Morbid Angel Live at the Forge
Photos © 2019 by: Bill Fisher
Photos © 2019 by: Bill Fisher
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Throughout history only a handful of artists have been able to achieve a truly iconic stature within any given artform. Morbid Angel is among those select few. Shattering the boundaries of creativity and imagination while evolving with each groundbreaking release throughout its historic career, the band truly is an icon in extreme music. Continually serving as source of countless inspiration to the multitude of fans and never failing to amaze with each evolving chapter.
Formed in 1984 by founding member Trey Azagthoth, the Floridian band went through a number of lineup changes and recorded the demos “Scream forth Blasphemies”, “Bleed for the Devil” and “Abominations Of Desolation”, featuring Trey Azagthoth and Richard Brunelle on guitar, drummer/vocalist Mike Browning and bassist John Ortega.
Azagthoth’s interests in the occult, ancient magic, witchcraft and the Necronomicon poured into the band’s lyricism, as the musical context grew darker and attained definitive sophistication. The 7’’ single “Thy Kingdom Come” was released in Europe in 1988 and Morbid Angel was preparing to make a profound universal statement in form of a lineup consisting of guitarist Trey Azagthoth, drummer Pete Sandoval, bassist/vocalist David Vincent, and guitarist Richard Brunelle.
Living together in several band houses which also served as places for rehearsals and pulling their funds together to purchase an old school bus which they converted into a tour bus, Morbid Angel hit the road on various underground touring adventures with the company of their mascot/head of security pit bull named “Butch”. On a shoe string budget and supporting only the various demos, the band made its way to places such as New York and performing at the clubs “Streets” in the city and “Sundance” on Long Island.
With the help from friends in the band Immolation, they managed to get a side job painting a shopping mall in upstate NY to help offset expenses on the many off days of this particular shake and bake tour. Also the band met with troubles when rolling though New Jersey and were pulled over and arrested, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time.
The bus was searched and the police found some most interesting and alarming things which lead to them holding the band for a while there in jail, including Butch. So fitting for a group consisting of a bunch of freaks. Morbid Angel continued on their mission of Death Metal and was soon discovered by Mick Harris of Napalm Death which lead to their meeting with Digby Pearson and their recording contract with Earache Records.
Altars Of Madness descended upon the world in May of 1989 as a raging storm, baffling the listeners with the insane amount of energy and adrenaline emanating from each track along with the finely-shaped musical passages and fiercely intense atmosphere.
Nothing else sounded like this album at the time and the fans of what was then considered to be ‘extreme’ music were exposed to something truly out of this world. Recorded at Tampa’s Morrisound Studios, the album catapulted to #1 on the UK Independent Chart, solidifying the band’s world-wide fan base.
Morbid Angel found itself on the Grindcrusher Tour in the UK alongside the awesome Napalm Death and Carcass, then continuing with Napalm Death on the Smash Teams tour throughout Europe. The following year Morbid Angel hit the road in the USA using their converted school bus and still sometimes bringing along their pit bull “Butch”, performing at many underground clubs and taking part in the epic Michigan Death Fest event which even the local mainstream news took part in.
Blessed Are The Sick, 1991’s sophomore full length release adorned in J. Delville’s painting ‘Les Tresors De Satan’ as cover art, is considered to be one of the most revered albums in metal history as well as a pure musical masterpiece. The dark ambiance and classical overtones were deeply engraved into the context, as Azagthoth credited Mozart for inspiration.
The songs on the album have retained the venomous energy of its predecessor, yet took the sound another step away from this earthly realm, seeing the band expand thematically as well as musically. Morbid Angel was quickly becoming a devastating force to be reckoned with, not just within the metal community, but the entire music field in general. Abominations Of Desolation, the band’s initial pre-Altars unreleased debut, saw its release later that year, providing the fans with an earlier chapter of the band’s work. Morbid Angel, however, were prepared to break another barrier.
