Morbid Angel
Altars of Madness


2.0
poor

Review

by dopevoid USER (2 Reviews)
April 5th, 2014 | 88 replies | 2,257 views


Release Date: 1989 | Tracklist

Review Summary: Influential? Of course. Good? Hardly.

14 of 26 thought this review was well written

Morbid Angel's 1989 offering Altars of Madness is widely regarded as a death metal classic. However, this reputation is completely baseless. Altars of Madness is the kind of album that nobody would care about if they heard it for the first time today. This wasn't even that special when it was released. By '89, Death had already released two albums and every haircut-refusing teenager in Florida was in a death metal band. Death metal was still a fledgling genre though, and any big stylistic changes would be signs of absolute genius. Altars of Madness is regarded more highly than the middle-'90s Death albums that actually displayed these musical revelations.

Drummer Pete Sandoval is easily the best part of Morbid Angel, as his drumming is impeccable. Sandoval holds the ramshackle group together with cleanly executed blast beats, snare rolls, and semi-technical drum fills. He's an excellent drummer, and this is displayed most clearly in his work with deathgrind legend Terrorizer. If the same could be said for the rest of Morbid Angel, this album's reputation might be warranted.

The next most proficient member of the group is vocalist/bassist David Vincent. His bass playing is either inaudible or very rudimentary work save for a short bass solo in Suffocation. However, his vocals are decent. His screams, shouts, and yelps are your standard old school death metal fare, and are completely unremarkable but not a weak point. However, one of the first glaring flaws with Altars of Madness is Vincent's lyrics. Most of Vincent's lyrics revolve around "the lord of plague," "the feeble church," and the "call of evil." In Lord of All Fevers and Plague, he breaks out into what appears to be a prayer to Cthulu:

"Ia iak sakkakh iak sakkakth
Ia shaxul
Ia kingu ia cthulu ia azbul
Ia azabua"

His lyrics are adolescent but passable at best, and downright silly at worst. Death metal isn't exactly the kind of music that should sport "silly" lyrics, yet Vincent's lyrics remain entirely in that realm.

Morbid Angel's guitar work is adequate, but is often lauded as some of the best guitar work in early death metal. This claim is downright laughable. While the riffs early on range from respectable to great, by the fifth track Morbid Angel is already treading water and gasping for ideas. Solos permeate just about every song, and while there's nothing wrong with solos, the guitar tone on Morbid Angel's solos is absolutely disgusting. Any impressive fretwork is marred by an offensively thin tone, and further clouded by a completely superfluous reverb effect. Seriously, just listen to the closing solo in Suffocation for an idea of just how distracting this tone is.

The production, in fact, is the weakest part of the album. Altars of Madness is produced so poorly that the rest of the album is ruined. Some of Sandoval's cymbals are thin or over-compressed, the aforementioned solo tone completely destroys every single solo on the record, and the vocals have an unnecessary reverb effect as well. Beyond all of this, someone decided to put the world's cheesiest keyboards on a few of the tracks, notably Immortal Rites and Chapel of Ghouls. The latter of these two would actually be a fairly cool track, what with all the riffing, if not for the absolutely terrible production.

Is it unfair to complain about the production on a 1989 death metal album? I suppose the lack of bass and some of Sandoval's cymbal issues can be overlooked, but there is no excusing the guitar tone during the solos. Whether that is the choice of engineer Tom Morris or producer Digby Pearson, or even Morbid Angel themselves, it's an incredibly poor choice. Any chance of enjoying a solo or lead is completely and totally wrecked by the combination of a paper-thin tone and completely unnecessary reverb on top of the already god-awful tone. Even after the production issues, there is absolutely no reason this album should be treated like the Holy Grail of death metal. Plenty of Morbid Angel's contemporaries were doing the exact same thing leagues better. Steer clear of this one and ask the nice lady at your local record store to point you towards Pestilence, or Death, or Bolt Thrower, or Atheist, or Infected, or really, any other group of musicians playing death metal in 1989.


user ratings (1022)
Chart.
4.4
superb
other reviews of this album
1 of
  • DragonHeartstring (4)
    Essential early death metal that marks a step forward for the genre but is unfortunately v...

    TheEnigmaPrognosis (3)
    The album in which every other in the genre is judged by, for better or for worse....

