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Earache Records must have had a lot of faith in their burgeoning new superstars Morbid Angel, to release this so early in their career. Perhaps if they had tossed this on the racks in the mid or late 90s, it might be more understandable, but I'm sure it sold enough despite itself to have been a worthwhile cause for them. So it goes without saying that this is not a new album, but a group of demo sessions that were originally planned as the band's debut in 1986, now considered just a demo by Azagthoth as they were never officially manifest. Through the years, the recordings had surfaced through bootlegs, so this was a situation of 'why not have the band and label making money if it's out there anyway?' Touche, motherfuckers, touche.
Ironically, though the recordings were produced by none other David Vincent, he was not actually yet in the band. This was a much different Morbid Angel roster, involving bassist John Ortega and drummer/vocalist Mike Browning, the latter of whom would go on to Nocturnus. Trey and Richard Brunelle were the only members that would go on to the amazing Altars of Madness album and the less impressive Blessed Are the Sick, picking up Vincent soon after this and Sandoval a few years down the stretch. If you're expecting some wealth of unheard material here, you will be sadly disappointed, because almost all of these tracks were revamped for the various full-lengths, even though some of the titles were changed. Three of them would be recycled to Altars of Madness: "Chapel of Ghouls, Lord of All Fevers and Plagues", and "Evil Spells" (the last titled "Welcome to Hell" here); three to Blessed Are the Sick: "Abominations", "Unholy Blasphemies" and "The Ancient Ones" (retitled from "Azagthoth", thus an egotistical namesake piece); "Angel of Disease" reappearing on Covenant, and "Hell Spawn" later dubbed as "Hellspawn: The Rebirth" and exhumed for Formulas Fatal to the Flesh.
Some good songs in that mix, undoubtedly, but they sound kinda crappy here. I'm actually a fan of Browning's vocals for Nocturnus' great debut The Key, and they're functional here too, but I find that the musicians (especially Trey's leads) are incredibly frivolous here, using too many effects and sounding like a giant porridge of unhinged excess. Vincent's production isn't really all that bad, but without exception, every single track found here is much improved with the budget and focus of the band's 'actual' full-lengths, so there is not a single reason to listen through this unless you're: a) just curious, or b) that obsessed with hearing Browning vocals over these cuts. There is one song here which has remained in oblivion, that being "Demon Seed", which has parallels to the Altars of Madness frenzy if injected with some straight up NWOBHM style riffs. Barbaric, sure, but not at all worth the price of this collection.
I've heard CD-R rips of the band's first few demos, and obviously this is a step up in sound quality from that, but I can't think of any reason to drop cash on this unless you feel indebted to the band and want to offer them more support. Alas, since they're not on Earache anymore, it's likely they would not receive much of it anyway, so buy an extra ticket to one of their gigs, or a t-shirt from the merch booth instead. As a window into the past, this is far from the worst thing I've heard, but these versions frankly suck when compared to the later studio efforts. Let's put it this way: the band didn't really want to put this out. The label didn't want to put this out as an official debut album. Such confidence! It wasn't really good enough for either institution, so why, by the tendrils of the Old Ones, would it be good enough for you? Because it has their goddamn logo on it?
There has been this ongoing debate between various parties regarding where thrash metal ends and death metal begins; some insisting that anything that came out before 1991’s climax of old school brutality (Cannibal Corpse, Suffocation, and others), others pointing back to “Seven Churches” and Death’s demos in the mid-80s as the starting point, while a third party might just merge the two schools into a Death/Thrash hybrid style. Right in the midst of this is Morbid Angel, whose occult tinged approach to the genre put them in a unique camp that tended to reach back towards the earlier proto-extreme of Venom, but with the virtuosic majesty of Slayer on speed, and a complex approach to song structuring that also looked forward to later technicians in both the death metal style and the Bay Area thrash explosion.
“Abominations Of Desolation” functions in much the same way as Schuldiner’s two compilations of demos “Scream Bloody Gore” and “Leprosy” do, as a portfolio of development of a style that was very different from its roots, yet also heavily immersed in them. It’s mystically esoteric subject matter and atmosphere do tilt it even closer into the realm of what would later define the 2nd wave of black metal than “Seven Churches“ or “Hell Awaits“, and particularly influenced Immortal’s middle era material. At the same time, the wildly technical soloing style exhibited by Trey Azagthoth surpasses anything heard out of either Slayer or Possessed at this juncture, and would be heavily influential on the slew of over-the-top Tech. Death bands who often confuse soloing with riffing. By 1986’s standards, which were far broader than the present day, this is the next logical step in pure death metal.
