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Since having changed the face of death metal with their debut and inspiring a clutch of pretenders in the process, Morbid Angel returned to make their mark once again. And what a job they did, as Blessed Are The Sick is the equal of Altars Of Madness in most departments and it’s better in others.
An odd programming note: for some reason the band decided to fill the album’s first side with “new” or at least current songs, choosing to pack the flip with elder songs from their demo tape days, most notably their shelved 1986 album Abominations Of Desolation. In truth, Earache records would actually give “official” though limited release to that most bootlegged of recordings in ’91as well.
But whatever the track order, Blessed is a masterpiece of both its deathly genre and of metal as a whole. Firstly, the production is deeper, darker, and more assured here, lending a bleaker tinge to the proceedings. And while the album actually kicks off with one of it’s weaker tracks (“Fall From Grace”) it soon regains it’s footing. “Brainstorm” and “Day Of Suffering” are quick and grinding tunes that provide the extremity Morbid Angel were renowned for, whilst the slow, churning, methodical title track is not only musically sanctified with one of Trey Azagthoth’s more cerebrally deranged riffs, but also impressive lyrics and a haunting flute outro entitled “Leading The Rats.”
On the flip we delve into the band’s lo-fi past. Now dusted off and powered by this band’s premiere membership. Azagthoth and fellow six-string blasphemer Richard Brunelle lay forth the structures, as Pete Sandoval’s machine gun drum assault nails the proceedings to an unmovable inverted cross of might. Elder and classic cuts like “Thy Kingdom Come” and “Unholy Blasphemies” streak by with impressive fury, but it’s the immortal, sublime riffs of “Abominations” that remain the highlight here, as they did in their original demo tape incarnations. And no kidding kids, “Desolate Ways” (one of many brief forays that dot the album) is one of the most sublime and haunting pieces of music I’ve ever laid ears on. An acoustic guitar piece that expresses remarkable forlorn woe, it’s the single piece of music I want played at my funeral.
As if it wasn’t enough to revolutionize death metal, Morbid Angel proved here that they would also become among it’s most accomplished composers as well, writing material untouchably in their own intimidating style. Change would be the watchword for the band going forward and not all of it being positive change at that.