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Review of the Album Altars of Madness by American Death Metal Band Morbid Angel

Updated on April 16, 2020
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Ara is a Journalism graduate from California State University Northridge who is always looking to explore his writing opportunities.

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Altars of Madness Is Lacking in the Production Department

Morbid Angel is one of those bands that I was going to write about yet again a few weeks ago until the urge to cover more heavy metal band resurfaced within me and here it is.

Their 1989 studio album called Altars of Madness is their first album and right away we can tell that the production is still kind of not as clean as later albums in the coming decades would be.

Altars of Madness Is Not Without Melody However

This is the time period when American death metal was solid enough to compete with the rest of the world. This album has melody that we would see in albums such as In Flames’ Lunar Strain in 1994. But in 1989, as the decade of the 1980’s was coming to a close, Morbid Angel had just started to make their presence felt as raspy vocals, double bass drumming and heavy death metal would be put to good use. I had planned to write at least two more album reviews and this one is one of them. There’s so many bands that a person can discover that it will never end.

A Brief Review of the Album Altars of Madness The Beginning & Style

The first song Immortal Rites lyrically talks about the “curse” of human life as immortality is supported. There is a definite Cannibal Corpse feel in this song but Morbid Angel is another one of those extreme metal bands so what can we expect? However, unlike Cannibal Corpse, Morbid Angel is more technical in nature in some respects though not always. Altars of Madness focus exclusively on speed at least for the first two songs. Stylistically as the album begins, the drums are fast but you can tell that because of the production, you can’t really hear this first track that well. The second song called Suffocation stylistically in the beginning in terms of the riffs and drums sounds a bit like the song Pain Divine which would come out in 1993. A good bass line is present in this song before it switches to David’s raspy vocals. So far at this point in the album, the score is at least 80 points! But that's when we analyze the first three songs.

"Lord of All Fevers and Plague"

Altars of Madness: the Other Songs

The song called Maze of Torment musically sounds like a song that Swedish band Witchery would write in 1999 as there is a laugh in this song and the lead guitars speed up. The vocals of David Vincent are not as audible in this album as they would be in the album Covenant which would come out in 1993. Upon the third time of listening to this album and trying to analyze it, the riffing is good enough and there is melody present however in these early days,

Lord of All Fevers and Plague is one of the weakest songs in this album as the vocals are of a repetitive, raspy nature and the song is just, well kind of boring as the same lyrical content about the extinction of the human race is present.

Morbid Angel fell into the trap of having lyrics about Satanism, evil, and death. Some listeners will not be able to handle Morbid Angel’s music because of this and if you are one of those people that has a hard time dealing with the lyrics, one recommendation I can make for you to listen to in place of this band is the band Death featuring the late Chuck Schuldiner. Those songs have lyrics which are better and more applicable to what happens in this world. The song called Damnation is one of the stronger songs in this first Morbid Angel album having the riffing and speedy solos to create a good 1980’s death metal tune and we would see traces of the style that would be on the album Covenant which would come just a few years after this album was made. The bottom line is that Altars of Madness is a decent death metal album for the band that is considered to be one of the pioneers of the early days of American death metal but it lacks that extra wow factor that would have put it into the elite category.

Final Score for the album Altars of Madness: 78 out of 100 points

© 2019 Ara Vahanian

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