Nirvana’s Nevermind turned twenty five yesterday but since we at the Death Metal Underground condemn pop-punk Boston worship, we will celebrate a different anniversary today. Morbid Angel‘s Blessed Are the Sick was released twenty-five summers ago. Blessed Are the Sick was the last Morbid Angel record focused on inwardly improving the music rather than compromising it for commercial appeal to a mainstream market. The band had been obsessed with refining and expanding upon their compositions since Trey Azagthoth shelved the release of 1986’s Abominations of Desolation and fired then drummer/vocalist Mike Browning.
By the 1990s, Morbid Angel had ceased listening to any of their contemporary extreme metal bands, instead taking inspiration solely from classical music and progressive rock. Altars of Madness refined Morbid Angel’s earlier compositions into polyrhthymic, contrapuntal riff mazes at times resembling a high-speed, heavy metal Bach fugue. Blessed Are the Sick increased the use of classical compositional techniques and harmonies courtesy of Richard Brunelle, while varying the pace, giving listeners more opportunity to comprehend Morbid Angel’s attempts to retain the feeling of classical orchestration in heavy metal context.
Dave Vincent‘s growing interest in Satanism and the occult provided the drive to clarify the production. Satan, the most beautiful and powerful who masquerades himself as an angel of light would not appear as a filthy basement metal band. Morbid Angel dressed like rock stars onstage and chose Jean Delville’s “Les Trésors de Sathan” as cover art instead of the typical pulpy covers of most heavy metal albums. Tom Morris ensured every instrument was audible, the vocals high in the warm mix, and pushed the drum sound toward stadium rock. Pete Sandoval’s drum kit had triggers wired to a digital delay device in order to paste samples on top of his initial hit after a few milliseconds, creating artificially clear and heavy tones without killing time coherency as in modern digital cut and paste trickery. These commercial production values increased Morbid Angel’s popularity, leading to major touring opportunities opening for Motorhead and a major label record deal but signaled the start of the band’s subsequent decline and relevance for fans of the underground.
Morbid Angel would never again reach such artistic heights with Brunelle losing his mind to cocaine and leaving the band: Covenant is painfully straightforward with shoehorned incongruent classical leads, Domination an attempt to ground Morbid Angel’s music in radio metal with tough guy lyrics and ECW shirts, and the Steve Tucker stuff unrefined guitar wank. Twenty-five years after its release, Blessed Are the Sick with its clear production, cryptic lyrics, and haunting almost-orientalist interludes remains one of the best attempts at embedding death metal with effective and fitting atmosphere and ambiance.
Tags: 1991, anniversary, blessed are the sick, david vincent, death metal, Metal Curmudgeon, morbid angel, neoclassical, neoclassical metal, pete sandoval, richard brunelle, trey azagthoth
93 thoughts on “Blessed Are the Sick: Morbid Angel’s Last Advance”
Morrisound fucked up the production on this. Guitars upfront + dry, a tightly constrained distortion, set against an explosive cavernous snare. The separation is too precise, displaying that each instrument recorded in a different room, in a different building, or on an astral plane or the next-door hillock.
‘Altars of Madness’ sounded way better. A meaty mass of protrusive sinews seethe conclusively… unlike this LP, a wiry chorus of writhing gloryhole habitues cum Kaposi’s succumbers.
I’m curious where you got this info >>>
“Pete Sandoval’s drum kit had triggers wired to a digital delay device in order to paste samples on top of his initial hit after a few milliseconds, creating artificially clear and heavy tones without killing time coherency as in modern digital cut and paste trickery.”
Yeah the guitars arent fat enough. Altars of Madness was a quickly hammered out all-analog album with no studio trickery. Blessed Are the Sick is incredibly overproduced with each solo actually having a different tone or effect if you listen closely. Just be glad Morbid Angel used JCM 800/900s instead of the crappy Morrisound house Valvestates.
Haha, true, I AM thankful for that.
