It has been twenty years since Formulas Fatal to the Flesh first graced record store shelves, which still existed back then. That comeback album was the strongest statement from Morbid Angel after their initial surge of genre-defining creativity. It may have also been their high-water mark because everything since has shown a downward trajectory.
Kingdoms Disdained comes advertised as a revocation of this slump. This naturally leads to comparisons with Formulas Fatal to the Flesh, which was a second wind for the band that manumitted them from their downward spiral ushered in by Domination. While somewhat of a Frankenstein album, Formulas Fatal to the Flesh demonstrated that Trey Azagthoth could move forward without David Vincent’s strong public presence and leadership. It presented a new pathway for the band where they could take the music back to vicious death metal, but also initiated a slippery slope as the band became worse with each album following; it is better than Gateways to Annihilation, which is better than Heretic, which is superior to Illud Divinum Insanus, and now we see that even that reviled album is better than Kingdoms Disdained.
The most recent Morbid Angel is their worst album because it is service to the fans at the lowest level, namely that of technique and sound without the forceful and unitive songwriting that made the early four albums so powerful. Kingdoms Disdained consists of insipid groove-oriented riffs that twitch along like Janet Reno. Development is cast to the wind and the scarcity of imagination manifests itself as a vanguard of noodling. The songs are fashioned for the purpose of their manufacture rather than an expression.
In theory, Morbid Angel tries to capture the element of heaviness in their indolent chug riffs. However, texture alone does not provoke this kind of cognitive aesthetic; song composition does. The riffs feel broken and short-sighted, their horizon a fog-swollen wasteland in which no color is made clear nor distinct. The space to bear “weight” is not actualized in any capacity. As such, Kingdoms Disdained is the labor of a workman rather than that of an artist, a piece of furniture and not an architecture, with no vision uniting its parts so after repeated listens, they simply fall apart like puzzle pieces cast onto the floor.
At least, despite its stylistic confusion and commercial ambitions, Illud Divinum Insanus provides a better album than Kingdoms Disdained because at least that much-panned album tried to be something. The vision behind it was just muddled by too many contradictory impulses, least of all an attempt to be the new Marilyn Manson. Kingdoms Disdained has no vision. There are no cultivated ideas. Truly botched thing, it should not exist, least of all under a claim to death metal or the once-mighty name of Morbid Angel.