Here's some background. It is fairly well-established that my growing up in the "Sunshine State" has impacted my musical penchant. Therefore, being exposed to a lot of the juggernauts that comprise the Florida death metal scene made its mark. I sure won't insult your intelligence by listing off the scene's pioneers. Let's just leave it at: Morbid Angel concerts were a regular attraction for me. Off hand, I can remember answering with my attendance Morbid Angel's particular beacon of brutality more than just a few times. Due to the time frame I lived in Florida, I was inherently thrilled to bear witness to the band's _Alters of Madness_ through _Domination_ era. Incredible times.
Presently and admittedly, I have never had the privilege to see Steve Tucker perform with the band, so getting the opportunity to discuss Morbid Angel with Mr. Tucker more-or-less completed the circle. Our discussion was detailed, open and frank, with a startling surge of enthusiasm on both our parts. I had too many questions and just so precious little time -- after all, there is -a lot- going on in the Morbid Angel camp.
I told Steve I thought this new album, _Gateways to Annihilation_ [reviewed in this issue], was the Morbid Angel album they were preparing their whole careers to release. "Excellent, man!", Steve rings in. "Thanks! We just wrote it from our heart. Three words I would use to sum up this album are dark, passionate, and vibe. That's what this record consists of." He goes on enthusiastically: "I think this record is extremely passionate and I think that shows. I think that is something that you instantly recognize: the passion. The vibe gives a constant flow of energy and it's amazingly dark." I highly doubt anyone having the privilege to hear _Gateways to Annihilation_ could argue with anything said there. Really.
Before I got to the intricacies of Steve's vocal approach on this record, I probed around for some of his influences. "Slayer!", he issues forth with no hesitation. "Slayer made me want to play music. When I heard the early Slayer, it just set me off. I went berserk. It started for me with Slayer."
Now here is the point that I bet you guys didn't see coming; what about vocal inspiration, Mr. Tucker? Araya? "No, man -- it'd be like Ronnie James Dio." Surprised? I was, too. Listen to his rational, though. "It is a matter of power", Steve instructs. "I know that a lot of people won't understand me comparing what I do to Ronnie James Dio, but there is a definite correlation -- it is about power." I sure can see what Mr. Tucker is saying here. Morbid Angel's worshipper of the man on the silver mountain emphatically continues: "He's brutal. I mean he's not death metal, but still one of the most powerful people I think I have ever heard sing in my life." That seems like enough of an endorsement and reason for me.
Now lyrics. You had a lot to do with them for this release, right, Steve? "I wrote them all except for "Secured Limitations"," Tucker affirms. "These are my words. They come from me. People have asked me, "Vocally, you sound a lot different on this record. Why is that?" -- I wrote these words, man." He continues, "When you are writing passionately about things that you feel passionate about, it comes across as passionate." This is ever so evident on this record, my friends. I don't think Socrates could have said it any better.
The drumming; A perfect punctuation to the material presented on _Gateways to Annihilation_. "We spent a lot of time on drums", the group's bassist informs me. "We spent more time on drums than Morbid Angel has -ever- spent on drums." Yea? How long? "Two straight weeks on drums", comes the reply. "That's unheard of. Usually it is like four or five days. We did sixty takes of some songs. [The band] thought it meant everything." Well, Mr. Tucker, it shows. You know Pete is capable of an eight-armed blast machine offensive, but instead Mr. Sandoval's caged furor is force like none other on _Gateways to Annihilation_. You'll have to hear it to believe it.
Trey's got another vocal effort on this one, too. Is there a threat lashing Trey's vocal efforts from "Invocation of the Continual One" (_Formulas Fatal to the Flesh_) to "Secured Limitations" on this release? "We did some cool effects to Trey's voice to make it seem super-seething", Steve tells me. "Trey wrote the lyrics and showed me the song by singing it. I was actually listening to his track [with Trey singing] and singing -my- track and then played them back. It was like, "Holy shit! This sounds incredible."" Most certainly, if you liked "Invocation of the Continual One", you are in for a special treat with "Secured Limitations". In addition to Mr. Azagthoth's improvisational guitar soloing on this album, his vocal effort makes his contribution nearly priceless.
Now, Erik Rutan; one of metal's hardest working souls. "He wrote the music for the last song, "God of the Forsaken", and "Awakenings" that comes in before the song "I"", Steve Tucker states. "Erik is an important part of Morbid Angel. There was a lot of shit surrounding _Formulas..._, but Erik did every single show for _Formulas..._. He was there. I mean, I have never done a single show with Morbid Angel without Erik."
I have to say that members of my fellow press corps who prematurely proclaimed the demise of this band due to David Vincent's departure and Erik Rutan's less-than-direct participation on some past Morbid Angel releases really messed-up in light of what Steve Tucker just filled me in on. Honestly like this is what I live for. That and maybe music like _Gateways..._.
Furthermore, Steve elaborates, "Right after we recorded _Gateways..._, Erik went off to record the Alas album [one of his two side projects -- Aaron] in New Jersey. Erik is a very important part of this band and one of my very best friends."
""Ageless, Still I Am" is a song that I don't think people are going to get the first few times", the formidable frontman elaborates. "There are some things going on in that song that are really, really obscure things that Morbid Angel has never done before." He's right, folks. I've gotten something out of that song... -nay-, the whole album, -every- time I listen to it. If you are a Morbid Angel fan like I am, I'll say this, I am buying another copy of _Gateways to Annihilation_ -- one for my apartment and one for my truck. I wouldn't want to be caught either place without a copy if... no!, -when- I get to needin' some potent death metal. As of right now, I dread the thought of having to choose between _Gateways to Annihilation_ and Venom's _Resurrection_ for my album of the year!