Any idea what records might feature them Valvestates?
Obituary ‘Causes of Death’?
Watch the attached documentary with Nikki Six Dave Vincent.
C’mon dude, you fucked up the first sentence.
“and pushed the drum sound toward towards stadium rock”
1. How do you know progressive rock was an explicit influence on this record
2. I’m getting sick to death of the line, hammered over and over again here, that covenent is some sell-out ‘standardization,’ of the morbid angel sound. This assertion is always based on nothing but the arbitrary opinion of the reviewer, and seems to be a sheep-like endorsement of the cammander-in-cheif’s line.
No, Morbid Angel actually start to repeat themselves on Covenant. Listen closer.
I’ve been listening to this album and covenant closely for over 10 years.
Just because Covenant goes back to the speeds/outward intensity of Alters doesn’t mean it is a repetition of Alters. Covenant has no where near as thrash/speed metal rooted as Alters, and it is much more ‘melodic’.
Covenant‘s songs are structured around conventional melodies united through percussive fills (the drum performance is ridiculous) while Altars has more developed classical harmonies and long-form, multi-directional melodic narratives. Covenant fails horribly at simple, heavy metal songwriting; many of those hooks and licks are from Morbid Angel’s earlier work and just made into heavy metal songs for mass appeal. They band actually repeated themselves on an album that just retained the superficial veneer of their earlier work with none of the richness that encouraged repeated listening outside of “Angel of Disease”.
“Covenant‘s songs are structured around conventional melodies united through percussive fills”
A sentence later you say Alters has ‘classical harmonies’. What on earth are classical harmonies, if not conventional? And i have zero idea what ‘united through percussive fills’ means. If you dont think Alters uses fills to link passages then i don’t know what to think.
“the drum performance is ridiculous”
Are you some kind of aspergers sufferer? You’ve completely gone off the deep end here.
“Altars has more….long-form, multi-directional melodic narratives.”
Apart from track 1, I would ask you for examples here. The reverse seems to ring true for me. Because Alters is more rooted in the thrash and grind origins lof DM, its phrases are shorter.
“Covenant fails horribly at simple, heavy metal songwriting; many of those hooks and licks are from Morbid Angel’s earlier work and just made into heavy metal songs for mass appeal.”
This line is repeated often around here: that covenant uses bits of music left over fom earlier albums that didn’t makr th cut then. What evidence do you have of this? And do you know for a fact that Blessed does not contains riffs or songs left over from Alters?
“They band actually repeated themselves on an album that just retained the superficial veneer of their earlier work with none of the richness that encouraged repeated listening outside of “Angel of Disease”.
If you think Angel of Disease is the best song on Covenant, then that pretty much tells me where you are coming from. THAT actaully does like a shit hang-over from Alters days, and does not belong on the album, IMO.
For the record, I will say that i think tracks 4 and 8 suffer somewhat. (And that track 7 is terrible, as i said above). But this is not because the band began ‘reapting itself’ (apart from track 7, which is a boring throwback to influences).
Apologies, i meant tracks 5 and 8.
Please just write the track TITLES.
And btw, you still haven’t justified your claim that Blessed was influenced by prog rock. Reviewers around here have always had a blatent tendency to make wild claims, as if folunteering to write articles on dm.org simply because no one else will suddenly makes one a respected, experienced and authoritative music critic.
Moral: perhaps the writers around here could focus broadly on championing good metal over shit metal, as opposed to getting distracted by and/or instigating largely insignificant ‘civil wars’ AMONG good metal.
It’s one thing to fight the capitalists, it’s another to anger other communists over fine-grained matters like a particular dialectic of the latest crop cycle.
Covenant is not good metal; Covenant is middling metal.
Yet you’ve addressed none of my specific points…
The explicit formalism on Blessed points towards progressive rock, if nothing else.
This intrigues me… Please elaborate on what is the ‘explicit formalism’ — both the formalism and how it’s made explicit.
