Morbid Angel were key in shaping the death metal genre, and were arguably the most influential bands in extreme metal as a whole. Here’s an attempt to subjectively objectivize the offerings of genius musicians. While I absolutely LOVE ‘Abominations of Desolation’ and its raw production, I will not be including it in the list because they were all older tracks that were re-released, and the band doesn’t consider it to be a full-length album.
- ‘Blessed are the Sick’
‘Blessed are the Sick’ for me is the benchmark for old school death metal. The sophomore effort sees the band creating a devil-possessed monolith that superpositions stern steadiness with relentless aggression. The ambient interludes complement the Satanic imagery spectacularly well, and the overall atmosphere of the album reaches their career’s peak here. Morbid Angel comes out as more mature while not being too polished like the couple of albums after this. The stench of ‘Blessed are the Sick’ remains with you even after you die, and that can only be a good thing \m/.
- ‘Altars of Madness’
This started it all! There were other quality death metal albums before ‘Altars of Madness’, but hardly anything in the extreme metal world touched this album when it came out. Morbid Angel is as intense and ferocious as they can be in this album and the minor imperfections are turned into strength due to the raw thrash-like nature of the writing. Another major success of the album is its memorability. Every track is a monument by itself. The raspy screams and the rapid pacing propel this album even further when it comes to unpolished energy in display here.
- ‘Formulas Fatal to the Flesh’
‘Formulas Fatal to the Flesh’ was in my opinion the return to form for the band after the first two albums. Steve Tucker joins the band in this album and immediately fits in perfectly sounding massive. Pete Sandoval goes ham like he always has, and with this album, it seems like he has been allowed a lot more freedom to bludgeon the listener to sweet death. The album would fit somewhere between ‘Blessed are the Sick’ and ‘Covenant’ taking influence from both when it comes to brutality and the production.
- ‘Gateways to Annihilation’
Everything from here onwards is a classic and it really was a pain in arranging them in whatever order they currently are. The album follows ‘Covenant’ with regard to the leisurely doom-laden tempo throughout the album, but with a more solid guitar tone and brooding atmosphere. Azagthoth’s solos are studded among the downright filthy riffing and playful drumming. The band hasn’t tried to do anything extremely out of the box and has refined what it does best. Again, not a lot to separate ‘Covenant’ and ‘Gateways to Annihilation’.
‘Covenant’ was the album that gave a big break to not just Morbid Angel, but to some extent the death metal genre as well. The album caught both commercial success and critical acclaim and that is quite a feat. ‘Covenant’ is Morbid Angel at its catchy best, without compromising on riff quality. It also acts as a good entry crevice into the abyss of Morbid Angel’s world. Not everyone will agree on the placing of this album on the list, but I explain what I feel about the albums ranked higher than this further ahead. ‘Covenant’ was the last good David Vincent album.
Erik Rutan, who later left to create Hate Eternal, joined the lineup as one of the guitarists for ‘Domination’. The anger is toned down in this album, as it seemed that the band wanted to amass as many followers in the peak of their popularity. Mellow production and straightforward writing is the usual complaint people have for the album, and that is completely substantiated. Like ‘Heretic’, there are quite a few bangers here that display Morbid Angel’s skills of creating decent riffs, but not to the extent that they are capable of. As an afterthought, I feel ‘Heretic’ and ‘Domination’ should be a tie.
Coming to actual Morbid Angel albums, ‘Heretic’ takes the last spot. To be fair, there aren’t major blunders or what-ifs that you will notice. It’s just not as memorable as the other albums. This was Pete Sandoval’s last Morbid Angel album, and the last Steve Tucker album until his return to the band was announced last year. The interludes did not work that well and the production was a let down. It still has its share of the typical Morbid Angel riffs but in the end the album sounds like a decent death metal album by a band that was inspired by Morbid Angel rather than a product of the masters themselves.
- ‘Illud Divinum Insanus’
Let’s get this out of the way, shall we? ‘Illud Divinum Insanus’ is an album that is hard to listen to, not because of the presence of some complex progressions or stifling mood it creates or anything like that. It is just plain boring and uninspiring and an example of an experiment gone wrong. And this is of course completely ignoring the electronic/industrial and the nu metal tracks. I wish they released this under a different project, because it does not stand well with the rest of the discography. There are good riffs here and there, but finding the oases is not worthy the effort of wading through drab sand when the bountiful land of Morbid Angel’s past exists.