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Morbid Angel, Live in London

Florida’s death metal pioneers reconvene for Covenant

Leading tonight’s charge along the full death metal spectrum, UK marauders UNFATHOMABLE RUINATION [7] adhere to a strict diet of remorseless and frill-free, if groove and grind-ploughed brutality. There are precious few bands that execute this stuff with such braggadocio.

In contrast, the cheerfully veteran BENEDICTION [8] still kill the old-school way, their thunderous, mostly mid-paced attack scratching an itch for the diehards while exhibiting more than enough furious energy to drag everyone else along too. It’s particularly pleasing to see vocalist Dave Hunt enjoying himself in a way that his duties with Anaal Nathrakh necessarily preclude./o:p

Metal’s devotion to its own history is often misinterpreted as a refusal to embrace change, but the buzz that still surrounds MORBID ANGEL’s [9] forward-thinking and perverse approach to death metal tells a different story. Always a step or three ahead of the game, the Floridian legends revisit their third album Covenant in its entirety tonight and although 20 years have passed since its release, nothing about the likes of Pain Divine or God Of Emptiness indicates an embracing of cosy nostalgia.

Instead, these songs bristle with undimmed adversarial vim and otherworldly menace, Trey Azagthoth’s warped fretwork and Dave Vincent’s knowingly preposterous frontman shtick still wielding strange, inexplicable magic.

The venue is almost uncomfortably full tonight: particularly heartening for a band that spent their last album cycle being routinely informed that they’d lost the plot. The defiant look in Vincent’s eyes as he roars the first lines of Blood On My Hands say it all. Those insane levels of conviction continue to set them apart from their peers, both past and present.

A flurry of non-Covenant material, ranging from timeless classic Immortal Rites to curveballs like Existo Vulgare keep the oppressive but euphoric atmosphere at a dizzying peak until a final, cataclysmic Fall From Grace leaves a multi-generational crowd breathless with admiration.

The greatest death metal band of all time are alive and as awe-inspiring as ever. The Ancient Ones will be very pleased./o:p

Dom Lawson has been writing for Hammer and Prog for 14 intermittently enjoyable years and is extremely fond of heavy metal, progressive rock, coffee and snooker. He listens to more music than you. And then writes about it.