Morbid Angel is an American death metal band based in Tampa, Florida. The band was one of the original death metal bands signed to Earache Records, and was also influential in the transition of death metal from its thrash metal roots to its current form by incorporating guttural vocals, up-tempo blast beats, atonality in guitar soloing, and dark, chunky, mid-paced rhythms. They have been described as one of “the most influential and emulated bands in death metal”, alongside Cannibal Corpse, and have been cited as an influence by many later bands. They were also the first death metal band to experience mainstream success in connection with being signed to Giant Records in 1992, heavy rotation of their music videos on MTV, and having the music video for the song “God of Emptiness” shown on an episode of Beavis and Butt-head. Their first four albums are considered classics in the genre.
UK music magazine Terrorizer ranked Morbid Angel’s 1989 debut ‘Altars of Madness‘ first in its list “Top 40 greatest death metal albums”. Decibel magazine also rated guitarist Trey Azagthoth as the number one “death metal guitarist ever”. The band’s songs are complex in arrangement, owing to the considerable technical skills of both Azagthoth as well as drummer Pete Sandoval, the latter of whom also played in the grindcore band Terrorizer. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Morbid Angel is the third best-selling death metal band in the United States (after Cannibal Corpse and Deicide up until 2003 with sales of over 445,000), with their third album Covenant being the best-selling death metal album during the beginning of the Soundscan era time with over 150,000 units sold.
Altars of Madness is the debut album of Florida-based death metal band Morbid Angel. Bonus tracks were included on the CD version as well as the remastered 2003 release. These are remixed versions of songs from the album. 2006 saw a dualdisc release with the 2003 remaster on the audio side and Live Madness 89 recorded at Nottingham Rock City on November 14, 1989, on the DVD side.
The cover artwork, by Dan Seagrave, depicts “a flat disk made of a fossil material, that has captured souls”.
Immortal Rites—-Really having no exposure to this band, as much as I love Cannibal, I guess I’m a late bloomer…or a poser…lol. This, upon first listen is a pretty fantastic band. The vocals are not as guttural as many Death bands…you can actually catch some words. The guitar squeals are classic of the Florida scene….they all sound somewhat alike. the lyrical imagery is not as extreme…but it is very listenable. The different moods of the song are great…I can see why this is a ‘classic’.
Suffocation—-Right out of the gate the music smacks you in the face. The pace of the drums are absolutely incredible…..they pummel you right in the forehead. The vocal on this track has more of a dark and evil tone…the lyrics are very dark…as you would expect. What is amazing to me is how tight this band is….well practiced and schooled in the ways of Death Metal.There are great shifts in the music….the bass line appears very heavy at times and then clears for the leads. Remarkable.
Visions From The Dark Side—-Again, there is no time from song to song to give your brain a rest…..you are smacked..literally from the moment the song begins. The melody line that runs underneath this track is just incredible. So far…my favorite track from this release. The leads are a bit fuzzy…the voice not as clear…but the energy and aggression are simply palatable. This is fantastic.
Maze Of Torment—-A great bass ushers in the track……a literal wall of sound as the track progresses with huge power chords and incredible drums. The track kicks into high gear and then ebbs and flows…the noise and aggression is incredible. The vocal enters…..singing so fast you barely catch a word…but it is impossible to not be enthusiastic about the whole damn thing. Amazing. The shifts in the music…..really must take a lot of finesse’….I’m really impressed.
Lords Of All Fevers & Plague—-Right off the bat….you get the same treatment as you have been subjected to. The vocal comes at you so fast, this borders of pure classic Thrash. The drummer on this recording is just incredible…how a human can do that is beyond me…not to mention for an extended amount of time. The guitars are brilliant…..the bass line apparent but never overshadowing the leads.
Chapel Of Ghouls—-With a bit more of a structured sound at the onset of this song, I fall right into the delivery from the music. The chaos gets a bit more extreme as the song continues…the vocal and the lyrics are almost laughable at the attempt to be truly evil…with any band that falls in this genre’….one treads carefully as to how much they buy into. This is still fantastic aggressive music…the break mid song….the downshift of the instrumentation….really shows a lot of talent.
Bleed For The Devil—-Really aggressive from the first notes, the vocal enters rather quickly and full of venom. It is hard to catch the words…but it really is not necessary…the intent and song title are clear. The drums remain just incredible…the lead guitars soar above the bass line…but it is always there smacking you in the face.
Damnation—-The vocal growl that opens up the track in incredible….the music continues to blast your brain right through your ears…but you really never tire of the sameness of the recording. The band plays so tight, I keep shaking my head wondering how long these guys were kicking around practicing before they scored this contract. This is well rehearsed and delivered.
Blasphemy—-What sounds like muted gunshots opens the track and then the music enters to stuff you back into the blender of mayhem. This has an almost sing song vocal delivery that is really accessible…despite the aggression and energy. Really incredible.
Evil Spells—-Ending the release much as it started…unrelenting and full of an aggressive musical attack, the bass line here is just incredible…interrupted only by the classic Death Metal guitar squeals that shock your ears and make you shake your head in amazement. I can see very clearly why this is considered to be a classic……a fantastic listen.
****1/2 out of 5