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I’ve professed my love of Morbid Angel before. To this day, Altars Of Madness is always the first death metal album I recommend to anyone new to the genre. It just embodies everything that death metal should be in such a perfect manner. What I haven’t touched upon is the fact that Morbid Angel was also a rather diverse band, both for better and for worse. While I appreciate their efforts in trying something different with their next albums, I feel that none of them even hold a candle to their debut. In many underground death metal circles, Morbid Angel’s first three albums are considered to be all high quality releases. I disagree with this notion. In fact, while I like Covenant quite a bit for what it is, I just do not like Blessed Are The Sick whatsoever.
Where do I start? Well, one of the most glaring problems with this album is its utterly thin and sterile production. The guitars have absolutely no life to them whatsoever, leaving every single riff sounding lifeless. Normally, bad production wouldn’t be much of a deterrent, but it literally sucks the life out of the music to the point of no redemption on this album. That, combined with the fact that the riffs are nowhere near as heavy, catchy, and thrashy as before leads to a stark contrast between this album and Altars Of Madness. The bass is practically non-existent, occasionally appearing, but not really adding the punch that it should. The drums just sound like shit. The kick is too clicky and thin, and the snare is just too artificial sounding, leaving the drums at the point where they sound like a child’s first drum set. Listening to anyone trying to play blastbeats with this sound is just depressing. Lastly, the vocals, while sounding fine, are just way too fucking high in the mix. They’re just distracting.
Now, to the music. As I’ve said, the riffs just lack the punch they had on Altars Of Madness. Even when they sound like they have potential, such as on songs like ‘Brainstorm,’ they just feel so inferior by comparison. But a larger issue here is that Morbid Angel changed their style of death metal to a slower version of what they originally created. Frankly, this just sounds forced and empty to me. Some bands can pull off this slower style of death metal exceptionally well (Fleshcrawl immediately springs to mind), but Morbid Angel just isn’t one of them. Songs like ‘Blessed Are The Sick/Leading The Rats’ could have benefited so much from a bit of their old songwriting style. Really, these songs aren’t that bad, they’re just missing some of the essential core elements of their sound that they established on Altars Of Madness. Hell, that section at 1:24 of ‘Blessed Are The Sick’ is great, but it just sounds like so much more could have been done with it. Hell, a meatier guitar sound might have done the trick, or maybe a slightly faster riff beneath the slow one would have done the trick. Whatever it is, I just feel like the bad moments on this album are insufferably boring, and the good ones are hurt by the fact that it’s so painfully obvious that they could have been better.
Some songs, such as ‘Thy Kingdom Come,’ retain the glory of Morbid Angel’s debut. However, the songs that don’t do so just seem to fall flat on their faces in my opinion. Of course, some of those songs are the ones written long ago and released on Abominations Of Desolation, so the songwriting changes that I mention on this album basically don’t apply to those tracks.
Whatever it is, something about this album just doesn’t click with me. The non-Abominations-era songs just sound empty compared to Morbid Angel’s previous work, and the production just makes this point all the more clear. While some of the songs are genuinely good songs, others just aren’t, and those are ones I tend to remember most from this album. I know that a lot of the death metal-loving population likely disagrees with me about this, but I just have never been able to like this. It just feels weak. Luckily, they made up for this a bit with Covenant.
Oh yeah, fuck the cheesy interludes. They’re garbage.