Dread Resolve
Morbid Angel live @ BB King Blues Club & Grill , New York City, 27 February 2005
by: T. DePalma
If it had been any other combination I would have stayed at home, all nice and cozied up with my pajamas still on; another quiet Sunday. Over the last five years, Morbid Angel (I'll speak only of the ever-permanent members) have become about as hum-drum as two supremely talented musicians can get without lapsing into oblivion. A limbo state; and about all I find myself remarking about them is that they're untouchable musicians, hoping against all reason and knowledge of bands that have followed a similar route to ashes that one day they'll release something great, and otherwise forgotten as a modern act. But upon hearing that the recently reunited line-up of Trey Azagthoth, Pete Sandoval and David Vincent would be playing relatively close, I decided to cough up the steep $33 dollar ticket price and head out for the show; exiting the cold dusk of Long Island for the deceptively luminous night of New York City.

I never had the opportunity to see live the core line-up for those first three records that impressed upon me so much and, if I'm allowed another cliché, thought I owed it to myself to hear those classic songs played live with the proper phrasing and spirit that they were always meant to have. This latest stop in the tour was the first of a back-to-back show at BB King's Club and Grill, located on the glittering concrete just surrounding Times Square. I stood yards behind the front entrance waiting patiently for the line to begin moving, entertaining myself by inconspicuously noting who was wearing who's T-shirt. While no doubt a large chunk of the audience were eager to take in the complete bill, and noticing a fair amount of combat boots and leather, the amount of Soulfly-wear (who Morbid Angel was actually supporting for this tour) was overwhelming. The bill's pairing is strikingly mismatched and provides amusing coincidence: a tour where one band's esteemed frontman returns from his concentrated work with what is generally agreed a lower quality project (or at the very least of little interest in even sampling), joins up with Max Cavalera's Soulfly -- whose current music is a dull and lampless journey away from all that was accomplished with Sepultura. While Cavalera himself remains an intriguing protagonist, I was, to say it politely, unwilling to give the band's live performance a chance after giving irreclaimable time in listening to each new Soulfly album. That hope that was mentioned earlier is a motherfucker. I left before they even played.

Inside the club, about a half an hour later, the dimly lit room began to fill up, and following a small promotional gesture by Q104.3 radio, the stage lights were set and the intro music began as Morbid Angel took the stage to a relief of cheers. Once Vincent, Azagthoth and touring guitarist, Monstrosity's Tony Norman silently assumed their spots above the crowd, in the background the half-visible shape of Pete Sandoval with mangled locks of drenched black hair lowered his fist to the drum, sounding the call for "Rapture". It took no psychic ability to guess what would happen in the next minute, as I heard just about everybody surrounding me explode with a roaring "Confront me!" as the band was fully underway with their set, which included "Pain Divine", "Sworn to the Black", "Blood on My Hands","Where the Slime Live" and "Day of Suffering". There was also a surprising list of songs from _Altars of Madness_: "Maze of Torment", "Evil Spells", "Lord of All Fevers and Plagues", "Immortal Rites" and "Blasphemy". David Vincent's mood seemed equally redolent as he spoke cordially of his band mates, offering praise of their talents. At times this would be as simple as a gesture in Azagthoth's direction while he played as he often does, looking oblivious to the world as he reconstructed his piercing, lancet solos on "Chapel of Ghouls" and "Dominate". The band also played "Dawn of the Angry", which, as far as I could tell, was still intact with the original lyrics (around the time _Formulas Fatal to the Flesh_ came out, Trey Azagthoth commented that this was one song he had thought about rewriting the lyrics to, alluding to the rift in conceptual ideas that arose between himself and Vincent).

After this fevered round of songs, the band said "good night" and exited backstage, fooling no one. Upon returning, Vincent, in what was probably a rehearsed but crisply delivered line, looked to the audience saying "you don't listen, do you?" With that, the band delivered their coup de grace of "God of Emptiness" and "World of Shit (The Promised Land)" in all of their seven-string, mood-crushing glory. An excellent performance marked not just by the music but by the comfortable manner of the performers, creating highly potent atmosphere that echoed through every note. For love or money (answer: it's always both), the reunited Morbid Angel is able to deliver something that transcends nostalgia and reigns among the aether. What was a classic remains so. I just hope they don't record another album together.

(article submitted 3/3/2005)

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