The second and only widely available Divine Rapture album is the record Morbid Angel should have released when “Heretic” hit the market in 2003. While imitating Morbid Angel had been a practice dating as far back as the 90s, in the early 2000s it came to a peak with bands as Lost Soul, Myrkskog and Divine Rapture all releasing albums that were, musically and spiritually, inspired by the once relevant Tampa, Florida masters. One of the more poignant examples of this was “The Burning Passion” by Pennsylvanian combo Divine Rapture, who combined “Blessed Are the Sick” writing with “Domination” like production values. The student had become the master, it is unfortunate that the band would dissolve and its members scatter to various other and different bands.
The album starts off with the guitar noodling of the intro ‘The Kindling’, before giving way to the uniformly ungentle ‘Your Time Has Come’. The track forms the template of the material present on the album. The obvious influence is Morbid Angel, but the “Blessed Are the Sick” and “Covenant” riffs are far more mechanical and structurally denser compared to the original thing, they also are played at “Black Force Domain” era Krisiun speed, as is the album. A direct comparison can be made to UK death metal duo Mithras, which is quite similar in writing – and playing style, but are lyrically much different than this Pennsylvania outfit. The commonalities are hard to deny, however. The lyrics are far more personal, introspective and based in the internal world than Morbid Angel’s tirades about the Sumerian pantheon, The Ancient Ones and the Roman Empire. Only ‘Affliction Of Faith’ and ‘No Future, No Past’ both share superficial similarities with Morbid Angel’s usual anti-religious lyrics, although Divine Rapture clearly approaches them from a more personal – and direct perspective.
Half of the material present was re-recorded from the band’s independently released 2001 promo along with a cut from the band’s self-titled album from 1999. The renditions here are superior in every way. Notable is that the intro ‘The Kindling’, the interlude ‘The Deifying, The Sorrow, The Awakening’ and the outro ‘The Smothering’ are closer related to symfo – and more keyboard oriented variations of pagan – and Viking metal than the Florida death metal of Morbid Angel. Their inclusion isn’t really puzzling, as Morbid Angel is prone to including numerous instrumental interludes on its albums, but their stylistic deviation from the main portion of the album is bewildering and sometimes distracting. The new tracks ‘Your Time Has Come’, ‘Severed’, ‘Funeral Mist’ and ‘No Future, No Past’ are compositionally more ambitious, faster and more technical than the re-recorded early material, although all tracks are far from original as they conform to all the tropes and genre conventions associated with this type of mammoth death metal.
Recorded by Ron Vento (Aurora Borealis) at Nightsky Studios in Waldorf, Maryland Divine Rapture is graced with a thick but clear guitar tone that retains enough crunch without sacrificing anything of its concrete heaviness. The drums sound powerful enough, and while the kickdrums could have been more meatier, they are not clicky and of the “typewriter” variety as many bands of the modern era. The bass guitar isn’t really heard much, although the production overall is thick and heavy, so at least its present. A good deal of attention was given to the esoteric solos and the synthesizers. Overall, it is just below “Domination” in terms of production work. Everything is balanced expertly. The digitally rendered artwork by Daniel Allanic fits with the band’s overall theme, and the photograpy is a bit goofy with the band standing in flames, everyone looking mean and grumpy.
A glance at the line-up reveals all that needs to be said. The band consists of several mid to high-profile figures. Mike Hrubovcak would go to front both Monstrosity and Vile while being an acclaimed digital artist on the side. J.J. Hrubovcak would go to join Hate Eternal, Babak Davodian is Cannibal Corpse’s resident live sound engineer. Ryan Moll fronts the thrash metal band Rumpelstiltskin Grinder. Considering the pedigree of these members (and their various other commitments) it was perhaps for the best that Divine Rapture only released this sole album. Quality, after all, is far more important than quantity, which is something that few bands seem to understand in this day and age.
“The Burning Passion” was released in 2003, the same year that Morbid Angel released the uniformly disappointing, if not outright terrible, “Heretic” through Earache Records. Everything that that album should have been is present here in spades and without the excess fat that usually litters Morbid Angel albums. In Poland Lost Soul was steadily making its rise out of the underground and Behemoth was an established entity at this point, Mithras released “Worlds Beyond the Veil” the same year. Nile had released “In Their Darkened Shrines” the year before. Just to illustrate that bands across the US and Europe were releasing numerous albums that were plainly better than the band everybody supposedly looked up to in reverence and respect. Divine Rapture was one of these bands, and it serves as a curious reminder never to take the established brands or what releases they put out for granted, or without critical thought and examination.