It has always been a long argument who were the pioneers of Death Metal, some claim SLAYER, a lot POSSESSED and if you ask another ten people you might get ten differing opinions. What I don’t think is up for debate is that MORBID ANGEL, along with fellow Floridians DEATH, influenced legions of bands who followed in their tracks and took the mantle of Death upon themselves. One of the key aspects of this was like Chuck Schuldiner, Trey Azagthoth put his undeniable stamp on guitar playing in the genre and again those who followed were never the same, with his ethereal soloing and tendency to rely on licks and slow passages of riffs instead of flat out shredding. The band’s debut, “Altars Of Madness”, conveys their sensibilities perfectly, conjoining harshness with an Azagthoth’s playing which stops just short of what would pass as melody in brutal Death Metal. If you’ve ever see MA live you know that even almost 20 years later these songs hold up with the band almost always churning out “Lord Of All Fevers And Plagues”, “Maze Of Torment”, and “Chapel Of Ghouls” in their set; if you want to see a band play old songs with enthusiasm see MORBID ANGEL, they kill!
It would be easy to just let Azagthoth’s playing alone stand as a testament to the brilliance of the album but add to that David Vincent’s superb vocals and bass lines and you have a fantastic match. But what pushes the album completely over the edge into legendary status is Pete Sandoval’s sensational percussion on the record. Altogether these elements make cuts like the aforementioned “Chapel Of Ghouls” unmistakable classics of Death. This is one of MORBID ANGEL’s faster albums, which is customary for many band’s when they start out, and it wouldn’t be until “Domination” we would hear the band really start to slow down and experiment with far more measured and crunching passages of Death (although one might disagree there). Still, “Altars Of Madness” is like I said in my recent review of MALEVOLENT CREATION’s “The Ten Commandments, a classic and should be in every true Death Metal fan’s collection. The 2002 re-release only adds to this, with a polished sound and an added video track from their infamous first European tour. What the fuck are you reading this for? Go order the bloody album now!
(Online April 14, 2008)