'll say it again: Centuries of Torment is supremely rad, a sentiment shared by the Times' Ben Ratliff--Evisceration Plague comes equipped with a highly entertaining making-of DVD. Could the Cannibal dudes be any more unassuming or fun to watch? I think not. (Fun fact: Like Kill, Evisceration Plague was produced by Mr. Erik Rutan, Morbid Angel's second guitarist--and a killer backup songwriter--during the Domination era.)
Lastly, wish Hexa luck with their British tour, and read Calvin Tomkins awesome newish collection of profiles, Lives of the Artists.