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Not terrible but skippable - 62%

Noktorn, March 1st, 2010

This is Morbid Angel's true first album, which went unreleased until all the bootlegs started circulating and the band just said 'fuck it'. I don't remember off the top of my head why it was shelved, but a listen to it does let you know the real reason; it's a much lesser beast than 'Altars Of Madness' ended up being and it's probably for the best that the band didn't start off on this rather wobbly note. The most interesting part of 'Abominations Of Desolation' is that calling it death metal would be a huge stretch; it's really just a fast, dissonant, occult thrash album, and since just about all the tracks on this one are found re-recorded on the band's first two official albums, it makes you wonder just how death metal those are too...

Then again, the performances do make a substantial difference on subsequent releases. Mike Browning is the weakest link here; both his drumming and vocals are mediocre, with the former being kind of sloppy and seemingly outpaced by the guitars and his vocals sounding weak and out of breath, a far cry from Vincent's demonic performance even though tonally they're pretty similar. The production is flat and lifeless; 'Altars Of Madness' had a similar sound, but it was dusty and malevolent whereas the mixing here is just painfully dry, sounding much more like a lower-midrange demo than a full-length album.

The songs are still pretty good but harmed by the lack of blasting and more intense bursts of speed that would come to define Morbid Angel's sound. Browning is literally incapable of blasting; even his fast thrash beats are shaky, like he just joined the band a couple months previous and the songs aren't intrinsic to him yet. As previously stated, all the songs on this release were later rerecorded for the first two albums (with a few notable exceptions), but the structures are actually fairly different from their more professional counterparts. The biggest change is in 'Unholy Blasphemies', a track which when found on 'Blessed Are The Sick' is a blast-heavy and brutal track is here instead a pretty waffling and seemingly incoherent thrash song.

There's a couple items on here that are a bit more curious; a pair of ambient intros that aren't found anywhere else, 'Hell Spawn', which would only finally see the light of day in official form on 'Formulas Fatal To The Flesh' in a pretty heavily revised form, and 'Demon Seed', which to this day is the only track from this album which hasn't seen a rerecording. It's not entirely surprising; it's a short little two minute number which is clearly attempting to be the fastest and rawest song on the album, but comes off as just a little silly and not very memorable due to the lack of instrumental prowess on display. My personal theory is that the general idea for the track was spun into 'Bleed For The Devil', which is a much stronger song. Consider 'Demon Seed' a loose prototype of what they were going for. Despite its mediocrity, it's probably the best representation of things to come for the band.

'Abominations Of Desolation' isn't really unlistenable, but it's not very important next to most of the other releases in Morbid Angel's discography and is really of interest to fans only. If for some reason you can pick out the thrash skeletons in Morbid Angel's work and desperately want to hear what they sound like in that form, by all means pick this up, but no one should go into this with the expectation that it's 'Altars Of Madness' 0.5. It's fun but altogether unnecessary.

(As a quick additional note, yes, this was recorded in 1986 and is to some degree ahead of its time, but it mostly comes in fits and starts and I feel that were it released in the '80s it would have been taken as an idiosyncratic thrash album more than a whole new beast entirely. It would turn some heads, certainly, but it wouldn't have redefined metal as we know it.)