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Relish in the Madness - 92%

DawnoftheShred, November 15th, 2006

I can still remember the first time I heard this album. It was the first death metal CD I’d ever heard and I had no idea what to make of it. My uncorrupted mind was unable to handle the signals it was receiving. Had I reviewed this album then, my score for it would undoubtedly be about 40 points lower. Fortunately, years of thrashing it up to some of the heaviest metal conceivable has enabled me to go back to this album with a far greater understanding then when I had first heard it, and after a complete re-listen, it has since become unbelievably clear that this is one of death metal’s finest hours.

Being one of the first death metal bands of its kind, Morbid Angel had not yet polished their sound to the standard issue 90’s death metal typecast. Instead, their first album displays a variety of influences as well as innovations. Most of the guitar work can be described as purist thrash fucking metal, with twisted, Slayer-like guitar solos that sound ripped from the depths of hell itself. The drums incorporate blast beats, but unlike band’s like Cannibal Corpse and Deicide, they are used sparingly and tastefully, providing an extra dose of extremism to punish the listener, rather than an over abundant abuse of a once original and destructive percussive technique (a crime that most death metal since has been guilty of). The drumming is one of the album’s highlights, with a variety of technical playing and dynamic tempo changes. Morbid Angel had a healthy understanding of true heaviness. Heaviness cannot rely on crushing riffing or pure speed alone; rather, it requires a delicate balance of memorable riffs and alternating tempos (though a killer tone helps a lot), both of which are incorporated to their fullest. The intensity here is mind blowing and the band knew it.

I’m very critical of death metal vocalists, they generally range from almost tolerable to utterly unbearable, but David Vincent’s rasps are far better and more sinister than the ultra-low cookie monster death gargles that their imitators (and later themselves) would adopt. The lyrics are dark and delightfully morbid. Combined with Vincent’s vocal style, they’re almost black metal in essence. So here we have an album that fuses the best aspects of thrash, death, and black metal into one horrifyingly potent amalgam that is unlike anything heard before or since.

The band’s later releases would pale in comparison to this absolute monstrosity. Few other death metal albums can stand up next to this one and not look like utter garbage. That says a lot about the quality of this release by itself. There really aren’t any weak songs on it and several are arguable as classics, such as “Immortal Rites,” “Evil Spells,” “Visions from the Darkside,” and “Damnation.” I still don’t understand the inclusion of the three remixes, as the only differences are a couple altered guitar solos, but it’s a hardly a strike against the remaining material. It’s pretty much an essential listen, even if you don’t get it the first time through. Eventually its twisted brilliance will occur to you and afterward you’ll be hard pressed to want to listen to anything less brutal for a long, long time.