Review: Morbid Angel at Bluebird, 11/22/13

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MORBID ANGEL at BLUEBIRD THEATER | 11/22/13 Although this tour was dedicated to Morbid Angel playing its landmark third album Covenant in its entirety, the guys treated us to at least one song from each of its full-length releases. Before the band took stage, the lights went low and the spooky sounds that filled the room sounded like some sort of beast from the netherworld wandering around in a cave looking for prey. When the quartet strolled into place, the band went straight into Covenant with the opening track, "Rapture."

See also: Morbid Angel frontman's take on music: "I don't really look at labels. I like good music"

Morbid Angel is one of the pioneers of death metal. But while the band's sound has helped to define the genre, the outfit also has an impressive range that comes with an array of sounds, rhythms, dynamics and textures. David Vincent also eschews the much parodied "Cookie Monster" vocals. The guy can sing, and although his voice is intentionally distorted on his end, it has a musicality to it. You can actually make out the words he's singing, a fact that is even more obvious listening to the recordings in retrospect.

For this show, there were no throwaway, ripping guitar solos. The solos were blazing, disorienting, labyrinthine, twisting, which perfectly enhanced the sound of the song and boosted the emotional impact. There was a technical precision that you often hear in death metal and prog, but it seems like these guys just use that to write interesting music and to work in perfect synch with one another.

In a theatrical fashion, Vincent linked songs with banter that included portions of the title of the song to come. During "World of Shit (The Promised Land)," there was a section where the drummer was hitting the kick so inhumanly fast that it sounded like energetic tapping more than hitting hard with the low end beat. But the texture of that allowed the guitars to come in sounding even more menacing than would otherwise have been possible. "Lion's Den," meanwhile, had a surprisingly elegant guitar line that would have sounded great even without the level of distortion driving it. Not only was it striking, but it revealed the ability of this band to write melodic songs in an unconventional fashion.

Keep reading for more on the show, plus setlist and Critic's Notebook

After "God of Emptiness," Morbid Angel set about treating us to some of the best songs off its other albums. One of the most sonically interesting moments of the show came with "Ageless, Still I Am." The middle section had a kind of swinging quality to the rhythm, while the guitars cycled from a driving riff to a screaming, warped lead that sounded like the two guitarists were trying to tear the universe open. During "Existo Vulgoré," Vincent had a voice reminiscent of the feral, apocalyptic tones of Jaz Coleman.

Before the set ended with "Fall from Grace," the group played "Immortal Rites," from Altars of Madness. The tune, which the band hasn't necessarily been playing the whole tour, offered a crash course on how to play death metal. From the blast beats and roll of guitar screams to savage, chugging rhythmic leads and intricate and urgent guitar solos to vocals that sound like they're from beyond the grave, it was like getting to see and experience firsthand the root source of the genre.

Between songs, Vincent didn't skimp thanking and complimenting the crowd, and when someone fell down early in the set and people didn't follow the proper etiquette, Vincent gently told the crowd, "We all know that when someone falls you pick them up, right?" He never had to say that again, and you could see people picking up those who had fallen down in the pit.


Morbid Angel Bluebird Theater - 11/22/13 Denver, CO

01. Rapture 02. Pain Divine 03. World of Shit (The Promised Land) 04. Vengeance Is Mine 05. Lion's Den 06. Blood On My Hands 07. Angel Of Disease 08. Sword To The Black 09. Nar Mattaru 10. God of Emptiness 11. Where The Slime Live 12. Bil Ur-Sag 13. Ageless, Still I Am 14. Curse The Flesh 15. Existo Vulgoré 16. Immortal Rites 17. Fall From Grace


Personal Bias: I've been a bit of a fan of Morbid Angel since the late '80s before ever hearing the term "death metal." Random Detail: In true old school fashion, the band signed merch after the show and left plenty of time to do so. By the Way: Laibach did a Morbid Angel remix EP in1994.

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