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4.4 out of 5 stars
Altars of Madness
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on March 9, 2006
Format: Audio CD
I gotta say that the early period of DM is definitely the best, when it was first coming into being as a solid subgenre of metal, before it become all technical and before all the melodic death metal jazz and whatnot. Don't get me wrong, I like albums like "The Jester Race" and Death's Symbolic (which is quite amazing actually) it's just that I liked it when the music was a little more raw and simple ya know? If you're not convinced then I compel you to give this album a spin because this is some or the most terrifying music I've heard, but in a good way of course. The synergy of Dave Vincent's scathingly evil vocals (who's my fave DM vocalist) and Trey Azagthoth's shredding is an explosion straight outta Hell itself. I have to say that man definitely knows how to play the guitar and deserves a lot more praise if ya ask me. This album has some of my favorite DM songs ever such as Immortal Rites and Maze of Torment which I call the "seizure song" because Pete Sandoval's machine gun blast beats will have you not only headbanging but your body going into full-blown convulsions! This is 2nd only to the almighty SEVEN CHURCHES for the title of best DM album ever in my humble opinion.

Hey if you like the 90s era DM better that's more progressive and technical (such as Death's SOP) I perfectly undertand, however, you have to check out the early stuff to see the true potential that death metal has as a formidable genre of music. Oh yeah I won't forget to warn the unsuspecting listener that this is pretty Satanic (like most early DM) so hopefully that won't bother you. Personally I like that kind of stuff, it gets me even more pumped along with the intense music. Plus the teenyboppers HATE this stuff! Just drive around a high school or something and blast this sh*t and see them run in fear!

My recommendation- so if you like this get MA's other albums up to Domination, early Death, SEVEN CHURCHES, Deicide, Obituary for some good old school death metal. LATER
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
on May 12, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Unleashed upon the public in 1989 during the time when Guns & Roses and "Glam Metal" were the rage, this is the first full length album from the Tampa, FLA natives. The cover is a vortex of grinning ghouls staring at you from another dimension. How does this initial offering sound? Here are my reviews of the songs based out of 5 *****:

"Immortal Rites" - Backwards/swirling sounding guitars open the album. The drums pummel in at a breakneck speed and the tempo then switches to a midtempo chugfest. Vincent's vocals are throaty/growl like. The song goes from thrash to Sabbath and back, with some wicked guitar solos. A tune about rites of immortality. A sonic assault to the ears that demolishes all musical boundaries. A fantastic piece! Rating - *****

"Suffocation" - VERY FAST drumming begins the onslaught. Numerous tempo/rhythm changes abound. There is one brief moment in which Vincent gets a two second bass solo, and then he fades into the background as Sandoval/Azagthoth/Brunelle resume control and resume crushing the wind out of your lungs with their technical power. There is one part during the second verse where Vincent almost sounds like he's rapping ala "Baby's Got Back"...'Caverns below, await the wine to flow, rape the harvest of souls.' Listen to that verse and you'll hear what I mean. The song has an abrupt ending. Overall, another superb piece. Rating - *****

"Visions From The Dark Side" - or 'Hey!It's just Capitalism!' Very fast and tight drumming/rhythm. Sandoval is just great with the dexterity/speed/force of his drumming! The lyrics are anti-war and anti-corporation.."Dogs of war, satan's own, plotting all their sins. Weapons aimed at liberty. My vision - no one wins." Lets hope Vincent's vision isn't right, but it appears it might be! There are numerous guitar solos from Brunelle/Azagthoth as well as multiple tempo changes. Another superb, gem of a tune! Rating - *****

"Maze Of Torment" - Swirling guitar and then....BOOM! SUPER FAST drumming with a very fast, tight, guitar rhythm screaming along-side. Many tempo shifts. A MercyFul Fate vibe on steroids exists. It's the Maze of Torment! You'll feel dazed and amazed after listening to this! Rating - *****

"Lord Of All Fevers And Plague" - Short, reverse sounding guitar solo from Azagthoth and then the rest of the band storms in! Vincint's "singing" is just awesome on this one! The lyrics are in Sumerian and as I chant along with David, I swear I feel the "Lord Of All Fevers And Plague" trying to rip through the vortex on the album cover! "IA, ia sakkakh iak sakkakth, ia shaxzul. IA kingu, ia cthulu, ia azbul, ia azabua" Just f'n mind blowing! AWESOME SONG! My favorite on the album! The tempo is hard, crunching, very heavy. It has a EARLY Metallica/Slayer vibe, but turned to 11! There are numerous solos from Brunelle/Azagthoth and a sudden ending. Aw shoot! The incantation did work! I hope the Lord Of All Fevers And Plague is a vegetarian! Rating - *****

