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I originally never knew what people saw in Morbid Angel, since I had only heard Covenant and Domination, both of which were given to me for free. The only song of theirs I liked was Angel of Disease, except for the part Korn ripped off and made into Ball Tongue. Then I heard Altars of Madness, and was blown away.
This isn't the Covenant and later era with the vocals that try to be too harsh and fail, the overused blast beats that don't blast, and the guitar work that tries to be catchy and fails. This stuff is right out of hell.
The vocals are more of a hoarse and throaty screaming, the rhythm guitars are played extremely fast with a very heavy downtuned sound, the leads are maniacal and straight out of hell, and the drumming is pure assault. However, none of it is overly excessive past the point of diminishing returns -- unlike the goregrind passing for "death metal" these days, the vocals are harsh and hellish, but aren't inhuman grunting and gurgling; the drumming is vicious and insane but doesn't drown out everything and steal the spotlight and do blastbeats through the entire album; the guitar work is brilliant and consistent, the riffs are fast and heavy, the leads put Slayer's dissonant style to shame, and the lyrics are truly demonic, not tacky drivel intended solely for shock value. This is Morbid Angel at its prime, and Altars of Madness is some of the finest death metal out there.
I'm always a harsh critic of the first song on an album seemingly no matter what, even though this song, Immortal Rites rules. I don't like the first main riff, as it sounds so... plain, even though I know it isn't. But after that, it picks up with absolutely crushing and chaotic guitar work, an unholy barrage of drumming, and dark and evil vocals. There's absolutely haunting tremolo riffs in this song reminscient of Possessed's Exorcist that adds to the theme of joining a race of immortals. Even the slower parts of this song are intense.
The introduction to Suffocation is just that -- absolutely suffocating, with a pummeling of drums, bass, and low-tuned guitar. The riffs are dynamic, the drumming bone-jarring, and the description of evil suffocating smoke, marching crucifiers, and its God forsaken victims is absolutely horrifying. At 2:48, with an "Ehhggh!" Trey Azagthoth releases an one of the most insane, hellish solos and suddenly releases the tension at the last second for a harrowing effect.
Visions from the Dark side incorporates the use of insanely fast picked tremolo riffs alongside bone-crushing bass and drumming throughout the song, laying the foundation for another nightmarish song from Vincent's bitter and hateful soul. Azagthoth and Brunelle's leads are screaming, chaotic, and nihilistic. This song is absolutely frightening and intense, and is one of my favorites.
Maze of Torment begins modestly somewhat modestly (though still heavy), only to betray it and go absolutely off the deep end. The drums receive a fanatical pummeling while the bass adds depth, with everything else in this maniacal song being a respite. Though the song does slow down a bit and doesn't remain full-speed and full blast, it never fails to be intense the whole time.
Lord of All Fevers and Plagues is the absolute incarnation of the Necronomicon. It cannot be put into a musical represenation better than this. It begins with an all out assault in summoning ancient deities with the legendary "Iak Sakkath Ia Shaxul Ia Kingu" chorus, and then goes into amazing lead guitar.
Chapel of Ghouls begins with crushing riffs and drums, immediately launching into an anti-Christian anthem. It intersperses the lyrics with killer nihilistic chaotic guitar leads before delivering with intensity lines such as "Dead, your God is dead, fools your god is dead!" Roughly two and a half minutes of destructive hell do not require words to continue the theme of the song. However the vocals return demonically as the tempo builds up in a manner guaranteed to make anyone religious cower in fear. The chorus and returns once more, and the song ends with a lead and a pounding that seals the fate of the chapel.
Bleed for the Devil is two and a half maniacal minutes of sheerintensity and insanity from all instruments. Your ears will truly bleed for the devil after hearing this. Damnation is almost slightly groove-based, but it still as intense and harsh as anything. It sounds light after the last three songs, especially "Bleed for the Devil," but the ass kicking does not relent.
Blasphemy will send you right to hell for listening to it. This song separates the true heretics from those who simply question their religion, for Matthew 12:31, Mark 3:28-30, and Luke 12:10 declares blasphemy of the Holy Ghost -- not even murder or rape -- to be the only unforgivable sin that ensures damnation. This song is absolutely ferocious, with the drumming inhuman, the riffs sheer crushing evil, and the vocals excellent and hellish once more as they encourage the listener to cross the line. It is one of the unholiest songs ever written.
Evil Spells isn't as intense as Blasphemy, but is a great way to end the album. Everything, as usual, delivers. Though the drumming is a bit slower for the most part, with pummelling dispersed when useful, the picking is fast, the bass driving, and the vocals pure evil.
This album is only 40 minutes long, but it's so intense that you will swear you have been listening to it for two hours. Though I might not like a riff or two because I'm picky, this album is entirely solid. To this day, with everyone trying to be "as hard as possible" it is still undoubtably crushing. It is legendary, and is a must-own.