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I still remember the time when I was hell bent on discovering the best bands out there either by collecting tapes or CDs. One fine day I walk into a record store and find this album with the cover art of a skeletal demon with the band name Morbid Saint and the release known as “Spectrum Of Death”. To be very honest I hadn’t the slightest idea as to what this would sound like. The label known as “Grindcore” kind of forced me to believe that this was either early death or something of a quasi grindcore along the lines of Napalm Death or Repulsion since this was also released in the year 1988, when death metal was still a fledgling genre. I still purchased this and gave it a spin as soon as I got home.
The starting riff was an instant pounder and I could feel a sudden rush of adrenalin the moment I heard it. I said to myself “These riffs are sharper than a razor”, purely because the crunch and hardness were almost unbelievable. When the vocals came in, it felt like screams coming right from the bowels of hell because these were some of the most vicious vocals I had ever heard. These were no low pitched growls or high pitched banshee wails but something that defied all probabilities of falling into a particular category. After listening to the album in its entirety, I was pretty much convinced that these guys must have been one of the hardest thrash metal bands of their time.
My curiosity didn’t end their though. After a few years, when the internet was starting to create a buzz across the planet, I looked up to see if I could get my hands on some valuable information pertaining to Morbid Saint. I was surprised to find that “Spectrum Of Death” had become one of the most sought after albums of modern time and that the group were from Wisconsin and had gathered a huge cult even back then. The situation these days is that this band’s become one among thrash metal followers all time favorites. It’s not too hard to guess why. The music is brutal, faster than Slayer or Dark Angel and the vocals once again are more like a harsher version of Kreator’s Mille Petrozza. The riffs carry that bludgeon of the teutonic style while still managing to retain a decent amount of rhythm similar to the bands of the bay area but without any influence of punk or crossover.
The tracks in here are all headbanging feasts sparing you no time to give your neck a rest. The opener “Lock Up Your Children” has that maniacal main riff and double bass thuds during the chorus likely to leave your ears permanently damaged for all eternity whereas “Burned At The Stake” is a short blast of frenzy with stunning riffwork and screeching solos. The follow up “Assassin” proves that these guys were not all about mindless thrashing as this one has a great deal of mature songwriting on it with an excellent thrash break in between alongside catchy lyrics. “Damien” is perhaps the fastest and thrashiest song on this album with over the top vocals and violently fast drum work. The remaining half of the album carries the same level of insanity with slowing down noticeable on only the 42 second instrumental which is pretty much the throwaway track around while the closer “Beyond The Gates Of Hell” has lyrics that can only be surpassed by the best death metal songwriters around.
Overall, a wonderful treat of an album for thrashers that came out just at the time when thrash was being played the run of the mill conventional style with almost every second band trying hard to sound like either of the acts that comprised the big four of thrash. The production is a bit on the messy side, but ideal for such rawness as a highly polished job may have not helped the band retain the sound they eventually got. These Wisconsin boys have created a magnum opus of sorts and it is highly and I mean highly recommended to all listeners of brutal metal. This is true cult and not the second wind of black or death metal.
Statutory Warning: Neck braces and hearing aids may be required upon listening for the first time.