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Evil, but not perfect - 80%

peer, September 13th, 2004

Morbid Angel is probably one of the biggest and most famous bands in the Death metal genre, their album sales are what you can call a small commercial succes. Appreciated by a lot of extreme metal fans, you can probably find at least one of their records in every Death metal fan's collection and with what they've made in their carreer, they certainly deserve it.

This is their debut full length. An enjoyable listen, but, with ups and downs. But it was surely a key album in the history of Death Metal after it's release in '89.

I shall start by saying that this record has a low budget production, but that is actually a good thing. I like this sound a lot : It sounds very raw and this adds to the evilness that is Altars of Madness. That's a major advantage of the album, it's very evil.
A big part in the evilness is carried by the vocalist; Morbid Angel has had quite a few vocalist, however I, and many other MA fans, think that David Vincent is clearly their best. His performance on this album is splendid, he doesn't have a deep growl, it's more something that I would call 'A tortured scream from an ancient ghoul' and this is exactly what he wanted, I'm sure of it. At certain points he even does such a good job that he scares you; Screaming out "Satan! In the fire of hell awaits" over a heavy riff.
The lyrics aren't very surprising on this album, they are pure evil and a chorus in the Ancient Sumerian Language certainly helps. You shall certainly find words like 'Satan', 'Evil' and 'Darkness' in the booklet.

The trump on this album is most likely the highly technical and outstanding performance of the musicians. I can't say that the bass is very audible except for a little mini solo in 'Suffocation'.
Two lead guitarists, that promises fireworks, no doubt. They certainly fulfill that promise, at least riffwise. Technical riff after Heavy powerchord riff and changing constantly, you will certainly remain entertained. I'm not saying that there is a lack of solos on this album, au contraire, mes amis. There are at least 2 or 3 solos or mini solos on each song, both guitarists do their part in the lead work. However they're not very memorable, if you took out all the solos and asked me to tell you which song they belong in, I wouldn't be able to tell you. There are a few exceptions, but generally speaking it's just speed and no melody and you probably won't be
humming these things whilst walking the streets. But they add to that typical Altars of Madness sound.

All my respect to Pete Sandoval, the drumming is absolutely sublime. Blastbeats, double bass and drumfills, all over the place. He is a very talented drummer, speed being his main power. If this doesn't get you headbanging, I'm assuming you're unfortunately paralysed.

Now this album isn't all lollipops and rainbows, there's a significant flaw on it. The lack of variation is very apparent. Apart from the chants in 'Chapel of Ghouls' and the Creepy horror sounds and reversed guitars in 'Immortal Rites' and perhaps the slightly more melodic riffing in 'Visions from the Dark Side' the songs are very similar. This probably rules the entire album out for people that don't like the genre. Melody is also something that you shouldn't seek on this, it has some hints of melody at most.

I own the re-released version, but if you already own the original it's probably not a good idea to buy this, it gets you a nice bonustrack : 'Lord of all Fevers and Plague', but the re-mixes aren't really all that different from the originals aside from slightly altered solos. Only for huge fans.

Recommended songs :

Immortal Rites: As described before this is a very evil song, you'll see

Chapel of Ghouls : Probably the best song on the album, with it's catchy (yes !) chanting section, evil lyrics and awesome riffs.

Damnation : Just a great song.

Conclusion : A great album, but with hardly any variation. Personally, I don't mind being hit around the ears with killer riffs and brutal drumming, but some might.

Recommended to fans of Old School Death Metal.