"Chapel of Ghouls" - Opens with very heavy guitar and then Vincent growls his way in..."Ghouls attack the church. Crush the holy priest." Hey man, I'm outta here! All I wanted was some bread and wine! Swirling guitars along with a tight/pounding drums/bass/guitar builds a solid wall of music that is impenetrable! There are some light synthesizer "choir voice" effects that helps to give the song added mood and color. A combination of early Slayer/Metallica/Mercyful Fate, but again done heavier/harder/faster. My second favorite song. Just perfect! Rating - *****

"Bleed for the Devil" - Tempo begins very fast. Damn! Sandoval is pure speed king on the drums! It is unbelievable how fast he can play! The guitar solos are very fast and technically superb!The lyrics are corny, but the musicianship is topnotch! Rating - ****

"Damnation" - The melody is heavy and chunky as Vincent growwwwls his way in. The lyrics ARE pretty good (if visions of destruction and plague are good) The tempo is fast, but it kind of sounds like the other songs on this album. Nothing special about this one. Multiple guitar solos and tempo changes, but repetitive. Rating - ***1/2

"Blasphemy" - The sound of numerous gunshots begins this track (remember, the band is from Florida!) and then a VERY FAST tempo is unleashed and assaults the hearing. Vincent once again growls his way in..."I am the god of gods, Master of the art. I desecrate the chaste. Writhe in the flesh." Well, I for one would rather do the backstroke. Writhing is to tiring! There is also a nod to Mr. Crowley in the lyrics.."Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law. Rebel against the church." The song is very fast with a warped/distorted bell/chime sound to fade out the tune. I like this one alot. Rating - ****

"Evil Spells" - The song has multiple changes in tempo and rhythm along with swirling mass of guitar. The tempo ranges from very fast thrash to Sabbath chugging and density towards the end. Guitar solos remind me of KK Downing "Sinner" stuff and Iommi riffing. A solid piece of metal. Rating - ****

Overall, while the sound production is kind of tinny and raw, the muscle and aggression of the band comes through clearly. Think of EARLY Mettalica/Slayer/Mercyful Fate/Sabbath/JP rolled into one and given electro-shock treatments. Then add the growling vocals of David Vincent while pumping adrenaline into Sandoval and Azagthoth, and you have a "Altar Of Madness". The musicianship is breathtakingly fast/technical/heavy/tight! This debut album is absolutely devastating and unforgiving. You have to have a open/intelligent mind to appreciate the music and message. The band isn't "evil", they are alive, free and encouraging everyone to brake off their mental shackles and THINK! A masterpiece of a record! Buy this! It will help you LIVE!
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Morbid Angel's Altars of Madness, released in 1989 continues to tear faces off 21 years later.

From the first snap of Pete's snare drum following the reverse intro on Immortal Rites, to the eerie outro riff of Evil Spells, this album takes the listener on a journey unlike any other death metal album ever produced. This album holds a special quality being released so early on in the death metal genre. The cookie cutter sound had yet to be created and the most guttural vocals of the time period are considered tame by today's standards. Which leads to one of the albums high points - David Vincent's vocals. His raspy delivery is both understandable, haunting, and downright vicious. The lyrical content is interesting and has good imagery throughout. Trey's signature riffing and soloing is at it's best on this album, and Brunelle does a good job of molding himself into Trey's vision. I could write a book about Pete Sandoval's drumming on this album. It's a cornerstone of death metal percussion. His precision blasting and fill-work is second to none, while his groove sections provide perfect headbangability consistently. This album was the first death metal album that I noticed a drummer making a concentrated effort to match the drumming to the riffs being played rather than double time or blasting. Sandoval's ability to accentuate riffs through cymbal and tom work astounds me to this day. The production is surprisingly clear, albeit a bit noisy.

All in all, if you consider yourself a fan of death metal, or even metal in general and haven't heard this, you are doing yourself a disservice. Buy this album YESTERDAY.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
on July 27, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Morbid Angel were heavily influenced by Slayer and Sepultura. You'll find the same characteristics on "Altars of Madness" that you'll find on "Reign in Blood" and "Beneath the Remains." Relentless riffs, quick double bass drumming, lightning fast beats, tempo changes, pounding rhythms, scorching solos, Satanic themes...they're all here. But Morbid Angel are still one of the most original and influential death metal bands of all time because, even though they didn't give birth to the genre, they were one of the first death metal bands of the 1980's. Thus, they helped to pave the way for many acts to come (i.e. Nile). Plus, MA's vocalist (David Vincent) is one of the first to use demonic, growly vocals.

