VERSUS: Illud Divinum Insanus vs. Nightmares of The Decomposed

VERSUS: Illud Divinum Insanus vs. Nightmares of The Decomposed

Welcome to another edition of Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal history, compare them to each other, and see which one was the better record.

It this edition of Versus, oh boy.....this is gonna be an interesting one. With Versus, we have discussed legendary and iconic releases in heavy metal. We have also put divisive records against each other. This edition of Versus, we are going to discuss two releases that are infamously considered some of the worst releases in heavy metal history. I wanted a challenge for this series, so I'm gonna try to pick the best of the worst in this battle I'm calling "The Better of Two Evils".

In this corner, we have Morbid Angel, with their eighth album, 2011's "Illud Divinum Insanus". Roughly translated as "Those Insane Gods", the album marked the return, and final appearance, by former original vocalist David Vincent, who would leave the band after this release. With the band adding industrial elements into their sound as well as elements of groove metal, this was a divisive choice that angered the fan base. Some claiming Vincent, who was in the industrial rock band Genitorturers, was to blame for incorporating too much of that sound on the record. Let's take a look at what makes this record one of the most infamous records in heavy metal.

Opening the album is the instrumental "Omni Potens". With a nice strings and brass section in the opening and drums punching through with the deep bass, it is a good opener. With distorted vocals by Vincent, with growls and almost tribal chanting and throat singing, it sets a great build for the record. We kick off the album with "Too Extreme!", one of the songs the band receives criticism for on the record. With thumping, industrial sounding electric kicks hitting over the main riff and industrial effects with distorted vocals on the verse section. Giving off a weird fusion of Rammstein and Ministry, but is at some points too much. When the distortion is off the vocals, the vocals are good and the mainly chugging riff sounds good, its just the industrial elements seem to hurt this song and a couple others on the album.

The following song, "Existo Vulgoré" is classic Morbid Angel. Straight death metal with great opening death metal clichés of blasting drums and awesome, classic death metal sounding riffs. Drums are mixed well and the pummeling double bass during the verse sections sound so good. Guitars are strong, giving off a classic old school death metal feeling and sound in the performance, with Vincent's vocals sounding great on the track. "Blades For Baal" is another similar track in the delivery. Continuing the classic death metal sound in the track with a great solo by Trey Azagthoth. "I Am Morbid" has a great opening with chanting and thunderous drums I could picture the crowd chanting. The track gives off a sludgy, death metal feel like something off of Domination-era Morbid Angel. Very simple riff on the verse section, almost a death n' roll/Machine Head sound at the chorus.  

The other "unique" track on the album is "Destructos vs. The Earth / Attack". The most experimental track on the album. Drums are very simple and the guitar riff is very basic sounding in the performance, its more Vincent's vocals that make it out there for Morbid Angel fans. The vocals are half growls, half robotic and have a monotone sound to it. Along with the industrial elements returning on this song, makes it one of the most diverse and out there track off the album. The following track, "Nevermore", returns to the original death metal sound the band is known for and is one of the strongest tracks on the album. I love the opening roar with blast beats behind it. The title of the song being screamed at the chorus with blasts behind it hits so good, and is one hell of a heavy track.

"Beauty Meets Beast" continues the heaviness and death metal sound the band delivered from previous records. The song does change to a midtempo, slowed down death metal feel, into the guitar solo and the remainder of the track. The final two tracks return with the industrial elements, but done in two different ways. "Radikult" brings back the driving electronic drum hits with the same industrial effects, but the song is another new spin for the band. With an opening similar to a heavier Rob Zombie sounding track, the song features thunderous gun shot sounding drums over another death n' roll style riff. Double bass and wailing guitars, into the solo at the halfway mark, brings a feeling of dread and a slow headbang feeling to it.  The album's closer "Profundis - Mea Culpa" adds more industrial elements aggressively this time into the song, but can again almost ruin the song, especially wasting the drum talents of Tim Yeung on the album and closes this creative endeavor.

In the opposite corner, we have Six Feet Under, with their thirteenth studio album, 2020's Nightmares of The Decomposed. Released during one of the worst years in human history with the COVID-19 pandemic, this record didn't help ease our minds from being in lockdown. Reaching notoriety for the vocal performance of Chris Barnes, the album has been torn to shreds by reviewers and journalists for the music and the vocal delivery. Some reviewers placing it at their top ten worst albums of 2020, even some say it could be one of the worst death metal records of all time. Let's take a listen and see if it really is as bad as everyone says it is.