Covenant, the third album released in 1993, was a true milestone for the underground metal community and remains so to this day, being the first and only major label release by a death metal band. No compromises were made. In fact, this album is considered to be one of the darkest and most Satanically-inspired releases by the band throughout its collection.
The lineup consisted of Trey Azagthoth handling the entire guitar assault and keyboard work along with Sandoval and Vincent in their respective positions, as Brunelle exited the band in 1992. Covenant was produced at the familiar Morrisound Studios, this time with the expertise of Flemming Rasmussen behind the mixing board, as the final mixes were made at Sweet Silence Studios in Copenhagen.
The band toured extensively, enlisting live guitarist Erik Rutan for European dates including a run sharing the stage for the first time with Cannibal Corpse. Brunelle would make a brief return for a line of American concerts with Motorhead and Black Sabbath. The video for the single “Rapture” premiered on Headbanger’s Ball, followed by an interview with swat suit-clad David Vincent.
The video for “God Of Emptiness” featured yet another then-unseen feature in extreme metal – Trey’s use of the Ibanez 7-String Universe guitar, as he is a true pioneer of its full potential and application in the extreme metal genre. At this point Morbid Angel had become the living proof that creativity did not have to meet the demands of conformity in order to achieve commercial success. The band was ready to conquer and dominate further.
Domination, released in May 1995, was the band’s major label release. Guitarist Erik Rutan creatively contributed to the material featured on the album. This release was a grandiose, slime-ridden departure from its predecessor. Applying a generous use of heavy grooves and power-driven detuned chordal progressions such as in the track “Where the Slime Live”, which inspired yet another quite interesting video from the band. Morbid Angel took on a long touring schedule throughout 1995 and into 1996. Starting in their home state of Florida, the band toured extensively throughout America and Europe.
Entangled In Chaos, the official live album produced by Trey Azagthoth, was recorded during the Domination touring cycle. The band had become an otherworldly organic slime-dripping machine from the swamps of Florida, far evolved musically and thematically from its initial commercial and underground success. Morbid Angel had once again placed itself among the forefront of the extreme metal community with this incredibly powerful live album.
Formulas Fatal To The Flesh was released in 1997 as a strikingly different Morbid Angel effort in comparison to its predecessor. With the departure of David Vincent and now Trey Azagthoth creating all the compositions and lyrics, Morbid Angel extracted from the Abyss this new masterpiece of feeling and imagination, taking things to a whole new level in song writing.
The use of the extra sick guitar harmonies and polyrhythms in conjunction with the deep occult lyrical formulations, resulted in this totally mind bending artistic work. This groundbreaking release contained the most deep and beautifully ugly, meanist material, and introduced new bassist/vocalist Steve Tucker into the lineup. According to the diehard followers of Morbid Angel, this album harkens back to the Altars era with its rage-filled atmosphere.
Though far evolved technically and conceptually from its eight-year predecessor, Formulas Fatal To The Flesh showcased Morbid Angel for what the band was first and foremost – a brutal, seething creature of sickness, depth and unrelenting ambitions.
Delivering this uncompromising material live plus with a fine collection of older classic songs and the return of Erik Rutan as a touring guitarist, Morbid Angel set a clear milestone again as for a band that really delivers in concert. Steve Tucker was greatly received by the fans and performing all the live material, including the older songs, masterfully.
Sharing the stage with amazing bands such as Vader and Nile, Morbid Angel showed once again that the repeated worldwide success certainly did not affect the band’s underground drive nor purposes. Azagthoth’s guitar wizardry and spirit of innovation, including his psychedelic Wind Rift and the Anti-Vacuum Culture micing techniques, made this album a remarkable effort in the application of a wide array of tones and textures side by side with some of his most intense riffing.
Along with Sandoval’s inhuman drumming and Tucker’s ferocious vocal/bass attack, Formulas Fatal To The Flesh had become yet another milestone in the band’s unending evolution. After the successful touring for Formulas and the amazing vibe and undeniable power of the live performances, Erik Rutan returned to the fold as a contributing member, thus setting the foundation for the next assault.
