SummaryFrom greatness to messy experimentation
|5 (1 votes):|
Give everyone their due: this here is definitely intense. At least at first, before the initial effect and hopeful expectations wear off and the facade drops. The album is filled with furious blast beats and excellent drums overall, solid guitar work and real vocal presence from Tucker whose charismatic style fits the abrasive instrumentals. One could say it generally sounds mighty, however the problem seems to be more with the inspiration in song-writing. The band were definitely experimenting here after their previous seminal death metal records, where they might’ve felt like they needed to renew their sound and thus move on as artists. But it genuinely feels like they compromise the quality of the music by pulling in too many different directions and failing to capitalize on excelling in any one aspect. ‘Covenant’ was great, in part, by being utterly in control of its own destiny and by displaying great maturity in grasping fully what the musical concept was; to the point for example of producing an outrageously experimental and uniquely unorthodox piece of music like ‘God of Emptiness’, showing their command and confidence in their craft.
‘Formulas’ here sounds like just solidly executed Morbid Angel death metal instead. And not a whole lot more. There are no bad riffs, or few at least, but conversely also few excellent riffs that stand out. It’s consistent material, but not consistently great. Heads down, angry Morbid Angel death metal. It’s better than the average death metal record as most fans would agree, but seems to lack an edge like all of its predecessors had. It feels like one more album added to the discography, like it’s just the next chapter but it hasn’t added enough novelty or quality, or perhaps even effort, to make it nearly as iconic. Some tracks like ‘Nothing is Not’ in particular are trademark Morbid Angel, or the instrumental ‘Ascent through the Spheres’ really adds shine to the album as well as the (other short instrumental) eerie-sounding ‘Disturbance in the Great Slumber’.
There are also too many tracks on here, which only dilutes the quality overall. There’s a feeling of filler content during quite a few moments as many of the sections past a certain point on the album feel innocuous, like too little is happening – again not bad just average semi-inspired Morbid Angel material. That special sort of magic that had set them apart from the rest of the scene is no longer there. It would be difficult to argue this album possesses much of a mystique to it the same way all the previous ones did. This could’ve easily been so much darker in attempting to explore the depths of their sound instead of tossing generic Morbid Angel death metal the fans’ way. It really feels at times like many of the songs were conceived on one basic template with erratic blasts followed by a slower groove, and like the riffs are interchangeable between the tracks.
Morbid Angel would never return to their form of their early days starting from this point on. It’s unfortunate; this being one of the genre’s all-time absolute heavy weights; but their best was so clearly behind them after their third album only. Azagthoth was as brilliant a death metal composer as the world has ever seen to this day, but what was once profuse creativity quickly turned into muddy, messy experimentation and the man seemed to have lost his genius and ultimately, the plot.
Release date: February 24th, 1998
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