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This album generally gets a lot of praise for being a huge influence on the death metal genre and a classic staple of early “brutal” thrash, which it is for the most part. However, in reality it doesn’t really hold up to similar releases such as Endless Pain or even Apocalyptic Raids, which was belched out by practically the same band (except for name and drummer) that penned this slightly more elegant, yet less exciting release.
Gone here is the unrivaled murky guitar tone and so-bad-it’s-good drumming of the previous effort of Mr. Warrior and co., and here to stay, for good or bad, is a much crunchier guitar tone and some drumming that is at least professional. The vocals are definitely unique, rooted firmly somewhere in the evolutionary process of the death growl, though they seem to lack conviction at times. This is probably due in part to the drunkenness of the lead singer or lack of sleep or something. Either way, the vocals could be better, but the fact that he butchers nearly every other word just makes it that much more enjoyable. Another very interesting characteristic of this guy, and therefore this album, is his tendency to throw in random “EUGH!”’s in the song that usually lend a hand in ruining the evil primordial atmosphere that issues forth from the speakers. Although sometimes it is kind of nifty, it is completely overdone here.
The riffs on this album are decent, although there are not a lot that really stand out, except the main part of “Circle of the Tyrants” and the ending riff-fest of “Visions of Mortality.” My main qualm with the music and guitar-work of this thing, though, is the sameness of it. The riffs don’t just sound the same, some of them are the same exact fucking riff. I swear. I call it the Morbid Tales riff. It’s at the beginning of “Dethroned Emperor.” It’s in some parts of the title track. Not that it’s bad, its just like a fucking virus or something. It is funny in a way, but the music suffers from this sameness.
The solos are nothing special really. They’re just way too much whammy bar stuff and squealing. Of course they do have a lot of attitude and a decidedly demented bent. It’s definitely better than the next album’s soloing though.
If this album gets anything right, it is definitely atmosphere. The sludgy crunch of the guitar and the strange bark/groan of Tom really project the feeling of things forgotten, things not meant to be mentioned, dare I say… things morbid? And these guys certainly do it better and with much more personality than most black metal bands do.
Highlights of this album include the menacing doom anthem of “Procreation of the Wicked”, the time changes and aforementioned awesome ending section of “Visions of Mortality” that surely influenced bands such as Obituary (just listen to the song Slowly we Rot), and last but not least, the mighty “Circle of the Tyrants.”
Overall, what this album lacks in aggression and energy compared to other pre ’86 extreme metal releases, it makes up for in mood and the outstanding obscure lyrics that were a definite influence on later bands like My Dying Bride. So if you are looking for some good early extreme metal or want to get into Celtic Frost, Morbid Tales is good for you. So go forth and prosper and listen to Morbid Fucking Tales or forever be a poser!
(And never listen to Danse Macabre late at night!)