Therefore, like Slayer and Sepultura, you're just not metal unless you have a Morbid Angel C.D. And their 1989 debut is a great place to start, if you're new to the band. This is classic death metal done right; it has everything you need for a great album: primarily heaviness, speed, and relentlessness. Yes, "Altars of Madness" does eventually start to sound the same...that's death metal for you!

"Immortal Rites" begins with a riff that sounds sort of like Metallica, circa 1984; but the Metallica comparisons end as soon as the vocals begin. This song also has a fast, driving double bass drum.

"Suffocation" features searing guitar riffs, a pounding rhythm, a tempo change, and two scorching guitar solos.

"Visions from the Darkside" is another full speed ahead thrasher with a lightning fast opening riff, which eventually becomes rigid.

"Maze of Torment" tosses together more blistering guitar riffs with a loud, thumping drum beat.

"Chapel of Ghouls" includes another pounding rhythm with thunderous drums, as well as two ascending, winding solos.

"Bleed for the Devil" has more sprinting beats and riffs, but this song is a highlight because it has a handful of other high pitched solos (the second of which might be the longest solo on this album).

I really wanted to buy this C.D. after I caught Morbid Angel opening for Soulfly, and their set primarily consisted of older material. So, if you still don't want "Altars of Madness," you really need to see this band live.

Morbid Angel definitely had a successful, historic past and, now that David has rejoined his family, they're sure to have a great future, too. In conclusion, as aforementioned, every metal collection needs to have some Morbid Angel, and if you're new to them, "Altars of Madness" is essential listening.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
Format: Audio CD
Morbid Angel are my all time favorite death metal band and this album is a classic piece of extreme metal. Trey Azagthoth is a wizard on the guitar presenting fast, evil, sinister riffs while Pete Sandoval slams and blasts away on the drums. David Vincent is incredable too! His vocals define death metal on this album. A good description of this album if fast(Immortal Rites, Visions Fron the Dark Side), eerie(Chapel of Ghouls), and EVIL!!! You dont truly like death metal unless you like this album!!!
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on December 21, 2007
Format: Audio CD
Morbid Angel's first proper album is a must have within the death metal realm. I have a "limied edition" two-disc package that contains the audio Cd and a DVD of their November 1989 Nottingham Rock City show, filmed on 4 cameras, as part of Morbid Angel's performance on the 'Grindcrusher' tour. This DVD is the best - to see Morbid Angel live on an early tour like this is amazing. Trey Azagthoth blows my mind on guitar and is simply amazing to watch. If you can get this release with the DVD, that's the best. Altars of Madness is extreme: it's fast, scary, loud, growling... just as evil, possibly more evil, than Slayer. The music on Altars just doesn't let up- the double bass drums will pound you into submission, the vocals would scare Satan himself, and the guitars are shred-a-riff-ic. And there are even songs that I find catchy and can't get out my head after listening to them, which is odd for me with death metal usually it's not something I walk away humming or repeating over in my head afterwards. If you want to experience death metal, the first Morbid Angel album is one to check out for sure. My favorite tracks include: Immortal Rites, Maze Of Torment, Lord Of All Fevers & Plague, Bleed For The Devil, and the ENTIRE DVD.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
on August 18, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Evil guitar riffs, wicked/insane guitar solos, pounding double bass drums, interesting lyrics (if you have an open mind) this classic album has it all. Basically, without Morbid Angel, and this album, a great deal of the metal elites (past and present) would most likely not exist (or sound like they do presently), i.e...Opeth, Emperor, etc.. This album was obviously very important for death metal in general, and death metal making a name for itself, breaking away from thrash in a way(even though obviously, there is quite a bit of thrash influence). I'm not going to elaborate too much on "Altars of Madness" because I think past reviewers have done justice to it. Some of the standout tracks on this album are "Immortal Rites," "Suffocation,"....who am I kidding, they are all standout tracks. Also, the cd booklet has some interesting passages written by Trey Azagthoth about individualism, religion, etc...so be sure to check that out.
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8 of 10 people found the following review helpful
on August 15, 2006
Format: Audio CD
Altars of Madness was released in 1989 and to this day, it is hailed as one of the best death metal albums ever. Sure it doesnt have the up-to-date production that bands have today, but make no mistake this is what its all about. Evil vocals, amazing blast beats, insane solos... I honestly can not put into words how great this album is.

