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Death metal is quite a varied genre. There are many different types and variants, but one of the more intriguing aspects is how this sometimes varies by location. For example, there’s the overly brutal, low-end heavy, thuddy New York death metal sound of bands like Immolation and Incantation. Then there’s the more high-end oriented sound of Swedish death metal bands like Dismember and Hypocrisy. And within that Swedish sound, there’s that melodic death metal sound that is focused around Gothenburg, with bands such as Dark Tranquillity, In Flames, and At The Gates (and for the love of Odin, please listen to The Red In The Sky Is Ours before ranting about how “awesome” that shitfest Slaughter Of The Soul is). But to me, the most important sound in death metal is the Florida death metal sound.
The general rule to getting into death metal might as well be this: listen to Altars Of Madness until you like it. It sounds elitist and retarded, but this is absolutely correct. This was one of my first death metal albums back when I was young, and it still stands the test of time as one of the best death metal albums ever.
Altars embodies all that is good about death metal, with aggressive, thrash-influenced yet still audibly death metal riffs all over the album, but with vocals that completely redefined what it meant to be metal. In addition, the sheer atonality implemented in this album clearly separated it from it’s thrash roots. The drumming, which may use many slower blastbeats drawn in from thrash, still operates on a much different plane than anything before it, utilizing many unexpected stops, starts, and off-time signatures, and a generally faster tempo than anything heard in thrash metal. The lyrics, while childish and juvenile in retrospect, were revolutionary in that Satanic/Anti-Christian sentiment didn’t exist on such a blatant level in metal before albums like this and Seven Churches.
This album is full of classic songs, but standout cuts include the opener, ‘Immortal Rites’, ‘Suffocation’, ‘Maze Of Torment’, and the epic ‘Chapel Of Ghouls’. ‘Chapel Of Ghouls’ in particular has a very interesting, unorthodox structure that really helped set the path for death metal to be more ambitious than their thrash roots.
But the most important thing about this album is that it is unrelentingly heavy, even by modern standards. These riffs stood the test of time. These vocals were the gold standard. This drumming is still uncompromisingly relentless. Even in times of more modern, polished production, this classic album is what death metal bands should strive to be.
Written for http://thenumberoftheblog.com/