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

Brandon Marshall

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"

Brandon Marshall

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.

Brandon Marshall

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.

Brandon Marshall

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

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