By Mark Gromen
20 years since Covenant? Seems like only yesterday when I interviewed (ex-guitarist) Rich Brunelle, across town on the Blessed Are The Sick tour. Now, beneath a giant backdrop of the MORBID ANGEL logo, a pair scrims decorated with wood block carvings printed on each and four plumes of pressurized smoke shooting skyward, it was 'Rapture' to open. As always, the stage appeared to have invisible boundaries, each guitarist in one quarter and bassist/singer David Vincent afforded half the stage, either side of the center mic. Rarely, if ever do they cross into another's "territory." After 'Pain Divine', fog and green lights introduced 'World Of Shit (The Promised Land)'. The first song without photographers, 'Vengeance is Mine' and suddenly a burst of heretofore absent white lights, eventually changing over to blue. Stately, if not statuesque, Vincent is an imposing figure, center stage. He introduced 'The Lion's Den' saying, "A song about what used to happen to people."
'Blood On My Hands' sees the mutton-chopped bassist lit from below, often in red or green. Thus far, guitarist Trey Azagthoth had been fairly reserved, but appearing in spotlight, he finally goes into crazy histrionics. Following the Vincent approved "old school" 'Angel Of Disease', it was right into 'Sworn To the Black' with Vincent washed in aqua hues, as opposed to Trey, fittingly (in darkness). Speaking of old school, they performed only one track from each of the initial trio of albums. Truth be told, apart from Covenant, each release was afforded a solitary inclusion, including the controversial Ilud Divinum Insanus. Thus there was no 'Maze Of Torment', 'Blessed Are The Sick' or other perennial favorites. Second guitarist Destructhor (aka Norwegian, Thor Anders Myhren) looked like a pony-tailed Riff Raff, from the Rocky Horror Picture Show. After a pre-recorded 'Nar Mattaru' interlude, 'God Of Emptiness' saw the onstage color scheme switch between purple, blue and the ubiquitous red/green mix. In magenta, Vincent bellows "Bow to me faithfully."
The album completed, in order, it was time for a smattering of other material. Green lights were appropriate for the belched forth 'Where The Slime Live'. With band silhouetted in dark (deep?) purple, Vincent said, "It's a cold night, you guys are warming it up nicely." All but one of a quartet off post-Covenant records highlighted former singer, Steve Tucker's time in the band, although most probably would have preferred older, David Vincent gems.
For the 'Immortal Rites' encore, it was back to Altars Of Madness or as the singer joked, "Most of you were probably in diapers, or changing diapers, when that came out." Know they had a lot of material they normally don't air (ie Covenant in its entirety), but felt sort of unfulfilled in not hearing 'Chapel Of Ghouls'. Believe this marks the first time witnessing Morbid with that staple absent from the set, including abbreviated festivals gigs overseas! 'Fall From Grace', the lone Sick track blessing the crowd this evening, ended the night, in purple, with sporadic flashes of strobes.
All those years ago, who would have "thunk" it? Amazing!
More photos from Philadelphia can be seen here