As lead singer of the only death metal band your mother might have heard of (she hasn't), Morbid Angel's David Vincent shoulders a not-insignificant privilege. Alongside guitarist Trey Azagthoth, he ushered the Tampa outfit through most of its two-decades-plus career into the first major label deal for a death metal band, past the (good-humoredly) upturned noses of Beavis and Butt Head, and into six-figure album sales. Morbid Angel won this success without any "just kidding" qualifiers attached to the profane imagery and rhetoric that betrayed its earnest involvement in magic and the occult. Both Vincent and Azagthoth attest to the influence of such far-flung pagan inspirations as ancient Sumerian gods, the Necronomicon, and... Tony Robbins.
Vincent, however, took a hiatus from the band after 1995's Domination and joined industrial metal outfit the Genitorturers alongside wife and lead singer Gen. He rejoined Morbid Angel in 2004 and, after a series of reunion shows (and maybe not the most celebrated comeback album of all time, 2011's Illud Divinum Insanus), he's back on the road celebrating his band's crown jewel, 1993's Covenant. 2 Minutes to Midnight spoke with him on Thanksgiving Eve, mere hours before he presented that record to a rabid crowd at Slim's.
You're one of death metal's most discernible vocalists -- who are your influences in terms of developing that clear, raspy style?
It's articulate. I always thought if you have something to communicate, you should be able to effectively communicate it. Obviously there wasn't a lot to pull from at the time. I always thought there was a way to be aggressive while creating an atmosphere.
You've always been a storyteller as well. What were your influences lyrically?
I drew from things like Edgar Allen Poe and Lovecraft. [Aleister] Crowley, to a lesser extent. I loved Book of Lies, but there's a lot of stuff that if you delve into, if you don't get his sense of humor, it will drive you mad.
You left Morbid Angel at its height in the mid '90s. What were the circumstances surrounding your departure?
It had very little to do with the band. I needed to correct a few things. I wasn't friends with the guy in the mirror. So I retreated from everything. I spent a lot of time alone in the mountains for a few months, thinking. It was an awakening. When you have challenges and you grow uncomfortable with certain things within yourself, you have to deal with them head-on. The challenges people face are real. Some people deal with them well, some not so well. Hopefully everyone gets the chance to deal with those things when they arise. In my case, I feel pretty good about it. I can't say the same for a myriad of friends of mine who let their challenges get the better of them. There's a lot of hospitals out there designed to help people get over these things. Some people find God. I didn't go those routes. It's a DIY situation.
You and Trey Azagthoth have been outspoken about your spiritual beliefs, going as far as expressing them in the liner notes of your records. What are your current beliefs?
I think we're all part of a continuum. This planet is part of a continuum. We all have our little red wagons that we push up our hills and we're all a part of this continuum whether we choose to be or not. I'm connected to it and I'm confident with it.
Many artists perform older songs, but it's rare to have a chance to perform a whole album of music from a specific period. What's the experience been like for you, digging back into Covenant like this?
I used to need a lot of anger to get to there, to play this. Now, I don't. It's all just energy to me. That feeling of exchanging energy with the audience -- that's my drug. I'm not a druggie for anything else but that. I'll meet people [on this tour] who will tell me they were in school or whatever when they first heard [Covenant] and now they're adults and they have a business or a career. They'll tell me that this music inspired something in them and helped them during a time in their life. That feeling of knowing that they heard something in this music that moved them to change -- that's more valuable than any check.
How does the metal underground of 1993 compare with that of 2013?
It's certainly more congested and a little more homogenized [now]. It's a lot harder to break out from the fray. There's things that are easier -- we have an Internet now that makes it easier for people to share their art with others without a record label. But there's a caveat: you have to get the attention. We are being marketed to 24/7, whether we like it or not. The average person's attention span is very small right now.
What's next for Morbid Angel?
Stay tuned. Anyone who knows this band knows that we never talk about anything until it's done. Right now we're performing an excellent show for some great people.
See also: Morbid Angel Celebrate Covenant, Can Do No Wrong at Slim's, 11/27/13