Although heavily revolutionary in many respects, this rather impressive manifesto of morbid occultism is not without its fair share of flaws. Mick Browning, though clearly a capable drummer, falls a bit short of really bringing the chaotic drum display needed to bring these songs home the way they were upon their rerecording on the better known follow up “Altars Of Madness”. Essentially what is heard is something akin to a slightly less proficient Gene Hoglan, lacking the tightness that would morph this into a somewhat muddier and more technical answer to “Darkness Descends”, yet otherwise putting forth a more technical response to “We Have Arrived”. His vocal performance on here is solid, although a bit closer to Quorthon’s sepulchral mutterings than the muddy ogre barks that Chris Barnes and Frank Mullen would later set as the standard for the genre, and even comes off as less deep as the dirtier shouts of Chuck Schuldiner and John Tardy.
From a song by song standpoint, this is among the more intricate and impressive projects to come out of the mid 80s, although as a whole it does come off as a bit disjointed and all over the place. Shorter offerings such as “Hell Spawn” and “Demon Seed” definitely look forward to the blurry swamp of decrepit chaos that would categorize death metal in the late 80s to early 90s, offering up an early version of the blast beat dominated quickie, drenched with rapidly shifting riffs and brief lead bursts. Longer songs such as “Welcome To Hell” and “The Gate/Lord Of All Fevers” tends to go back and forth between a harder edged version of early Venom and Sodom mixed with a slight bit of influence from “Haunting The Chapel”. At certain points, including the rather creepy intro right before “Chapel Of Ghouls”, things get theatrical enough to make one wonder how much Mercyful Fate was being listened to by Trey and company. Throw in a bass that occasionally gets active enough to upstage the guitar, and pure stylistic pandemonium becomes the only accurate description.
Along with “Seven Churches” and “Haunting The Chapel”, “Abominations Of Desolation” can best be described as a pivotal turning point in the development of extreme metal. The advent of bootlegging ended up giving it more legs than the band probably ever thought it would have achieved, seeing as the album comes off as pretty self-involved from a songwriting standpoint. It doesn’t possess the same consistency as other early offerings such as the aforementioned 84-85 pioneering efforts, or that of Death’s first two offerings, but it will likely sit just as well with other old school death and thrash metal enthusiasts who don’t abandon older innovations for an unquenchable thirst for this modern concept of brutality alone.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on June 5, 2010.
This is Morbid Angel's true first album, which went unreleased until all the bootlegs started circulating and the band just said 'fuck it'. I don't remember off the top of my head why it was shelved, but a listen to it does let you know the real reason; it's a much lesser beast than 'Altars Of Madness' ended up being and it's probably for the best that the band didn't start off on this rather wobbly note. The most interesting part of 'Abominations Of Desolation' is that calling it death metal would be a huge stretch; it's really just a fast, dissonant, occult thrash album, and since just about all the tracks on this one are found re-recorded on the band's first two official albums, it makes you wonder just how death metal those are too...
Then again, the performances do make a substantial difference on subsequent releases. Mike Browning is the weakest link here; both his drumming and vocals are mediocre, with the former being kind of sloppy and seemingly outpaced by the guitars and his vocals sounding weak and out of breath, a far cry from Vincent's demonic performance even though tonally they're pretty similar. The production is flat and lifeless; 'Altars Of Madness' had a similar sound, but it was dusty and malevolent whereas the mixing here is just painfully dry, sounding much more like a lower-midrange demo than a full-length album.
The songs are still pretty good but harmed by the lack of blasting and more intense bursts of speed that would come to define Morbid Angel's sound. Browning is literally incapable of blasting; even his fast thrash beats are shaky, like he just joined the band a couple months previous and the songs aren't intrinsic to him yet. As previously stated, all the songs on this release were later rerecorded for the first two albums (with a few notable exceptions), but the structures are actually fairly different from their more professional counterparts. The biggest change is in 'Unholy Blasphemies', a track which when found on 'Blessed Are The Sick' is a blast-heavy and brutal track is here instead a pretty waffling and seemingly incoherent thrash song.
