Few death metal bands live on as long as Morbid Angel. Over the years, the Florida headbangers changed labels, parted way with their lead singer, and endured varying levels of popularity as their style of music fell in and out of favor among metalheads. Yet despite all the ups and downs over the years, Morbid Angel continued to make music, record albums, and tour extensively. In fact, before the release of Heretic in 2003, they'd toured America with the mighty Pantera and garnered more mass-market exposure than they ever had previously. It's not really a surprise then that Heretic sounds so lively. Veterans or not, Morbid Angel are anything but short on enthusiasm here. Their musicianship is as inventive as ever, especially that of guitar-god Trey Azagthoth, and their songwriting as impassioned as ever, especially that of lyricist/vocalist/bassist Steve Tucker. This is the sound of a band on a mission, a band with a sense of purpose. It helps also that Morbid Angel do more than just thrash away, though of course they still do plenty of that. While their songs are downright relentless, never slowing down even for the occasional mid-tempo bridge or solo, they do slide a few quiet interludes into the latter half of Heretic, some nice moments of eerie respite. Then there's the myriad hidden tracks that follow the 14-track album itself, most of which are nothing more than five to ten seconds of silence yet some of which sound much like the instrumental interludes found within the album proper. A bonus disc is filled with more similarly interspersed untitled tracks of silence and instrumental song-idea throwaways. While all of this suggests that Morbid Angel are triumphantly striding through yet another prime era of their up-and-down career, it doesn't mean that they've reinvented the wheel. They're still blasting out death metal in its purest sense if you discount their experimental interludes and bonus tracks, and while that's good news for purists, those looking for cutting-edge death metal aren't going to find anything revolutionary here. Morbid Angel helped establish the old-school death metal style back in the day, and they've kept that flame alive ever since, with albums like Heretic shining a bit brighter in the metal underground than others.