Gateways To Annihilation was the highly anticipated metal release of 2000. Opening with a chorus of swamp frogs, the album delivered another devastating blow to the ears of metal fans across the world. This record presented, in many of the song stuctures, a new and even more sick level of poly rhythms over cold industrial swing foundations.
With the majority of the tracks using the Ibanez 7-String Universe guitar, plus the continued application of the innovative micing techniques with the new addition of the Roland Guitar Synth, Morbid Angel once again displayed the driving and endless ambitions of these outer-worldy artists. This was the first album to feature Tucker as a full contributor to the band’s material and the composing chemistry of the team shined through brilliantly with this unique release.
Morbid Angel started its touring cycle for Gateways in the USA as they were invited by Phil Anselmo to participate on the first leg of the Pantera Extreme Steel tour, giving the band an amazing platform to perform it’s material for a wider audience which again was a huge step for the Death Metal scene in general. Steve Tucker departed Morbid Angel shortly after and was replaced by Jared Anderson (1976-2006), a member of Erik Rutan’s project Hate Eternal, as touring vocalist/bassist.
Morbid Angel toured extensively throughout the world and once again was invited to join Pantera’s Extreme Steel tour for it’s second run in the United States and with this time also including Slayer. After which the band teamed up for the first time with the legendary death metal band Deicide for another touring run in the United States. After completing this cycle of touring, and the last gig being in Japan with Pantera, Erik Rutan and Jared Anderson left the band in 2002 to fully concentrate on Hate Eternal.
Heretic, out in 2003, saw Morbid Angel as an entity truly out of this Universe. Recorded at D.O.W. Studios in Florida and engineered by the band’s own sound engineer and tour manager Juan “Punchy” Gonzalez, this was the first effort to be created outside of Morrisound Studios. It captured an essence so far removed from the physical realm in form of a multi-structured, fiery whirlwind of sweeping guitar poly rhythms and psychedelic guitar solos with the third time use of the innovative mic’ing techniques.
Pete Sandoval once again shined, showing his multi-dimensional drumming abilities and contributing to the writing process with his amazing composition “Striken Arise”. Steve Tucker, who had returned to the band, contributing to the material once again and adding his unique stylistic lyrical arrangements and presence. The Heretic material, having a quite raw overall tone to it on the record, live once again displayed that Morbid Angel creates music like no one other, continuing as an epic and unrelenting band live in concert.
With the addition of Tony Norman as a touring guitarist, Morbid Angel toured the world extensively and sharing the stages with bands such as Krisiun, Suffocation, Satyricon and Superjoint Ritual. Steve Tucker exited the band at the final leg of the Heretic touring cycle and David Vincent returned for a series of South American dates leading up to the Masters Of Chaos Tour which followed.
Guitarist Erik Rutan returned for a number of European festivals, featuring the legendary Domination lineup together once again in over ten years. In spring of 2008 Morbid Angel announced tryouts for the second guitarist position, which was filled by Norwegian guitarist Destructhor. The band toured heavily across the globe, taking breaks as they worked on material for the next album.
Illud Divinum Insanus, Morbid Angel’s eighth studio album, was released on Season Of Mist Records in June of 2011. The album features Tim Yeung on drums, replacing the longtime drummer Pete Sandoval who was dealing with a serious back injury. After touring Europe, Morbid Angel announced the 2012 Illud Divinum Insanus North American Tour with Dark Funeral, Grave and VadimVon, as well as the 20th Anniversary of Covenant U.S. Tour in fall of 2013 and in Europe during late 2014.
Juvenilia, released exclusively on Record Store Day on April 18, 2015 as a 12″ vinyl limited to 1500 copies, is a live album showcasing the band’s early performance on their first tour to the United Kingdom at Nottingham’s Rock City on November 14, 1989.
In June of 2015 came the announcement that Steve Tucker was once again to return to his role as frontman and bassist of Morbid Angel.