Opening the record is "Amputator". A very heavy and driving opening riff with matching drums. I also love the song's build before....the vocals. Barnes' vocals just have almost no growl or grit in his vocals, sounding so dry in the mix. At some point it just sounds like he's trying to yell/bark out his vocals and force a growl, but it just isn't happening. Almost like his voice is shot or these are the demo tracks for the album, not the final version. Marco Pitruzzella's drums are strong on this track and throughout the album. The addition of Jack Owens on guitar brings more of a chuggier, death metal sound to the band, which is great. With the guitar solo at the halfway mark and driving drums, the band is at least delivering a good solid sounding track, ending with Barnes delivering his trademark "E" at the end of the song.

"Zodiac" starts with another good opening. Simple, but chugging riff with pummeling drums behind it. Barnes' vocals are "better" on the track with more gravelly and guttural sound to it, but when the music drops, you REALLY hear him lose that growl. The band, throughout this song and the entire record, do a solid job of still making that death n' roll sound Six Feet Under is known for. The trademark "E" pig squeal scream opens "The Rotting". I love the fretboard hopping of the opening riff into the verse section, with the band being louder then Barnes in the mix. Double bass punching through behind the wailing, almost classic heavy metal sounding guitar solo at the halfway mark.

One of the standout tracks on this album is "Death Will Follow". With that classic death n' roll sound and Barnes' vocals actually sounding probably his best on the record. The riff on the chorus with vocals sounding pretty guttural, with intensity added by the band, this is one of the strongest songs on the record. "Migraine" opens with a very bluesy/southern sounding opening riff and has a very hard rock feeling in the verse section with the guitar playing style. The rhythm section of bassist Jeff Hughell starts to show up on the track and becomes more prominent on the later tracks.

Then we get the infamously bad, almost meme worthy "The Noose". This song has a great, chuggy death metal riff, and the band performing a very simplistic riff, and then the vocals show up. Barnes is at his worst on the track. He is straining and struggling at some points to get the grit and guttural in the delivery, and with the drums being his backup is not helping. Almost causing a cringe feeling in the performance, resorting to his "E" scream near the end of the verse. The gurgly, swampy bass during the later verse section at the halfway mark and three quarters mark tries to help and adds unique texture to the track, but it's not enough.

Songs like "Self Imposed Death Sentence" are strong solid tracks, even with the vocal issues. "Dead Girls Don't Scream" is a repetitive track with the same riff playing for 95% of the song. Bass shines on tracks like "Drink Blood Get High" and "Labyrinth of Insanity" has driving guitars throughout the song with an awesome guitar solo near the end of the track. The album closes with "Without Your Life", with a thrashy opening riff and vibes similar to the album's opener, the album opens with Barnes' "E" vocal screech and the song brings this death n' roll album to a close.

After listening to these infamous records, which one truly is the better of two evils? If I have to choose, I would choose Morbid Angel as the winner. If you take away the two or three industrial heavy tracks, it is a pretty solid Morbid Angel record. Is it one of their best records? No, but it is a solid record, with just the hiccup of those industrial-heavy tracks that seem to taint the sound of the band. With Six Feet Under, Barnes' vocals just hurt the record badly. They could have done things like vocal layering like Behemoth used on their album "Demigod", adding vocal effects or distortion to help increase or add more growls to help, but with vocals that are this raw and dry, with no effects or mixing, sometimes even buried in the mix behind the band, it is a rough listen. It sucks, because musically, the band is really good, facing only issues with some mixing issues regarding being too loud at certain points, but musically it is a good record, it is just the vocals that really hurt this release and may have tarnished the band's legacy with this release.

David Vincent would leave Morbid Angel in 2014. Former vocalist and bassist Steve Tucker would rejoin the band and the band would return to a straight forward death metal sound with 2017's Kingdoms Disdained and the band has been touring as recently as this year. Six Feet Under are currently in the studio working on the follow up to Nightmares of The Decomposed, giving Six Feet Under fans hope that this new record will be a redemption for their 2020 record.

Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won this "unique" battle? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.

VS: Illud vs Nighmares - Online Poll -
What’s your opinion? Vote now: Illud Divinum Insanus, Nightmares of The Decomposed…

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