by Mark Kadzielawa
Morbid Angel has an incredible underground history, and one of the most dedicated fan bases around the globe. This death metal group, truly stands out for rebelling against any norms, and not following any trends. And they tend to push the boundaries and test waters to this very day. The band’s new album, "Illud Divinum Insanus," is a prime example of that.
Morbid Angel formed back in 1984 in Tampa, Florida, played with various line ups, out of which only Trey Azagthoth remains a continuous member. The guitarist pursues his vision of excellence through chaos, and his playing simply speaks for itself. After several demos, and one unreleased album, the group struck gold with “Altars of Madness” in 1989. Released on Earache, it was an instant classic. The album re-defined the underground standards, and is still spoken of very highly. At the time the group consisted of David Vincent on bass and vocals, Trey Azagthoth on guitar, Richard Brunelle on guitar, and Pete Sandoval on drums. Out of this “classic” line up, only Azagthoth and Vincent are still in the band today.
Morbid Angel continued to make extreme albums in the 90s, but as the years went by the classic line up started to deteriorate. Eventually, even singer David Vincent left suddenly in 1995. He was replaced by Steve Tucker for three albums. Steve Tucker left and re-joined the band on several occasions, but finally quit in 2004. David Vincent was persuaded to return to front Morbid Angel for a few shows, surprised by the intense response, he re-joined the band for good. Recently, Pete Sandoval, experienced some health problems, and was unable to perform or tour with the band. He was replaced by Tim Yeung, and additional guitar duties were assigned to Destructor.
In 2011, the revitalized line up made the, "Illud Divinum Insanus," album. And as with majority of the Morbid Angel's records, it’s a controversial release. The band pursued heavy industrial influences, which did not always fare well with the hardcore fan base. The album itself, is quite adventurous, and reaching far beyond what the usual expectations are. The fans however remain divided on the issue.
The band of course will continue to progress on their own terms. Vocalist/bassist, David Vincent, talks about his return into the Morbid Angel fold, and personal self-discoveries.
David, not too many people know what caused you to leave the band back in 1995. So, what really happened?
David Vincent: I’ve had some problems that I had to work through. I don’t like looking back. That was then, and I have a much better attitude right now.
I’ve known you for a while, and I know someone like you does not give up music easily. So, what did you do musically while away from the band?
No, of course not. I did a lot of soundtrack stuff, and some video games stuff. I was working and collaborating with some other people, in some different kinds of music. But, it was still music, I was always involved in something.
David Vincent who left Morbid Angel in 1995, and David Vincent in 2012, is that still the same person?
Same person, more evolved. I don’t know how to explain this other than (pauses). We have choices that we make in life, and there were some choices that I was making at that time, which were not useful for me. It got to the point, that the person that I saw in the mirror, I didn’t like. I had to separate things, and find my way.
Like a cleansing process?
Well, that’s a word that could be used, yeah. But I would call it a renewal.
A change in the life philosophy?
I wouldn’t call it a change in the life philosophy. there was a change in my attitude, and how I represented things to myself. And how I subsequently related to those things. And how I turned things that were very negative inside myself, as opposed to welcoming them.
So, you certainly had a lot of time to reflect on your life, and probably on what you’ve achieved with the band during your stay. When you look back, what do you think of?
I’m actually very proud of all the accomplishments. The whole band is still together, and we’ve done a lot. And I’m proud of all that. There was a lot of hard work. It’s really forging a path, through the forest, where there was really no path. We made a path. And to that end, I think it’s a really positive thing. I feel fortunate that I’ve had the opportunity to do some of the things. Not everybody has the chance to these things. We had a very good team, you know, talented musicians, very good management, some good record companies/business relations. And that’s what it takes. It takes all of these things. We were able to make some great videos. Anything that has to do with the idea of expression, and I know, people would love to do these things. But, it costs lots and lots of money, and when you have partners that are able to open doors for you, and allow you these avenues for creativity, that’s a wonderful thing.
You went from an underground demo band to be on major label, at one point, which is a great accomplishment.
Some of that is our of sort of “Stick-to-it,” and being confident in what we do. I can’t dismiss that fact the we did have a really good team in place, and everybody worked very hard. It wasn’t just us. It was our manager, it was our crew, our producers, our record company, everyone.
Was there a specific event that made you want to return to Morbid Angel?