Subplot: I like the phraze ‘explicit formalizm’. Reminds me of
I agree. So much throwing around of absolutes around here with zero conent masking an implicit will to power. I.e. SLAVE MORALITY: the non-explicit attempt to engage in agon, or contest, or having power upon another without calling attention to the mere clash of wills underneath under the guise of absolutes.
“I disagree so you guys must just be parroting Prozak’s opinion.”
Daniel is so transparent!
He is repeating some of points made over the years by multiple folk, including Stevens. NOW IT IS TIME FOR THEM TO JUSTIFY THEMSELVES!!!’
I’m sorry to be so blunt but comparing the few Blessed tracks I listenend to with the few Covenant track I listened to just reveals that the latter are incredibly crude compared to the former. A comparison to latter day Deicide immediately suggests itself. Or the phrase “well-oiled death metal machine”. The rhythmic interplay between drums and guitar and the odd tempo changes are gone, instead, one gets drum-accompanied riffs and tracks composed of distinct, coarse-grained parts with distinctive and fairly simple rhythms. “Works better live” stuff with “works better” meaning “better for clumsy, tall people who want to jump up and down and punch someone”[*]. Also, the solos aren’t really part of the tracks anymore (Grave Desecrator is also really good at this) but much more conventional “virtuosity display randomly overlaid on basic track” stuff.
[*] The fluidity still retained is – of course – still much to complicated for this. Real mass appeal needs staccato barrage even the most desinterested and intoxicated bonehead won’t fail to notice (and won’t accidentally be toppled by it).
“Covenant” is definitely less brilliant than “Blessed Are The Sick”, not because of it’s speed, but because it lacks the contrast induced by blast beats followed by doom-like parts that was present in the latter. On “Covenant” you have full-speed ahead songs and doom songs, but the atmosphere suffers by it. It’s definitely “easy listening” compared to “Blessed Are The Sick”.
On the other hand, I’d like to know where the author got the idea that Brunelle had anything to do with the songwriting process. He’s only credited in “Desolate Ways”, and this interview (http://www.voicesfromthedarkside.de/Interviews/PATHS-OF-POSSESSION–7043.html) seems to confirm he started writing music only after he left Morbid Angel.
Bands are collaborative efforts. Songwriting credits can also be 100% bullshit too as with Captain Beyond, Deicide, and Order From Chaos.
Tangent: Order from Chaos — I’ve seen their name more and more recently. Are they worth hearing/good? What other bands are they like? Thanks!
Yes, they are sometimes and I think it was the case with Morbid Angel as well (compare Abominations of Desolation to Altars of Madness).
Brunelle might have influenced Azagthoth with regards to the playing style, but he seems to be the first one to admit that he wasn’t that much involved with songwriting when he was in Morbid Angel.
If anything, I would blame Flemming Rasmussen for Covenant’s more streamlined approach to death metal, rather than Brunelle’s departure.
“Covenant” is definitely less brilliant than “Blessed Are The Sick”, not because of it’s speed, but because it lacks the contrast induced by blast beats followed by doom-like parts that was present in the latter.
That’s exactly what it doesn’t lack. Have a look at Blood on My Hands, for example, which demonstrates this exact kind of legobrick song construction. Contrasting with this, the riffs on Blessed Are the Sick (the track) are chained to each other such that a change in the end of one riff leads to the beginning of the next riff (these were two randomly chosen examples).
“On the other hand, I’d like to know where the author got the idea that Brunelle had anything to do with the songwriting process.”
The author bandies around assertions like he’s ingested the spice melange of Arrakis and can see things others can’t. See my comments seeking clarifications of his initial review.
The Spice approach is the most used method around here, something has to explain why some metal is called dumbed down cyclical punk while Master/Death Strike isn’t. Just take what’s useful out of here and forget the rest, meaning don’t bother arguing,this isn’t gospel here. Good writing but it isn’t the final word.
