There’s no ignoring Alchemy of Flesh’s Floridian death metal sound, so let’s get that out of the way from the outset. The force, groove, tempo changes, and, ultimately, heft of Morbid Angel is all over this debut. And that’s a good thing, because Tim Rowland—yes, this is a solo project—does a terrific job owning it and making it its own.
Ageless Abominations is a guitar-based album. The production, rightly, shines the spotlight on the riffs (and Rowland’s excellent, throaty growl). That spotlight comes at the expense of the drums. Under normal circumstances, that sacrifice is unfortunate. But it appears that Rowland used electronic and programmed drums here. No doubt, that choice is disappointing given how much livelier some of this material would otherwise sound. And that choice might turn some away from the record. Yet what is here is very good in spite of that.
Rowland’s compositions walk the fine line between density and accessibility. The immediate, hypnotic groove of a song such as “Sleeping Chaos” gives way to considered tempo changes. The interstitial transitory periods ease the listener into those tempo changes. And the carryover of one or two layers from the preceding passage give the song boundaries and form. This seems to be a universal approach throughout the record, one that helps separate this release from the countless others paying tribute to the Florida scene.
Not everything is quite so lumbering or mid-paced. Take “Lava Storm,” for example, where the riffs are just a step thrashier. The jolt in pace is a breath of fresh air, and executed so confidently that the change, as stark as it is, sounds organic. Songs such as this, as crisp and punchy as it is, make one wonder whether Rowland’s uniqueness of vision might suffer some were it not a one-person project. There’s a deceiving simplicity to Ageless Abominations, one that “Lava Storm,” in particular, illustrates. And the addictive quality that comes with that simplicity might have been more difficult to capture or achieve were other voices in the room.
Rowland’s video game and science fiction-based lyrics mostly fall on deaf ears—not because they’re not done well or innocuously but because I am simply not as well-versed in the lore as others. There are tributes to Tomb Raider, Silent Hill, and Star wars, among others. Charming, to be sure. And they do give the album some character, I suppose. But one could listen and enjoy all the same without even being aware that the tributes were made.
Ageless Abominations is stellar Morbid Angel worship, pure and simple. Rowland’s expertly executed vision here is hampered only by the e-drumming, an odd choice given the careful consideration he gave to every other element of the band’s sound. One tends to forgive such odd choices, however, when the riffs and growl are this good. It feels greedy hoping for more, given how fun this album proved to be, yet I can’t help but wonder what a follow-up would sound like with a live drummer.