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Class 6(66)

Morbid Angel: Blessed are the sick

20/09/12  ||  Sokaris

Introduction

Morbid Angel are my death metal band. No matter how much they’re trying to screw that up they’re my guys. I can still remember the first death metal song that captivated me, their ultra-groovy “Where the slime live”. I can still recall waiting with baited breath for my first investments into this ultra heavy genre from eBay (Angel’s “Domination” along with Obituary’s “Back from the dead”) and just being blown away time and again as I moved through their discography. Even though I love almost everything they’ve done (you get one guess to figure out which album I’m not a fan of…) I’ll still admit that the early stuff was the best. “Altars of madness” is probably the band’s finest collection of songs but “Blessed are the sick” helped further define some of the band’s signature qualities and helped them distance themselves from their peers. It’s basically a perfect follow-up to a perfect debut and an exemplary deathride from intro to outro. If you like death metal and don’t have this, I’m looking at you like a disappointed Jewish mother. If you don’t like death metal then I’m shoving this in your face and insisting you devour it like a concerned Jewish mother.

Songwriting

10. Death metal was brought into otherworldly perfection by a skinny, spacey Sailor Moon fan. Deal with it. I don’t know if there’s a word for that general Morbid Angel sound but it brings so much joy to my wretched little heart. It’s something I can hear in a lot of the best second wave death metal bands as well. Just that supreme, extreme Morbid Angel style that I frankly can’t get enough of; big huge firey riff colossuses that rank among the best riffing in the genre. “Blessed are the sick” is the germination of this, one of the most interesting personalities of any band I’ve heard. The song structures anchor heavily on (absolutely classic) refrains but the band isn’t shy to spread their blackened wings, throw in unexpected bridges, engage in spastic, devil may care solo placement or throw in a song like “Day of suffering” and just drop riff after riff on the listener like the debris of a crumbling cathedral.

Production

7. Fitting, heavy but clear and well balanced. It’s a little overly muddy in the guitar as Morbid hadn’t quite found the optimum settings for their lava dispensers. Knob-twiddling legend Tom Morris does his usual, early American death metal defining work but I’m sure Trey and the gang put him through his production paces. There’s liberal but tasteful use of stereo tricks, some of the only flange effect usage I actually enjoy (call it a weird musical pet peeve) and a few other miscellaneous details that help add character to the proceedings.

Guitars

10. Morbid Angel’s riffs have goddamn biceps. Biceps wrapped in snakes that are on fire that vomit blood. The manic shredding provided by Mr. Azagthoth and Richard Brunelle is like the 666 mile per hour pelting of acid hail against said goddamn biceps.

…And the snakes are zombies.

Vocals

9. The vocals on the original Morbid Angel trilogy should be viewed as a clinic of how it should be done. David Vincent employed a deep bellow, no gurgly noises or tough-guy posturing; just diaphragm destructing, Ancient Ones summoning growls. Some miss the slight hiss and rasp from his performance on “Altars of madness” (apparently Evil D was struck with a slight cold during those sessions) but I think the trade off for a fuller roar suits the material here.

Bass

6. I can’t criticize the bass too much because obviously David’s doing double duty with vocals and as far as texture and frequency dressing goes it does its job. It’s death metal, it’s bass guitar, it’s not remarkable necessarily on its own but the recording would be missing a lot without it.

Drums

9. Pete Sandoval is undoubtedly one of my favorite drummers. He seems to come from the Dave Lombardo school of thinking, where his arrangements are catchy above all else. While he’s Lombardo-eque but imagine a couple jet engines strapped to ol’ Dave’s calves. Probably the coolest thing about Pete is his tom usage, adding staccato accents to specific notes, contributing some infectious hits to the swirling maelstrom of Trey’s riffage.

Lyrics

10. Perfect for what these guys do. It’s mostly just general evil, demonic shit but it’s all given an air of mystery. Necronomiconic namedropping, beastial boasts and just the general impression that whatever is grunting these incantations is goddamn mighty. “Vomit upon the cross” was basically enough to get the maximum score anyway.

Cover art

7. The remastered digi version gets an extra point because it addresses my main concern, that the painting just looks too washed out. The re-release ups the contrast, making the fleshy details pop out more and not just look like some really gross soup. The cover would get a 9 at least if it looked like this rather than this.

Logo

9. I like the Morbid Angel logo, it’s spiky in a recognizable way, embellished with some cool details (the Necronomicon sigil, devil horns and tail) and manages to do something asymmetrical that actually works. And damn does it look good in red.

Booklet

6. I traded in my older press for the re-release I mentioned in the cover section. I remember that layout being pretty typical with a few more little pieces of design than was standard at the time. The 2009 version, however, is fucken cool as hell. I don’t own any other digipacks that fold out this much (12 panels if you count both sides) with a ton of class and a high quality feel to the whole thing.

Overall and ending rant

How do you follow up “Altars of madness”, probably the best death metal album ever made? How do you comment further after you’ve written a how-to audio manual on ripping new ones and you’ve basically conquered the genre in its infancy? You do this. “Blessed are the sick” contains the same signature chaotic tone, wicked structures and infinitely entertaining guitar/drum interplay that made the debut such a musical monument. The modus operandi has slightly changed though, the band adding in a hellishly heaping helping of diabolical atmosphere fueled with the power of the Old Ones.

Raise your horns in blasphemy.

10

  • Information
  • Released: 1991
  • Label: Earache Records
  • Website: www.morbidangel.com
  • Band
  • David Vincent: vocals, bass
  • Trey Azagthoth: guitars
  • Richard Brunelle: guitars
  • Pete Sandoval: drums
  • Tracklist
  • 01. Intro
  • 02. Fall from grace
  • 03. Brainstorm
  • 04. Rebel lands
  • 05. Doomsday celebration
  • 06. Day of suffering
  • 07. Blessed are the sick/Leading the rats
  • 08. Thy kingdom come
  • 09. Unholy blasphemies
  • 10. Abominations
  • 11. Desolate ways
  • 12. The ancient ones
  • 13. In remembrance