However, I actually really like the site, and I feel the may stop themselves from having more influence/more writers. They sidetrack themselves by taking really specific (read: aspy) opinions about REALLY fine-grained issues: like the commies in Russia who used to execute each other over holding the wrong dialectical theory of this year’s crop cycle, or something stupid like that.
The enemy is not those who think Covenant is up there among MA’s best, or that Opeth make decent ‘prog’, or that Speed metal is really called thrash metal, or those who think that Sodom is top-tier metal
Rather, the enemy is those who think Illud or Heretic is up there among MA’s best, or that Steven Wilson writes ‘prog, or that Pantera is thrash/speed metal, or those who think that Mastodon is metal.
I can only put it down to the implcit nazi endorsements in the Blessed booklet
What sort of Nazi endorsements are implied in the booklet?
He’s obviously the type that’s gonna whine over anything that’s not PC or left-wing. Typical sjw behavior.
Nazi sympathizer SJW
No middle ground.
No, you basement dwelling, anti-SJW, warrior: Vincent praises ‘a certain leader from the past who shall not be named’ in the notes to Blessed.
It was a stab at the ideological bent of ANUS, not moral outrage. Go read a book.
Maybe he was referring to the boy JESUS CHRIST?!
Nope, don’t live in my parents basement. I work 50 hours a week operating heavy equipment. I pay my bills and everything. Don’t need anyone to wipe my ass. I bet you’re some rich kid who’s had his parents pay his way through college and thinks he’s a intellectual because he’s swallowed the leftist propaganda being shoved down his throat like a massive cum shot. You’re the metrosexual hipster type that would be seen working at Starbucks.
Your comment saying that the only reason you put the album blessed down is due to an implicit Nazi endorsement. What exactly does that comment have to do with you taking a stab at Anus.com for supposedly being ideologically bent? You are stating that you don’t like a certain album or that it looses cool points with you because Vincent thanked a certain someone, that is for moral reasons. I need to look at the blessed booklet again BTW. I find it funny that you’re so butthurt by that you won’t dare speak his name. It just comes to show that you’re a sensitive little bitch.
What? You think you’re fucking smart because you maybe read a few books or maybe got some college degree? If there was an economic collapse you sjw types would be the first to perish cause you do not possess any skills to survive and obviously lack any sort of common sense.
Fuck off and die
“You are stating that you don’t like a certain album or that it looses cool points with you because Vincent thanked a certain someone, that is for moral reasons.”
My noble proletariat. Please read more carefully before you loose your shit in an orgiastic (and essay length) diatribe. I love Blessed. It looses zero ‘cool points’ with me simply because Vincent praised Hitler.
I was joking that this was the reason that ANUS praise it so highly over Covenant.
“I work 50 hours a week operating heavy equipment”
And it shows.
I like how you didn’t address the part of his comment where he calls you an enormous faggot
I see you know your judo well. Good one.
Now why do you think that is? Haha
“It was a stab at the ideological bent of ANUS,”
a dishonest one, given anus lumps racial collectivism even of the european variety in with BLM style gibsmedat bullshit.
A “digital delay device” is ‘tech chinese’ for something which stores a digital representation of an audio signal for later, IOW, delayed playback. The trick Morris explained was about adding a snare sample on top of the already recorded, actual sound by using a signal picked off from the erase head of a tape recorder to trigger replay of the stored sample in order for that to arrive at the play/ record head at the time when the recorded sound was also there.
This is by far my favorite Morbid Angel-album (though Altars…, Abominations… and to a lesser extent Covenant are brilliant as well). The songs come together to form a conceptual whole in a way, that cannot be calculated in a strictly intellectual way. Something was happening to the band on a spiritual level as this record came to be.
Blessed are the sick indeed.
>Something was happening to the band on a spiritual level as this record came to be.
Shitloads of mushrooms, I think.
Haha! Not a bad guess. No matter what it was, it sure worked.
It’s not a joke. Trey was known (or at least rumored) to ingest psilocybin mushrooms and perform summoning rituals before recording sessions.