    ZombicidalMan (5)
    Altars Of Madness is an album that, at one time, pushed the limits of metal, and changed t...

    Jorn van Schaïk (4.5)
    Domination. Slaughter. Satan. You know this, you love this, you need this album....

  • BalSagoth (5)
    The album is a revolutionary one, as it had an immense impact on the course of metal. Tw...

    superpeer (4)
    ...


Comments:Add a Comment 
dopevoid
April 5th 2014



71 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

tell me im wrong itt

ffs
April 5th 2014



4816 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

hope u enjoy the attention youre desperate for

dopevoid
April 5th 2014



71 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

sure am!

climactic
April 5th 2014



18314 Comments


turrrrrrrrible just turrrrrible

NeroCorleone80
April 5th 2014



28369 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

m/

adr
April 5th 2014



1748 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

neg

VisionsFromTheDarkSide
April 5th 2014



1767 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

Tis actually written fairly well

HenchmanOfSanta
April 5th 2014



1852 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Death metal isn't exactly the kind of music that should sport "silly" lyrics, yet Vincent's lyrics remain entirely in that realm.
Death metal is a silly and ridiculous genre where the vocalists growl their lyrics and the band names border on self-parody. It absolutely should sport "silly lyrics," and if you think MA was an exception in the early days of the genre, especially when you're talking up Scream Bloody Gore and Pestilence, you're insane.

Doesn't mean that death metal can't or should never have good lyrics, but it's all part of the aesthetic.


Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
April 5th 2014



13424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Review needs a fair bit of work, you seem to repeat yourself a lot in the final 3 paragraphs and that first paragraph is just terrible.

Saying death metal shouldn't sport silly lyrics is, well... silly.

Digging: Krusseldorf - Fractal World

climactic
April 5th 2014



18314 Comments


i couldnt give less of a fuck about the rating, but its seems like youre really grasping at straws here. the writing itself isnt bad but the execution is.

it seems like your main point against this album is that you dont like the lead tone. everything else you describe as average, good or great. you havent really convinced me why its a POOR album. "other bands did it better" isnt a reason in itself

didnt neg or pos

dopevoid
April 5th 2014



71 Comments

Album Rating: 2.0

I'll cede rn I'm not the best writer; so i can't say I did that great of a job with the whole lyrical silliness thing. but vincent's lyrics seem too earnest to be in self-parody.

@clim - fair point. thanks for pointing this out.

NeroCorleone80
April 5th 2014



28369 Comments

Album Rating: 5.0

Some of these songs were written when Mike Browning was in the band

climactic
April 5th 2014



18314 Comments


personally, the review would make more sense if it was a 2.5 or even a 3. up to you though

Jacquibim
Contributing Reviewer
April 5th 2014



13424 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Review can sorta be summarised as follows:

This album is highly regarded, but I don't like it, x did it better

Drumming is really really good for reasons a, b & c

Bass is rudimentary because I say so

Vocals are unremarkable because I say so

Lyrics are silly and that's not acceptable in death metal (?)

People rate the riffs highly, but I don't think they're that great and I won't explain why

I dislike the guitar tone and reverb effect and will dedicate almost 3 paragraphs to this singular
point


Didn't neg by the way, but yeah, you should probably work on your writing before you attempt to
dispute the legacy of Altars of Madness.

zaruyache
April 5th 2014



5847 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

Hardly listen to death metal but this band's early stuff is m/

Digging: Sunwolf - Beholden To Nothing And No One

Relinquished
April 5th 2014



24407 Comments


14 y/o's review of a classic ok

ShadowRemains
April 5th 2014



20230 Comments

Album Rating: 4.5

what jac said

MO
April 5th 2014



18217 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0

lmao shit review

Digging: Immolation - Dawn of Possession

ZombicidalMan
April 5th 2014



1712 Comments

Album Rating: 4.0 | Sound Off

this is even worse than my review with its ridiculous comma use

Funeralopolis
April 5th 2014



10999 Comments


Review would make more sense as a 2.5-3

Digging: Sweet Smoke - Just A Poke



You have to be logged in to post a comment. Login | Create a Profile





FAQ // STAFF & CONTRIBUTORS // SITE FORUM // CONTACT US

Bands: A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z


Site Copyright 2005-2013 Sputnikmusic.com
All Album Reviews Displayed With Permission of Authors | Privacy Policy