Morbid Angel has re-released this album and included a 2nd bonus DVD of Morbid Angel on the Grindcrusher tour back in 1989. The sound is excellent and the DVD is worth the price alone.

All metal fans should own this CD. All Morbid Angel fans MUST check out the DVD as well.
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on August 6, 2005
Format: Audio CD
`Altars Of Madness' was the album which made people sit up and take Death Metal seriously.

Early Death Metal was characterised by heavy Neanderthal riffs, double kick drum abusing percussion, and gargling vocals. Death's 1988 album `Leprosy' was the first to start refining this formula past its most basic, but `Altars Of Madness' took it a step further. Morbid Angel proved that Death Metal musicians could be highly skilled, and that Death Metal didn't have to be simple to be effective.

There is so much detail through the album. Each song is a multi-spiralling helix of twisted riffs, demented solos and leads and machinegun percussion. There is so much going on in each song that repeated listens are required to pick out even half of it. A song like "Maze Of Torment" is appropriately titled, because it shoots off in so many different directions, turning back on itself, twisting and writhing.

Trey Azagthoth had a reputation as a bit of a fruit loop, but no one could doubt his skill as a guitarist. Azagthoth routinely slashed his arm before playing, letting the blood flow over his instrument as a sacrifice to aid his skills. Owing equal debts to Eddie Van Halen, Mozart and the Ancient Ones, his playing was far from conventional. He often throws in off-kilter notes and unexpected guitar effects and noises, essential in weaving the ultra-complex web of Morbid Angel's identity. Richard Brunelle matched Azagthoth for enthusiasm, if not quite for technique, and while his soloing style is less technical than Azagthoth's, it is no less frenetic.

David Vincent's voice is not as gruff as many early Death Metal vocalists, but it allows a certain fluidity a deeper voice would negate. It allows the listener to fully appreciate the band's tales of damnation and evil.

"Chapel Of Ghouls" is one of the oldest songs here, written along with original drummer and vocalist Mike Browning, but it stands out as a highlight. Believe it or not, it has a sing along chorus. While much of the album takes several listens to penetrate, it is quite possible to pick up the chant "Dead- your god is dead/Fools- your god is dead/Useless prayers of lies/Behold Satan's rise". Judicious use of blast beats and the multifaceted Azagthoth/Brunelle solos embed this song firmly into your mind.

"Blasphemy" is the other real stand out track. It starts with machinegun fire, the rapidity of which Pete Sandoval matches and then surpasses with the snare. Ever wondered why his nickname is Commando? Vincent's voice almost sounds out a melody, while the minimal use of solos (well, minimal for Morbid Angel anyway) helps create a short, punchy track.

The re-released version of the album has the track "Lord Of All Fevers And Plague" as a bonus. It is hard to see why the track wasn't originally included as the overall sound fits perfectly with the rest of the album. Lyrically though, it is Azagthoth's ode to Lovecraftian demons, rather than following the Satanic theme present elsewhere. There are also remixes of "Maze Of Torment", Chapel Of Ghouls" and "Blasphemy" added as bonus tracks, although the only difference between these and the originals are some slightly different solos.

This album still sounds fresh. Although nowhere near as heavy as much of the Death Metal coming out today, `Altars Of Madness' proved a valuable point at the time of its release, that brutality and skill need not be mutually exclusive.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
on February 23, 2005
Format: Audio CD
Morbid Angel is a truely inspirational band. The main thing that I love about these phycos is the thought and philosophy that goes behind all the music. The notes in the booklet describe MA's inspiration to leave the world of standard thinking and be creative.

The songs are very brutal, but with some melody in certain places, allowing for a creepier atmosphere. My favorite songs would have to be Immortal Rites, Maze of Torment, Chapel of Ghouls and Damnation. However, all the songs are awesome and full of insanity. And upon close listening, the classical influence can be felt, although not as strong as their later album.

Over all this is a solid and evolutionary release by Morbid Angel.

One more thing, to the reviewer that couldn't stand the Morbid Angel show. I respect your oppinion, however, I felt morbid angel kicked royal ass. Trey has got to be the fastest guitarist I've every seen, and probably one of the coolest. And I'm comparing this to the greats such as Yngwie and Steve Vai. Also, the band as a whole inspired me a great deal and left me incredibly satisfied upon going home. This is comming from someone that isn't that into Death Metal.
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