Morbid Angel - Altars of Madness
Earache Records
Death Metal
10 songs (51:25)
Release year: 1989
Morbid Angel, Earache Records
Reviewed by Valefor
Archive review

Released in 1989, Morbid Angel's Altars of Madness is an album that cannot be ignored. Highly technical, flawlessly executed, this is Death Metal of the highest order. Consisting of Trey Azagtoth (Guitar), Richard Brunelle(Guitar), Dave Vincent(Bass/Vox) and Pete Sandoval(Drums), this would be the first of only two albums featuring this classic lineup. The album opens with a lurching, heaving backwards-masked piece, and right away you know that you are about to be consumed by some of the most molten metal ever unleashed upon mortals.. Galloping double shots, searing guitars and Vincents unearthly death whisper lock their jaws on to your throat, and do not let go until the last note of the album, and even then the scars remain. Without getting into a "blow-by-blow" account of each individual track ( every track is awesome), I will focus on the musical aspects of this exemplary release.

The guitar work of Trey and Brunelle is exceptional, the leads are blistering, highly technical, and tastefully manage to avoid the wankery which is so often the realm of soloing. The compositions themselves are complex and simple in all the right places, the bulk of which are handled by Trey, and are, simply put, a work of genius. The riffs have definite shades of classical music influence, indeed, Trey and Vincent list the likes of J.S. Bach, Mozart etc. as major musical influences. The drums are fast, precise and relentless. It is common knowledge that Sandoval is one of the top metal drummers around, and he does not disappoint here. The only complaint that I have is that the drums have a slightly mechanical quality to them at times. Dave Vincents vocal contributions are a little different than the cookie monster grunts typically found in death metal... though raw and harsh, his voice has an oddly caressing quality to it that sets it apart from the majority of death metal singers. Not much to say about the bass, it keeps up with the guitars, while supplying some harmonic accompaniment in a minor key at times, and has a distorted grinding sound, which I like. The production is clear and the instruments are mixed damn near perfectly, which is to be expected from anything recorded at Morrisound studios. This album does not display much of the trademark "churning" style found on later releases, rather it is a straight forward, essay in mind bending riffage, while still managing to be darkly melodic. The lyrics borrow heavily from H.P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu mythos, devil-worship, etc.., and the music fits them like a leather glove.

I am not a huge fan of Death Metal, in general, but if I were allowed to own only three CD's in the entire world, this would have to one of them. I first heard this in the winter of 1990, and to this day it still dominates my CD player. Bottom line: Listening to this album is not so much a musical experience as it is a purification by fire, and for those who have not had the pleasure of hearing this release, all I can say is, what are you reading this for, you could have bought it by now! Note: Tracks Maze Of Torment, Chapel Of Ghouls and Blasphemy are re-mixed and added as bonus tracks, though there really is not much difference from the original versions.

Killing Songs :
All of them
Valefor quoted 99 / 100
Shane quoted 80 / 100
Other albums by Morbid Angel that we have reviewed:
Morbid Angel - Kingdoms Disdained reviewed by Andy and quoted 76 / 100
Morbid Angel - Illud Divinum Insanus reviewed by Jake and quoted 86 / 100
Morbid Angel - Entangled In Chaos reviewed by Goat and quoted no quote
Morbid Angel - Formulas Fatal to the Flesh reviewed by Tony and quoted 84 / 100
Morbid Angel - Domination reviewed by Tony and quoted 81 / 100
To see all 10 reviews click here
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