You know, it was interesting. We were just gonna do a few shows. There was no plan for anything beyond that, and things just clicked. It went over really well, and I was a little floored by the response. I’ve been away from the band for a while, and it was humbling. It was a humbling experience.
How long did you play live before deciding it was time to record?
It took a lot longer then what we had, because it went from doing a couple of shows into several years of touring. The booking agents were going crazy, “Oh, Vincent is back.” And the next thing we knew, all of these festivals were asking us to play, and all of these doors were opening for us. Our management said that we should do this, and we did. It took a while, until obviously, the management negotiated with different record labels. The business had change quite a bit since, so there were a lot of factors.
What approach did you take with the last record?
I don’t know if it’s really approach. I mean, there’s a lot of creativity in this outfit. Trey had some really interesting new ideas, and I was like, “This feels really different and really fresh.” So, I wanted to do it, I was very much into what he was writing.
The new album takes a very bold approach, but then again Morbid Angel is known for taking such left turns.
I believe this! This is my belief too. Not everyone agrees, and they would probably like something that would sound like a greatest hits record, but we have those already. That’s not any new ground.
What new influences came into play this time around?
I would say for myself, I really turned inward. For my contributions to the record, I blocked out everything, and I sort of went secluded. I would write one day, and go and do it the next. If I found myself, sort of stumbling, or if it wasn’t flowing, I’d move to something else. I would not even want to think about it, I just wanted to feel it. And, I think Trey pretty much did the same thing. He spent a lot of time just working and creating the weird things. It came out different, not all together different. We’ve always had differences in our albums, but there is just more of it on this record. We started with, as opposed to hiding it in the last couple tracks, or little interludes.
Do you think the public has yet caught up to what this album is all about?
I think it’s still growing, and people tell me this every night. Listen, there were a lot of people who, when we put out “Blessed” after ‘Altars,” and the first song “Fall From” starts with a slow riff, and immediately, everyone said, “Oh, they slowed down.” And I’m like, “The fast stuff on that album is the fastest than anything we’ve done since.” But people, they hear one moment of something, and they make up their minds based on that alone. Now the album is considered a classic. And the same thing happened when we did “Covenant” came out, and “God of Emptiness” came out, and people were very divided about that. Again, it’s something that we can’t get away not playing, we have to play that song.
Looks like everyone has their favorites, right?
Yeah, some people tend to gravitate towards one record, and not the other. We’re just creative people. We put stuff out there, and things come and go. And it’s up to the people to decide what they think about it. At that point, my job is finished.
From the artistic point of view, what does the new album mean to you?
What does it mean to me? I mean, it means a lot of different things to me. There are a lot of varied emotions, and they’re all strong.
I think many fans are surprised not to find Pete Sandoval in the current line up. What happened to him?
Pete had some medical challenges, and he couldn’t play. When we got Tim to do the record, it was a deal, where not only was he going to be on the album, but he would be the touring drummer. By the way, he’s doing an incredible job. The guy is a very talented drummer, and I’m pleased that our schedules worked in such a way that he was able to do the record, and the subsequent tour.
When I go the extreme metal shows nowadays, I barely know the audiences. It seems like the scene completely turned around, yet the new fans remain very committed. Keeping that in mind. Do you see the returns of your hard work in the 80s and 90s?
Well, things go in waves. I’m someone who looks at staff, not as a genre. I mean, I like a lot of different kinds of bands. I see that things in the minds of many listeners, many of the fans, are very... There are subcategories, where someone would say, “I really like technical death metal, but I don’t like that some of that progressive stuff or I don’t like black metal, or so.” They have these little areas they say they really like, or don’t like at all. I like it all. I just like good music. I don’t care what the classification of the music is.
It brings me back to some of the reviews of the new album, when I hear people describe it as “unlistenable,” I can’t help but to laugh. I mean, there are chord progressions, there are melodies, so it can’t be considered unlistenable. I mean, I’ve heard things that are truly unlistenable in my life, but this new album is not among them.
Well, I agree, but then again, when my job is done, it’s up to the people to decide what they think of it. If that’s what they think then OK. They should have an opinion. I mean, I have my opinions too.
At this point in the game, what are your goals as a band?
I got to the point, where I had done so much, and this morning when I got up, I was celebrating because I got to be me again for another day.