Review Summary: The album in which every other in the genre is judged by, for better or for worse.
There is a living continuum that flows through all of us, connects us together, but also lets us be who we are. It's just ever-flowing lava, and the inner rhythm that guides and commands us. It was always bound to happen, and somewhere in the musical mess of the 80's death metal was born. You could say the force of the universe gave us the creative mind to birth a genre of such musical genius that would later be labelled as one of the very few that still requires a substantial amount of talent to create.
In the early days, four-piece band Morbid Angel were one of the pioneers on the front of death metal. After a couple years since their inception they finally released their outstanding debut record Altars of Madness in 1989. They may have tried to play catch-up with fellow death metal band Death, but at the time I doubt they could care less. Altars of Madness was such a marvel in the way it combined the relentless riffing, spiraling solos, and purely evil-yet-enchanting vocals to create a brutal onslaught of death metal. They may have taken a couple cues from Death but it's unarguable how influential this band was. They essentially set the bar for every other death metal band to follow.
The lyrics are satanic, the solos are sporadic, and the drumming is inhumanly fast. This may sound familiar, but I assure you back in 1989 it was truly a breakthrough. However, it isn't exactly the late 80's anymore. Entering the year of 2011, I'm not sure it holds up in the same way. Even more is that Morbid Angel has composed some records that are simply better in terms of sheer quality. I give Altars Of Madness credit for practically being the reason why so many metalheads around the world wear the studs on their belts. Why they possess the patchwork on their jackets. As well as inspiring so many great metal acts in the process, but it might have been more because of their attitude and never-before heard lyrics at the time. Aside from a few classic standouts, most of the album is pretty repetitive and isn't the most pleasant listening experience.
Well... death metal isn't supposed to be pleasant, but even for someone who listens to metal on a daily basis, it gets a little boring. I will say the song "Chapel of Ghouls" has an incredible atmospheric section, "Maze of Torment" has a mesmerizing chorus and that "Blasphemy" is rather good on the lyrical front, but at the end of the day, it's lacking variety. There are moments in the songs that will strike you at first but once you listen to later Morbid Angel records, they'll begin to eclipse this classic. In other words, there is music that contains the same aspects but nails it better.
I cannot thank the men that started the death metal revolution enough, as they have sparked a flame in me. They have made me see another side of life; yet once I am done dissecting the endless riffs and pounding drums, I am compelled to give it a lower score than what is typically expected for this album. Don't get me wrong though, David Vincent sounds like an evil ghoul trapped in a echoey tomb, Trey Azagthoth plays a wicked guitar, and Pete Sandalov is practically a drum machine... and they'll only improve on the ever-building precipice that they now stand on... oh wait.