Florida death metal legends Morbid Angel made the long trip out east, stopping by Singapore en route to their two Australian dates before heading back to Europe to kick off the festival season. The fans of Singapore and Australia only had a couple of song samples from the upcoming album ILLUD DIVINUM INSANUS (released 6 June in Europe and 7 June in America) to taste, while the European crowds will have a little more preparation.
As a warm-up to the Sweden Rocks, the Hellfests, the Tuskas, the Brutal Assaults, the Wackens and the Bloodstocks to come, they couldn’t have chosen a better spot than Singapore, where we saw the Malaysians, Indonesians, Thais, Filipinos, Indians as well as the locals turn out in force to catch the legends in possibly a once-in-a-lifetime show.
Our mini-contingent flew out from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, dead early in the morning to arrive in Changi, Singapore, well before lunch time. At the venue, we were fortunate enough to wander around the loading area where the band and crew were beginning to arrive from their hotel.
Tim was the first to arrive, while Trey and Destructhor were driven in slightly later. David Vincent strode in with a pair of sunnies and a bandana wrapped around his face. Perhaps it was just the dust he was worried about. It certainly wasn’t because he was afraid of being swamped by the legions of rabid fans (all ten of us – it was a working day).
The soundcheck took ages, starting from around 3pm to around 6, and the band were still not happy with what they were hearing. Tim was especially agitated, complaining that his levels were still not right when he had his sound “dialled in ages ago”.
The show was supposed to start at half past 8, and at quarter to, the crowds were still a little thin. Around 700 were expected, yet there were only around a hundred in the queue at the doors. The venue did fill up eventually as the working crowd started to trickle in.
At quarter to 9, the lights dimmed and the intro started to rattle the ceiling, raising chants of ‘Morbid! Morbid!’ from the diehard crowd, and the atmosphere got distinctly electric, even from a 700-strong mass of people in a giant venue.
Kicking off with ‘Immortal Rites’, the first song on their first album ALTARS OF MADNESS, was just a stroke of genius as the front row was belting out the lyrics together with David Vincent, who was in fine voice throughout the night. A born showman, he was the entertainer and the rabble-rouser, while the two guitarists were slightly more reserved. Trey did what Trey does, re-working his solos in fine fashion with his range of pedal and finger trickery, and I doubt if anyone saw his face more than once in the whole show, with that unruly mop of hair obscuring his features entirely.
Destructhor is pretty much my new guitar hero (and not just because he’s making the skullet cool again!), although he was even more static on stage than Trey. He’s not the flashiest of solo players, but my word can he pound that Dean Razorback on the rhythm playing. Metronomic accuracy and with the flurrying right hand of the gods imparting muscularity and chunkiness to the massive twisted riffs that Trey wrote back in the day, the guy is a rhythm playing machine, and I mean that as a massive compliment.
Tim Yeung is filling in for Pete Sandoval while the Commando recovers from back surgery. There is no doubt at all that Tim is ultra-qualified – you only have to look at his CV. However, I think he doesn’t quite fit Morbid Angel’s sound – he seems to bring too much urgency to the music, almost forcing it through. He also plays noticeably faster than Sandoval did on the records, and I’m not convinced by his rolls and fills. This is of course bearing in mind he had troubles with his kit, monitor and overall sound on the night.
In essence, the setlist was derived almost completely from the first three albums, with heavy emphasis on ALTARS OF MADNESS and COVENANT. I was a little disappointed that BLESSED ARE THE SICK was not showcased as much, and I would have liked to see ‘Dominate’ from the DOMINATION album as well.
But really, there was more than enough there to keep any old-school Morbid Angel fan happy. The old favourites were played, and ‘Angel of Disease’ was a pleasant surprise. The moshpits for ‘Lord of All Fevers and Plague’, ‘Maze of Torment’, ‘Blasphemy’ and ‘Day of Suffering’ were raucous and violent, although I wish the Asian tradition of doing the uber-gay hardcore shuffle in the pit would die away. What happened to good old shoulder-to-shoulder slamming, headbanging, and circle pits? Fuck your fancy footwork and get your hair flying!
The new songs. Hmmm. I know many fans are not too excited about samples of the new stuff, with the techno/industrial leanings and everything. Nevertheless, two new songs were showcased in Singapore. ‘Nevermore’ will be familiar to most fans already as the first single off the new record. However, Singapore was treated to the first ever live rendition of ‘Existo Vulgare’, and I have to say it received a much better reception from the crowd than ‘Nevermore’. I would even go so far as to say that die-hard Morbid fans would be pretty pleased if the whole album sounded like ‘Existo Vulgare’ – although you never know with die-hards...
Trey treated us to a seven minute ‘solo’ of sorts, in the middle of ‘Chapel of Ghouls’. He seemed determined to test the full sonic possibilities of his Angel of Death star-shaped Astro-X Dean guitar, sending piercing shrieks and unholy forced harmonics high into the dome above us and needling right into our eardrums. At the end, I picked my jaw up off the floor just in time to join in the applause as the band left the stage briefly.
Closing the night with ‘God of Emptiness’ seguing directly into ‘World of Shit’, Morbid Angel really couldn’t have done much more to please the Southeast Asian fans. Amidst the sound problems and broken bass straps, the criticism of the new album and the unfamiliarity of Tim Yeung as the new drummer, Morbid Angel stood tall and the show in Singapore will go down as one of my personal lifetime metal highlights.
Fall From Grace
Maze Of Torment
Sworn To The Black
Angel Of Disease
Lord Of All Fevers And Plague
Day Of Suffering
Chapel Of Ghouls
God Of Emptiness/World Of Shit (Encore)
A million thanks to Yazeed of Cynical Sounds who gave me the photo pass. Cynical Sounds are one of the few promoters in Southeast Asia to be bringing foreign metal bands over to our neck of the woods, and deserve recognition as true metal supporters.