The controversy over Abominations of Desolation

morbid_angel_-_abominations_of_desolation

Back in 1986, one lineup of Morbid Angel recorded what that lineup considers the first Morbid Angel album, Abominations of Desolation, which was later re-released on Earache Records in 1991. But three years later, the band re-recorded most of the songs in a streamlined form and released it as Altars of Madness, which the lineup of the band as was at the time through the present considers to be the first Morbid Angel album.

Avoiding a peek into the controversy and the clash of personalities behind it, metal archaeologists today can look at the musical differences between these two albums. Altars of Madness focuses on a tighter and more streamlined style that too often slips into the type of verse-chorus with bridge that was used extensively on speed metal/death metal hybrids like Seven Churches and Rigor Mortis. This may show the influence of Texas band Necrovore, who established a more aggressive aesthetic but kept song structures closer to the NWOBHM model that speed metal used.

At the same time, other bands were taking a hint from Hellhammer/Celtic Frost and writing songs which had some repeated passages which could be used as verse and chorus, but behind those varied the riffs to give the song a unique structure. This opened up new possibilities that all bands entrenched in the rock ‘n roll “verse, chorus, bridge, solo, repeat” pop song format could not reach. In that new frontier, bands saw new musical and artistic possibilities, and the form of modern death metal began.

The first Morbid Angel album contained many of these aspects, particular in some of the odd structures used on the first track. For the most part however it stuck to good old fashioned pop song format with a few modifications, using the Slayer technique of introductory riffs and some hints from Possessed. This showed a dramatically different side of the band than the extended compositions of Abominations of Desolation which, while many used verse/chorus at their center, were more likely to vary riff form and use solos as a kind of second layer to the rhythm guitars.

Controversy continues to this day regarding which is the “true” Morbid Angel. As strange as it seems, the first recording may be the one that opened up more historical space, although its lesser production and expanded song structures made it less hard-hitting at any instance and thus less “heavy” or “brutal” to the audience, which is why the band wants it to be the first album: it is a better product. For many of us however Abominations of Desolation has long surpassed the first two Morbid Angel albums as the one most frequently listened to because of the depths of its complexity and musical imagination.

Tags: , , , , ,

15 thoughts on “The controversy over Abominations of Desolation

  1. Richard Head says:

    I find that Altars has more impact overall. The songs left on Abominations really wouldn’t have added much to the album. I do like the structuring of the first track; it’s like a rambling tangent right til the end, when they circle back to the first section that introduces the vocals. Great album.

  2. Mike Browning says:

    There should be no doubt as to which was recorded earlier, since I played in Abominations of Desolation I can tell you that in 1985 we received a Record Contract from Goreque Records owned by David Vincent and myself, Trey, Richard Burnell and John Ortega signed the record contract and went to Charlotte North Carolina and recorded the album Abomination Of Desolation in early1986 with Bill Metter as the engineer. This is a fact, not an opinion, so we signed a record contract and recorded a full album, although it wasn’t officially released till later it doesn’t change the fact that it was the bands first recorded album.

    1. Lord Mosher says:

      “It is specified, on the cover, that it was intended to be their first full-length album, yet unreleased, making Altars of Madness their proper debut. However, Trey Azagthoth has said in interviews that Abominations of Desolation is not really an album and should be considered a demo. The demo-tape version is pictured below, the title is misspelled(?) as Abomination of Desolation.”

      source:
      http://www.metal-archives.com/albums/Morbid_Angel/Abominations_of_Desolation/5135

  3. Alfonso Chewbacca says:

    This is rather confusing:

    Controversy continues to this day regarding which is the “true” Morbid Angel. As strange as it seems, the first recording may be the one that opened up more historical space, although its lesser production and expanded song structures made it less hard-hitting at any instance and thus less “heavy” or “brutal” to the audience, which is why the band wants it to be the first album: it is a better product. For many of us however Abominations of Desolation has long surpassed the first two Morbid Angel albums as the one most frequently listened to because of the depths of its complexity and musical imagination.

    1. Alfonso Chewbacca says:

      It would seem that you’re referring to Abominations the whole paragraph, and when you wrote “which is why the band wants it to be the first album” you’re referring to Abominations era Morbid Angel. Although the folly here is that Trey discredits it as the first Morbid Angel album. You should elaborate a little to help dispel possible confusion.

  4. IamTHEblackMAGES says:

    Trey doesn’t want Abominations to be considered the first album. Dave Mustaine doesn’t want Risk to considered Megadeth’s 8th album, George Lucas doesn’t want Han Solo to shoot first. None of these wishes by these creators change the fact that there is a real history of what was first created and happened. Morbid Angel recoded Abominations first, just like Exodus recorded Bonded by Blood long before rerecoding it as Let There Be Blood. Rerecording or changing singers or telling fans “this is how it was SUPPOSED to be” doesn’t change what ACTUALLY came first.

  5. Daniel says:

    Altars is a much tighter and more put-together album. All Abominations has over it are Mike Browning’s vocals and slightly more complex song structures. I doubt Morbid Angel’s best material would have had the same, atomic impact if it have been released in its 1986 form rather than in 1989. Altars of Madness was simply the ur-album of death metal in its own distinct genre.

    1. All Abominations has over it are Mike Browning’s vocals and slightly more complex song structures.

      Might want to add something about the extended guitar solos.

  6. Nathan Metric says:

    I like Abominations because it sounds more authentic. Like youngsters trying to tap into the dark side rather than actually being dark. A little more confident. A little less mastered. A little less evil. It’s the kind of material that only a young metal band would come up with.

    Altars on the other hand everything is sounds forced. Less natural. More matured sounding and not in a good way. Makes me wonder how many more albums were butchered because of a lack of self-confidence.

  7. Virgil Cocksmith says:

    Altars of Madness has this feeling of insanity that compliments the aggression and intensity. Abominations of Desolation was shelved because it sucked and had no feeling. It’s a sorry ass recording and anybody who likes it is an idiopathic cunt dog!

  8. discodjango says:

    I have to say that I enjoy both albums. It took me a while to get into “Abominations Of Desolation” because I already knew the later versions of most of the songs before I listened to it, but it is a very good record with many interesting things to discover. “Altars Of Madness” is a very powerful record. I listened to it for the first time nearly 23 years ago and I don’t get tired of it. If you concentrate on the guitars it ‘sucks you in’ and it can lead to some kind of ‘transcendental experience’ (sorry about that, but I can’t find other words to describe it).

  9. snaggletooth says:

    Abomination of Desolation + Altars of Madness + Blessed are Sick = Triumvirate of purity and energy. Morbid Angel will live eternally for these three albums. Classic Madness from mighty Morbid Angel.

    1. I agree and would add Covenant to the list, with a secondary mention for Formulas Fatal to the Flesh.

      1. Ara says:

        I also love Domination, although I’m sure no one would agree, however I agree they sound more energized and rabid on Formulas.

        1. discodjango says:

          “Domination” is a good ‘easy listening’ metal album. “Formulas…” tries too hard to sound like an update of classic Morbid Angel, but it is much better than the two Steve Tucker albums that followed it.

Comments are closed.

Classic reviews:
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