And/or contact with ancient dead Sumerian gods.
A thin, blurry line, maybe.
I swear to god you can’t record a Morbid Angel track whilst shrooming. Or even baked.
But you could probably record ‘The Love of Lave’ B-sides flexidisc.
I’m thinking he probably had most of the material written out by the time the band began recording, so no need to be on shrooms while recording that stuff. I can see shroomin in the studio to come up with the lead parts. If you don’t think that’s possible then you need to get better at playing and tripping nuts.
This is probably my fave death metal album. They surely riffed death metal forward with this release and it has a very sick quirkiness to azagthoth’s playing. Elitist who rag on the drum triggered advancements are just miserable people IMO. Drink beer listen to this.
There are no “drum triggered replacements” on this recording. Just clever (due to the limitations of the used recording technology) editing of recorded drum tracks in order to change the originally recorded sound to one someone liked better for some reason.
Avoiding loaded terms like ‘advancement’ is entirely intentional here.
it’s not miserablist to not think drum should sound like popcorn in the microwave.
Blessed is probably the most consistent album – Altars tends to taper off after Chapel of Ghouls (apart from Blasphemy of course). And with a bit of influence from Celtic Frost they pretty much created the template for how to do a DM ‘ballad’ with the title track. Rebel Lands is the dark horse though.
I disagree, Covenant has plenty of innovation, those mid-paced riffs in Rapture and World of Shit, and pretty much the whole God of Emptiness is new territory. Trey’s solos are noticeably more non-linear too, sometimes going into organised noise territory.
I also think Covenant has almost perfect DM production – especially in regard to how the kicks are sitting.
They’ve never matched the dark and twisted melodicity of ‘World of Shit’, IMHO. There is NOTHING like this on Alters or Blessed.
Whilst I love ‘Worlds of Shit’, it’s also the most simplistic/blockheaded. And an awesome sludgefest. The verse riff is mostly whole tone, which is uncharacteristic of metal I think. C D E F# G A
I was just playing this riff, and now I realize: on the 4th time in the riff, they should’ve played ALL whole tones: C D E F# G# A# . Try it on a B.C. Rich Warlock or some shit!
“This song is blockheaded because verse is in whole tones”
A =/= B. I couldn’t give a shit about whether the verse is consonant or dissonent. I care about how the end result sounds.
Oh snap, you misunderstood: I wasn’t saying “This song is blockheaded because verse is in whole tones”. I was saying it’s simplistic/blockheaded…and it has a whole tone riff (which BTW is a cool thing).
Now explain to me, objectively, why I’m being irrational in thinking it isn’t bone-headed?
My bet is, you’ve got nothing.
Roger, this must be a sub-battle in your crusade to show that no one can prove ‘Blessed’ to be better than ‘Covenant’.
You command me to prove you irrational?
You’re not being irrational, son; you merely disagree with me. Remember you wrote “focus broadly on championing good metal over shit metal, as opposed to getting distracted by and/or instigating largely insignificant ‘civil wars’ AMONG good metal. ”
Got me curious though: which song would YOU deem their most simplistic/blockheaded.
Hey, it’s fockers like you instigating the civil war. I’m just trying to Show that it’s useless. Fighting the nazis was not ‘pro war’.
As you’ve just acknowledged. It just comes down to subjective taste whether or not Covenant is of lesser ‘value’ that Alters or Blessed. So what’s the fucking point.
It’s at least mildly possible to point out the objective differnces between their first three and domination.
Unless you are giving an analysis of the theory behind the music, then don’t throw around grand claims about the music. Simple.
re your question. Eyes to see, ears to hear. Or ageless, still i am.
Oh DARN it: I meant to ask, which would you deem the most simplistic/blockheaded on their first 3 albums (i.e. the good ones).
At any rate: to call one of their songs ‘the most simplistic/blockheaded’ is not really making a ‘grand claim’. You’re being too sensitive about all this, son.