There's a couple items on here that are a bit more curious; a pair of ambient intros that aren't found anywhere else, 'Hell Spawn', which would only finally see the light of day in official form on 'Formulas Fatal To The Flesh' in a pretty heavily revised form, and 'Demon Seed', which to this day is the only track from this album which hasn't seen a rerecording. It's not entirely surprising; it's a short little two minute number which is clearly attempting to be the fastest and rawest song on the album, but comes off as just a little silly and not very memorable due to the lack of instrumental prowess on display. My personal theory is that the general idea for the track was spun into 'Bleed For The Devil', which is a much stronger song. Consider 'Demon Seed' a loose prototype of what they were going for. Despite its mediocrity, it's probably the best representation of things to come for the band.
'Abominations Of Desolation' isn't really unlistenable, but it's not very important next to most of the other releases in Morbid Angel's discography and is really of interest to fans only. If for some reason you can pick out the thrash skeletons in Morbid Angel's work and desperately want to hear what they sound like in that form, by all means pick this up, but no one should go into this with the expectation that it's 'Altars Of Madness' 0.5. It's fun but altogether unnecessary.
(As a quick additional note, yes, this was recorded in 1986 and is to some degree ahead of its time, but it mostly comes in fits and starts and I feel that were it released in the '80s it would have been taken as an idiosyncratic thrash album more than a whole new beast entirely. It would turn some heads, certainly, but it wouldn't have redefined metal as we know it.)
I recently obtained a vinyl copy of the Earache release of the album. And I must have spun it five times daily for the past week. It's just the music I have been searching for now. I heard it earlier, back in 1993, but by then I had already listened myself "deaf" to the versions on Altars Of Madness and Blessed Are The Sick. And therefore I never bought it. I was a fool. But that's a long story.
I am back at rediscovering metal after abandoning it for many years. Now "Abominations Of Desolation" is to me the greatest record Morbid Angel ever did. I like Mike Browning's vocals better than any other vocalist they ever had.
The main thing that drives me crazy about this record is... *fanfare* The riffs! And also the compostions. And the frequent and totally mindfucking outbursts of lava! I have always felt that Trey Azagthoth's riffs and compositions (and soloing) couldn't come from this planet.
And now, recently, in an interview with Mike Browning I read, I discovered that Morbid Angel's main source of inspiration was The Necronomicon. According to M.B. they were totally obsessed with it, they believed it was real, and they performed most of the rituals described in the book.
"Abominations Of Desolation" was recorded in May 1986 with Trey Azagthoth, lead guitar, Mike Browning, drums and vocals, Richard Brunelle, rhythm guitar, and John Ortega, bass. The main reason this line-up couldn't stay together is, according to Mike Browning's own rumours; he caught Trey kissing his girlfriend, and he was young and foolish and beat Trey up. And that was the end. Too bad!
How to tag this album is difficult. It is somewhat inside a black/death/thrash context. It doesn't matter. One could perhaps label it "black/death/thrash" and be done with it. The Iak Sakkath Invocation is a nice way to start things off. It reminds me a bit of Slayer's Hell Awaits intro. Then Chapel Of Ghouls attacks the church, crushes the holy priest, turning the cross towards hell and writhe with Satan's flames! One of the best songs on the album. The drumming hasn't been mentioned. There is a certain nice groove at work here (on the whole album). This is one of the last bits of an era where one could still feel some kind of 70's feeling about the sound and production, where the metal really sounds old. Yet this record sounds very futuristic, in riffs, rhythm structure, solos... Occult science fiction, blends nicely with my images of The Ancient Ones in "Illuminatus! Trilogy". Sometimes I feel like the demons invoked from Trey's riffs are not only demons but outer space beings as well.
The next track, Unholy Blasphemies is not THE highlight of the album, but it works fine. I love the kind of beats and sudden subtle small time changes frequently found in old Sarcofago and also in Beherit. This record should be a goldmine to anyone into Sarcofago's I.N.R.I., Beherit's Drawing Down The Moon*, Necrophagia's Season Of The Dead, Necrovore's eh, that thing they did, Slayer's Hell Awaits. If anyone feel a similarity in sound to the last record mentioned (one of the records that introduced me to "evil" heavy music in general), that might be because Morbid Angel liked the sound of Hell Awaits and got the producer.
