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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Morbid Angel

Gateways of Annihilation

Review by Mike Korn

I wasn't expecting much from this release, as the venerable Morbid Angel, amongst the oldest of active death metal acts, has not been especially impressive in recent years. The last record "Formulas Fatal to the Flesh", the first to feature vocalist/bassist Steve Tucker, was resolutely average and did little to advance their cause. In the long gap since that record, newer and hungrier death metal bands like Cryptopsy, Krisiun and Nile have stolen some of Morbid Angel's thunder.

"Gateways to Annihilation" is a pleasant surprise. The material is a lot stronger than the "Formulas..." stuff and gives evidence of a band confident in its abilities and not willing to bow to every trend. Wisely deciding not to compete with younger bands as far as speed goes, Morbid Angel instead seems intent on writing tracks full of crushing power and sinister, majestic atmosphere. Most tracks stalk along in a mid-paced or slower mode but with Pete Sandoval's relentless double bass drumming providing an aggressive backbeat. This guy's feet move faster than a hummingbird's wings. Trey Azagthoth shows himself to be one of the more unique and visionary guitarists in death metal. His solos are unlike those of any other artist and his work on "Gateways..." shows some new facets to his work. Steve Tucker, somewhat ill at ease on the last record, settles in to provide some brutal growling vocals that still manage to be clear and understandable. Even better, second guitarist Erik Rutan has returned, adding some more depth to the Morbid Angel sound.

"Gateways to Annihilation" will probably not rip out the spine of the most rabid death metal fanatic but it provides some undoubtedly heavy and sophisticated brutality. It's a good effort from one of the fathers of the genre. I don't know if Morbid Angel will reclaim the mantle they once had of the best death metal band on the planet but "Gateways to Annihilation" won't hurt their cause any. This is one of their most powerful records.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2001 Year Book Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Kwazazu
This is just an intro that sounds like buzzing locusts. They shouldn't have been bothered to title it, as it leads right into the next track. 
Summoning Redemption
An epic bulldozer of a track, with that real ominous stalking feel to it, slower; doomy chords linked with swirling guitar arpeggios create a feeling of cosmic menace.
Ageless, Still I Am
Really choppy and nervous sounding, Azagthoth's guitar solos and fills skitter around like spiders.
He Who Sleeps
This is true death/doom metal, slow and deadly, with Tucker's guttural vocals belching out a Lovecraftian tale of menace. It crushes and grinds all in its path.
To The Victor The Spoils
Faster and thrashier than the other tracks before it, this is complex death metal, but not catchy in the least.
At One With Nothing
Another slow and doomy track, this is more catchy and accessible than "He Who Sleeps".
Opening of the Gates
"Opening of the Gates" slams into you with some brutal power chords. Weird and adventurous riffing is featured here, being one of the more unusual tracks. It features great soloing from Azagthoth.
Secured Limitations
This is made up of pretty sick-sounding death riffs, with a vocal trade-off between the growling, low Tucker and a raspier death vocal that is highly effective. It is pretty fast in spots.
Awakening
"Awakening" is a brief, ominous instrumental.
I
An extremely avant-garde track, this features twisting, super-choppy riffs but Trey's solos are absolutely weird. It is almost new-ageish in a couple of spots and not death metal at all. A mournful keyboard backing further adds to the track's uniqueness.
God of the Forsaken
A pretty typical Morbid Angel thrasher, this ends the record on a speedy note.
 
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