I admit to completely overlooking Morbid Angel’s Gateways to Annihilation when it came out in 2000. I was probably too busy listening to In Flames’ Colony or something equally less-than-good. After Dave’s departure, MA rebounded in 1998 with the Steve Tucker-fronted Formulas Fatal to the Flesh. While Formulas… has certainly improved with age, at the time, it appeared to kick off a downward slide into awfulness. Gateways to Annihilation followed in 2000 with an equal thud and the unbelievably erratic and senseless “Heretic” seemed to seal their fate in 2003 (oh, little did we know what was coming next). While Morbid Angel has certainly wound up at the bottom (“Kill a cop”), neither Formulas… nor Gateways… nor even Heretic are what put them there.
I remember thinking at the time that Formulas… and Gateways to Annihilation lacked any kind of catchiness or groove and barely gave them a listen. I actually dug Heretic more than either of those simply because I could hear some songs going on between all the godawful keyboard nonsense. Long story short, I’ve been rectifying my error the past couple years and am slowly becoming more familiar with both Formulas… and Gateways…
My current feeling is that Formulas… is still very hard to sink into but Gateways… has opened up like a vast sucking void and seems to be revealing a lot of very interesting ideas within all that murk. Tucker’s wet-throated roar is more than just an adequate replacement for Vincent’s (who need I remind the court was sporting dyed black hair and vinyl shirts by this point) and the production somehow manages to be both raw and clear at the same time. The riffs aren’t catchy or anthemic at all and the whole thing strikes me as the swampiest, most atmospheric album in Morbid Angel’s catalog, but it’s nearly complete lack of hooks is exactly what gives it a rather ageless, emotionless, yet somehow still darkly spiritual feel. Little things like the loop of insect noise that runs the entire length of opening track, “Summoning Redemption” may be harbingers of the madness to come, but at this point, the voices in Trey’s head were still working for him.
Still not 100% sure how I feel about it, but it’s finally growing on me after 11 years. Maybe I’ll love it in another 4 just in time for the 15th anniversary.