*Beherit is not necessarily very similar to Morbid Angel, but in some hypnochaotic satanic psychedelic super madness way, there can be a certain amount of similarity, especially in the feeling, and perhaps mostly because of the lava, in Morbid Angel's case.
Angel Of Disease, I think, would be my favorite track on this album. And then I could say next best about almost all songs, except Unholy Blasphemies.
Is there a point in describing all songs? They can all be summarized in this: "Insane riffs from some insane planet with extremely frequent outbursts of lava, erm, lava = guitar soloing, so fast and wild and out of this world that it makes everything else in this world seem ridiculous and out of tune. Simple, "primitive", groovy drumming. Catchy compositions, as soon as I've heard the record a few times I find myself eagerly awaiting almost every riff change, and especially when they, as so often, change the groove excactly when the lava erupts, I find myself eagerly awaiting, and almost orgasming inside when I hear those screaming guitar solos on top of those weird (and dare I say the G word?) riffs that make me bubble inside, for darkness.
This evil satanic weirdness straight outta the Necronomicon is the unpolished supergem in the Morbid Angel book. Haha, to think they took it for real and performed A LOT of rituals. I love that. And also the fact that Morbid Angel was Trey and Mike's first band. A virgin band! Their bass player and vocalist Dallas was sent to jail for a long time, that was the reason for the first line-up change. Fuck the police. But blessed are they also, for they in some way contributed to the chains of events eventually leading to the "Abominations Of Desolation" line-up which kicks so much ass.
The lava! The lava! Oh my god! There is no way for me deliver objective review (like the very idea of such was not condemned a long time ago). If this is to be called thrash, it is the most "death metal" of all thrash records, if it is to be called death, it is the most "black metal" of all death metal records. The atmospheres provided by Trey's riffs creates some of the most psyched out moments of musical magic that this brain is likely to receive. So they can not be described by me. They are so beyond words for me it's ridiculous. And I think I like it that way. That I can not comprehend how any earthly being could compose stuff like this, just adds to the listening experience. Gives me a feeling of something mystical, unknown, unreal. The riff that can be described is not the true riff, anyone?
"The Gate/Lord Of All Fevers And Plague" and "Welcome To Hell" are perhaps two of my immediate next best candidates, and of course "Chapel Of Ghouls" or "Azagthoth". But I like this album best from start to finish. And then again. And again. Side A. Side B. Both sides have intros. That's pretty neat.
Even though there is a similar sound throughout the record and constant weirdness, evilness and assault on the senses (lava, anyone?), one can find many different styles of music incorporated into that sound. Someone complained about a riff that sounds happy? Well, that is what sets Morbid Angel apart from a lot of other bands, and that's perhaps what makes their music so otherworldly in the first place. And as a fan of psychedelic rock, I just can't go wrong with that particular riff in "Lord Of All Fevers And Plague"...
Just a little more trivia: Trey Azagthoth said in an interview that one of his musical influences (apart from Mozart, guitar heroes and early black/death/thrash bands) was backwards music, and that he often tried to give his riffs and compositions the same feel one would get from listening to backwards music, that eerie, almost "perverted" (in some sick sense of the word) or even "satanic" world of backwards music, what a joy! I am so happy that people like Trey Azagthoth and Mike Browning were born and decided to make the most satanic teenage savage insane black madness ever. Thank you, O Ancient Ones, wherever you are!
Let "Abominations Of Desolation" be the fucking destroyer of this feeble little brain!
I'd never thought I'd see the day when I would put the band Morbid Angel in the same sentence I would put the word "Good". Yes, this is Morbid Angel, and it is good. Well, it's practically thrash. You have to think about when this came out, which was 1985/86, but this was some damn brutal thrash. This was before the stupid vocals, horrible drumming, and retarded downtuning. The production is a little rough around the edges, but it does the trick! Mike Browning's vocals are quite nice. Think Pleasure to Kill-era Mille although a slight more Morbid.....Saint-ish. The bass is audible, the guitars are a little low, but the tone is nice. Luckily there is no stupid grind drumming here.
