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Now this album rocks my socks off. Sure, you could pretty much say the same for any of Morbid Angel's releases; from 1989's classic "Altars of Madness" to 2003's phenominal "Heretic", they have all been freakin' awesome, but this one is different. This one sticks on the mind like flat Ginger Ale would when spilled all over the new hard-wood floor. It's not that there is a specific element of this release that makes it more worthwhile than other such classics from the band, though there is a much more obvious focus on tempo-changes, with certain songs being all out thrash-fests and others being more subtle, death/doom numbers, as well as a more pronounced focus on "weird riffs" and a darker, more cerebral atmosphere. However, none of these elements are what make this album what it is. Rather, it's something deeper, and I know what it is...
Okay, I shouldn't have led you on like that. I don't have any fuckin' clue what it is, but what I do know, is that I like this album. I feel like it's one of Morbid Angel's most...well, most everything album. It's no doubt in possession of some of Morbid Angel's catchiest riffs (see: main riff to "Fall From Grace"), as well as containing some of the band's strangest musical ideas (though they are not even close to being as prominent as can be heard on "Heretic") (see: opening rhythm to "Abominations"). As well, David's vocals are far more varied on this album than on later efforts, featuring both the style we all know and love from "Altars of Madness" (as heard in "Brainstorm"), as well as the style he would later adopt for the bulk of "Covenant" (as heard in "Blessed Are the Sick/Leading the Rats"). He delivers both styles extremly well, arguably better than delivered on their respective albums! Come on, just listen to "Day of Suffering" and try to tell me those vocals aren't just fuckin' killer (note: this is not up for debate)!
The album is kicked off with it's most controversial track, the Intro. Pretty much, it's guitar distortion, some creepy industrial sounds (one of which sounds distinctivly like a steam presser), and some buried, infant screams (which add to the horror of it all, and serve as our first legitiment proof that Trey Azagtoth is actually a child molester). This is one of the creepiest intros I've ever heard, actually, (though Sodom's intro on "Obsessed by Cruelty" definatly gives this a run for it's money) and I can't begin to understand why so many people seem to think it's "retarded" (when I hear this, I think, have you ever heard of a band called Cannibal fucking Corpse? A song called "Meathook Sodomy"? Dare you to listen to that and tell me this is stupid!)
Anyway, this is when Trey Azagthoth really came into his own realm musically. Whereas on the previous albums, the riffs and solos had been done in a more traditonal sense, here he experiments more with other styles, namely thrash and doom metal, as well as some prominent classical influence in his solos and lead-work. And let's not forget those fuckin' instrumentals...the haunting "Desolate Ways", the disturbing "Doomday Celebration", the ominous "Intro", and the beautiful "In Remembrance". Rhythm guitarist Richard Brunelle is no weakling either, though. While most of the solos are done at the hands of Trey Azagthoth, every now and then the duo will trade off, leaving Brunelle to supply the shreddage while Azagthoth keeps the pace. A good example of this happening is none other than the unforgettable, yet painfully short solo which serves as the opening to "Abominations". What makes this so cool, is that there is such an obvious chemistry between the two guitarists, making it sound like they are really working together to create a cohesive work of art through the solos, as opposed to just pointlessly shredding way. As well, Brunelle is the man behind the utterly heart-wrenching acoustic piece known as "Desolate Ways" which appears towards the end of the CD (and is, unfortunatly, his only writing credit for the album). This alone should be proof that he doesn't receive even close to as much credit for making this band so amazing as he deserves.
Pete Sandoval's drumming is nothing beneath completly phenominal on this album. While most drummers simply blast on and on ad nauseum, Sandoval instead supplies a huge amount of variety, as well as still performing constant blast beats, giving us everything from groove-oriented odd-time signatures (as seen in "Fall From Grace"), to purist black metal blast beats (as seen in "Day of Suffering"). The aforementioned rhythm in "Abominations" is a good example as well, as is his all-around insane performance with "Thy Kingdom Come" (namely in the double bass department!). As far as tone goes, his snare has a distinct echo to it, which certainly adds to the epic aspect of the whole deal, and his bass drum...well, let me paint a vivid picture for you of how this bass drum sounds:
You're a solider in WWII. You're hiding in the shadows, in an alleyway, when all of a sudden you spot an enemy walk past a window in the building adjacent to your position. To get a better shot, you spring forth from the shadows and pull the trigger of your assault rifle. You watch as the bullets spray into the young soldier's body, throwing him to the floor in a violent blast of blood and guts. Before you can fathom what you have just done, that you have just sent a burning soul screaming into the void, you feel a sudden, sharp pain in your lower back. You fall down on your back, wounded but still breathing, shot by a sniper who was hiding in the church's tower, just a little ways down the road. Before the sniper can finish you off, however, a rocket is hurled in the tower's direction, sending bits of brick and cement flying through the air. However, before you can rejoice, a large chunk of the cement comes flying in your direction. Though it misses, it manages to hit a street light which is beside you, and as fate would have it, the street light falls, pinning you to the ground before you have a chance to get up. Then, you hear that familiar sound...that loud, mechanical, industrial rumbling which instills fear into the hearts of every soldier, regardless of which side they take. You turn your head in it's direction, and gaze upon the face of death itself. You see before you a tank, slowly rolling on, crushing all in it's path. You try to scream at the cold, demonic, monsterous thing, for it is all you can do before those metal tracks meet your flesh, and your burning, screaming soul shall be cast unto the void of eternity...
Now, imagine that the low, rumbling I mention there is the bass drum. While it is powerful and terrifying, it's a far cry from the fake, overly triggered bass drums of modern day drummers. As well, the tone fits the bass drum patterns like...like...like boobs fit the human hand. Yes, and I mean that sincerely.
Anyway, some people genuinly don't like this album, and while that makes sense, I suppose (I can see how some of these odd rhythms may confuse some of our more purist members, fuckin' sissies!), as a huge fan of this band I must say that I, for one, am in love with it. I feel like it's one of Morbid Angel's best albums, not only because it sounds fuckin' killer, but also because it doesn't try to make the other albums, like "Altars of Madness" or "Covenant", seem obselete. In fact, I think that this album makes me want to listen to those albums even more, as it contains significant elements of both albums fused together (the more "evil" elements of "Altars" mixed with the more purist death metal approach of "Covenant", for instance).
I suggest this album to fans of "Testimony of the Ancients" by Pestilence, "Human" by Death, "The Spectral Sorrows" by Edge of Sanity, "Nespithe" by Demilich, or any other Morbid Angel album. Fuck it, just check it out regardless of your musical taste. It's got a little bit for everyone.