Altars will always be their finest hour, but blessed was a logical follow up and is a close second to altars. Covenant was solid, but they were regressing at that point.
I see AoM/AoD as them firing off every weapon in their arsenal, and then BatS as them discarding the less effective weapons and honing the ones that worked best. Neither is better than the other, one is just more refined. Personally I like AoM the best, though Brainstorm fucking guts me.
Abominations is just as essential as altars and blessed. There’s also the Thy Kingdom Come demo which I’m surprised hasn’t been mentioned in these comments. Altars was their best and one of the best death metal albums ever. Blessed was a bit more polished, but that was only a small detail. Tracks like Brainstorm, Thy Kingdom Come, Ancient Ones and Abominations can compete with anything off Altars. Fall from Grace is a cool tune, but not one of my favorites. I liked how they incorporated more doomy parts on blessed and the creepy sounding intro and interludes made the album flow perfectly. Morbid Angel couldn’t do altars part 2 so they made blessed are the sick. A logical progression in the band without losing their identity. Covenant wasn’t a bad album but, you can tell the band was at times starting to sound flat. Songs like Rapture, World Of Shit and Blood On My Hands were OK, but don’t compare to the material off their previous recordings. Angel of Disease is by far the highlight off covenant and the only track off that album that can compete with their early classic material.
Another ‘Abominations’ hipster.
Dm.org attracts them like shit to a blanket.
Says the poser who thinks Covenant is Morbid Angel’s magnum opus.
God there are some dimwits around here. You seem to be among them.
You will find i never said such a thing. I like each of the band’s first three real albums very much. It’s you wankers who insist that Blessed must be morally recognised as their best and that Covenant is shit and that if you don’t you’re out of the KCULT internet inner circle of platonic metal knowers blah blah baa baa baaaaa baaaaaa.
Morbid Angel will always hold a special place in my heart. They made me fall in love with Death Metal in a real way. Trey is a guitar god as far as I’m concerned.
I’ve spun Alters of Madnesss and Blessed are The Sick more times than I can count. Two treasured albums.
Alters definitely has a special place in my heart as I heard it first and it shaped a lot of how I listened to metal from then on. But, I find myself listening to Blessed much more than Alter these days.
Sort of the reverse of DEICIDE. I was crazy about Legion, still love it, but now I mainly put on the S/T album. Odd.
Everyone I’ve met who likes Covenant is a bit of an idiot and usually only likes it the most because it was in MTV back when new, so they know it and act like it’s the best. Shit I barely like Blessed with its awful New Kids On The Block drums, Morbid Angel truly are a one album wonder band.
Some of them are also fat sarcastic Star Trek fans like our dear friend Roger.
PH fat, my little cocktail sausage man. And i’m more of a star wars kinda guy.
Sorry, Roger, I’m not your penis.
I prefer Abominations of Desolation, then Blessed Are the Sick, and in third place Altars of Madness.
I agree with Monos, that “Altars tends to taper off after Chapel of Ghouls…”.
Blessed kept (still keeps) my interest during all of the album.
Also, can’t understand why everyone thought the Altars studio production was the cat’s meow… always thought it was shitty and it barely sounded better than Napalm Death’s mushy “Harmony Corruption”.
Altars sounds fucking real as it was real people playing real instruments with little studio chicanery.
Authenticity is what matters most.
It doesn’t sound as real as Abominations, or Possessed’s Seven Churches, or [insert demo here]
I agree with the dude above you, I don’t get the hubbub
“[insert demo here]”
Promote this man.
I want to like this album, but I’ve never been able to appreciate it the way I can Altars of Madness.
Fall from Grace is the best death metal song ever written, it is beautifully structured and perhaps the song that most benefits from the production, however when comparing albums I do prefer Altars of Madness because it seems more unified in it’s perverse intensity.
So Covenant is more ‘streamlined’ than Blessed.
SO IS ALTERS OF MADNESS – and that doesn’t make it shit.
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