We start with "Chapel of Ghouls" and a funny intro, but this is old school brutal death/thrash and it rules! It's actually pretty revolutionary for the time. Like "Bestial Devestation" and such. Highlights include "Angel of Disease", which also is on "Covenent", and unsuprizingly is the best and only good song on that album, but here it is played best. "Lord of All Fevers" has some really great riffs, as does "Hellspawn". Things here are really nicely developed. It's just all great Death/Thrash, there shouldn't be any complaints. Some stuff here really screams out Kreator, Exodus, Possessed, and mabye a little Mantas/Early Death. It really shouldn't be taken song by song, but more as one brutal slab of music like a Demolition Hammer album. A few songs would make it on to "Altars...", but everything here is just fine. They really should have released this in 85/86. Everything here is a winner.
Anyone who likes Death Metal or Thrash Metal, should really pick this up. This was best thing this band ever came up with, and shouldn't be overlooked. Very old school. If you're a fan of this band's later mindless bullcrap, you might not like this, but for the rest of us who like our Death/Thrash with balls, check it out. RECOMMENDED
(My first review!)
This demo album, though undeveloped and seemingly the work of teenagers experimenting artistically, contains most of the better Morbid Angel songs on the first three albums, including Angel of Disease -- the only good one from Covenant, in my opinion. For anybody who enjoyed BATS and especially Altars of Madness, this album is worth having to explore the origin of Morbid Angel's songs of harsh evil and brutality.
The album begins with an impressive theatrical summoning from the Necronomicon full of the "Iak Sakkath" chant, followed by an evil reverse-speech containing the usual lines of "I am the God of Gods" and other such things.
It quickly breaks into a slower version of "Chapel of Ghouls" -- and the first thing one will notice is the harsh, raspy, somewhat nasal voice of Mike Browning. He sounds very mean, but it won't impress anyone as remotely supernatural in nature. It is easier to understand than Vincent's, however, and the lyrics -- most of them are slightly different in ways -- are quite evil, although that makes me chuckle half the time when I hear things like "vomiting on the cross."
Though many of the songs sort of drone around in their sound, in a slower but nevertheless crushing sound in comparison to the later versions, the solos come out clear and are as blazing fast, dissonant, and insane as anything Azagthoth puts out in the future, and really stand out.
Angel of Disease, the only good song on Covenant, is on track 3 -- and since this album was recorded in 1987, this only sets back the date for when Korn could have copied the riff at 1:45 for Ball Tongue for those who would deny it. Since Covenant is only worth buying for that song, buy this instead.
Track 4, Azagthoth, is the older version of "The Ancient Ones," and has different lyrics in many places, though much of the song is the same. It's not nearly as catchy as the BATS version, but is good nevertheless.
Track 5 is "The Gate," which is a guitar and drum intro with Browning's evil laughter that breaks into a Lord of All Fevers and Plagues, which retains its solos and sounds very evil, even if the tempo is slower. It also has an almost happy-sounding riff that seems out of place and was moved later, but continues on as normal.
Track 6, Hell Spawn, really shows off some fast, fanatical drumming, screaming, and picking, and unfortunately wasn't done on either AOM or BATS, when it could have been very awesome. The somewhat repetitive chants of "I am Hell Spawn" is the only downside to this song -- it is awesome, and as fast as any of the later stuff.
Abominations isn't much different than on BATS, and is good.
Demon Seeds is good, but sounds a little too much like a Kreator song, and doesn't have the best evil lyrics, and seems a little redundant with the "twisting minds," "burning crosses," and "crushing Jehovah's church," but it's still loads better than everything after BATS, and about half that album too. It's fanatical, and brutal, but not the best one of those.
The last song, Welcome Hell, is a slow, dragging version of Evil Spells, with a speedup into a repetive chorus of "Welcome to Hell" instead. At about 3:45-4:20, there's a nice surprise that unfortunately wasn't in the AOM version -- it just goes insane and forces you to headbang!
This album would be in third place, after Altars of Madness and Blessed are the Sick -- anything else really isn't worth having. It's worth a buy, or at least a listen, if you're a Morbid Angel fan.