Morbid Angel

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Morbid Angel
Morbid Angel Saarbrücken 2011.JPG
Morbid Angel live in 2011
Background information
Origin Tampa, Florida, United States
Genres Death metal
Years active 1984–present
Associated acts Terrorizer
Members Trey Azagthoth
Steve Tucker
Scott Fuller
Dan Vadim Von
Past members David Vincent
Pete Sandoval
Tim Yeung
Mike Browning
Wayne Hartsell
Dallas Ward
Richard Brunelle
Kenny Bamber
Sterling Von Scarborough
Erik Rutan
Jared Anderson
Tony Norman
John Ortega
Michael Manson
Terri Samuels

Morbid Angel is an American death metal band based in Tampa, Florida. The band was one of the original death metal bands signed to Earache Records, and was also influential in the transition of death metal from its thrash metal roots to its current form by incorporating guttural vocals, up-tempo blast beats, atonality in guitar soloing, and dark, chunky, mid-paced rhythms. They have been described as one of "the most influential and emulated bands in death metal", alongside Cannibal Corpse, and have been cited as an influence by many later bands.[1] They were also the first death metal band to experience mainstream success in connection with being signed to Giant Records in 1992, heavy rotation of their music videos on MTV, and having the music video for the song "God of Emptiness" shown on an episode of Beavis and Butt-head.[2][3] Their first four albums are considered classics in the genre.[4]

UK music magazine Terrorizer ranked Morbid Angel's 1989 debut 'Altars of Madness' first in its list "Top 40 greatest death metal albums". Decibel magazine also rated guitarist Trey Azagthoth as the number one "death metal guitarist ever".[5] The band's songs are complex in arrangement, owing to the considerable technical skills of both Azagthoth as well as drummer Pete Sandoval, the latter of whom also played in the grindcore band Terrorizer. According to Nielsen SoundScan, Morbid Angel is the third best-selling death metal band in the United States (after Cannibal Corpse and Deicide up until 2003 with sales of over 445,000),[6] with their third album Covenant being the best-selling death metal album during the beginning of the Soundscan era time with over 150,000 units sold.[7]

The band's original lyrical themes focused mostly on Satanism, occultism and anti-Christian subject matter, but from Blessed Are the Sick onward, the lyrics moved toward the ancient Sumerian gods. Much of this is a nod to the Simon Necronomicon, which was influenced by Sumerian mythology, the author H. P. Lovecraft,[8] and fascination with the Roman Empire. However, some anti-religious elements continue to permeate the lyrics. Their albums are notable for being released in alphabetical order, with Guitarist Trey Azagthoth commenting that it was a coincidence regarding the first two albums, but that it has been done consciously since then.[9]


Formation, demos and Altars of Madness (1984–1990)[edit]

Morbid Angel was formed in 1984 in Tampa, Florida by guitarist Trey Azagthoth and drummer/vocalist Mike Browning. The band made their debut in 1987 on the New Renaissance Records record label. They recorded their debut album, Abominations of Desolation, in 1986, but the band was unsatisfied with the final product and it remained unreleased until 1991, printing 10,000 copies. In the early stages of their career the band developed a reputation for "gruesome stage antics."[1]

In 1986, David Vincent joined the band, replacing Michael Manson and Sterling von Scarborough as vocalist and bassist respectively. Fellow Terrorizer drummer Pete Sandoval soon followed. Their first studio album, Altars of Madness, was released in 1989, and is regarded by many as one of the most important death metal albums of all time. It is sometimes considered the first true death metal album.[10][11][12] Music journalist Jason Birchmeier writes that:

Few albums struck a chord within the ears and minds of the late-'80s underground metal scene like Morbid Angel's Altars of Madness did at the end of the decade, setting a new precedent for metal bands to reach. With the arguable exception of Chuck Schuldiner's Death, never before had a heavy metal band carried their lightning-fast guitar riffs and equally spellbinding guitar solos into such horrific territory. Venom and Slayer redefined the extent to which a metal band could align itself with all things evil during the beginning of the decade, but Morbid Angel made these two groups sound like children's music compared to the Florida-based group's assaulting death metal sounds and their blasphemous lyrics.[13]

Rise to success (1991–1995)[edit]

1991 saw the release of their second album, Blessed Are the Sick, which was met with widespread critical acclaim, and is considered by many to be a landmark release in the death metal genre.[14] The album differed from its predecessor, showcasing a more "sludgy" side to the band. Following the success of Altars of Madness' and 'Blessed are the Sick', in the Spring of 1992 Morbid Angel were signed by Irving Azoff to Giant Records for one album, with the option of five more.[3] Later that same year, second guitarist Richard Brunelle was kicked out of the band due to alleged substance abuse.[2]

On June 22, 1993 the band released their third full-length album 'Covenant', which went on to sell over 150,000 copies in the United States alone. Their record label dedicated promotional resources to the album, and commissioned music videos for the songs 'Rapture' and 'God of Emptiness'. These music videos were put on heavy rotation by MTV, and the latter also appeared on the television show Beavis and Butt-head. The success of the album enabled the band to tour with Black Sabbath and Motörhead across the United States from February through March of 1994, which David Vincent credits with helping the band significantly expand their audience.[2][15]

The band released its fourth studio album, Domination, on May 9, 1995, which featured new guitarist Erik Rutan of Ripping Corpse. It proved to be a somewhat controversial album among fans, featuring a slower, more atmospheric and experimental sound than on previous albums.[16] Music critic describes the album's sound as "more groove-oriented".[17] The album has gone on to sell over 100,000 copies in the United States alone. Regardless, following the release of the album their record label dropped them from their roster.[4][18]

Steve Tucker era (1996–2003)[edit]

In 1996, shortly after the release of their live album titled Entangled in Chaos, bassist/vocalist David Vincent departed the band and was replaced by Steve Tucker. They released their fifth full-length album Formulas Fatal to the Flesh in 1998, which was considered more aggressive and complex than their previous album 'Domination'.[1] With Tucker, the band went on to release Gateways to Annihilation and Heretic in 2000 and 2003 respectively. Tucker briefly left Morbid Angel in 2001 and was replaced by former Hate Eternal bassist and vocalist Jared Anderson. In 2002 however, Anderson left the band and Tucker re-assumed his position as bassist and vocalist.[14]

Reunion with David Vincent (2004–2014)[edit]

In 2004, Steve Tucker once again left the band, paving the way for former vocalist/bassist David Vincent to return. The band continued by touring and playing festivals such as Wacken Open Air in 2006.

Morbid Angel's appearance on some of the mid-summer 2008 European festivals was announced as a "short break from writing and pre-production of their new 8th studio album".[19] In May 2008, it was announced that Destructhor from Zyklon would be the band's new guitarist,[20] and Destructhor would appear on the new album.

On March 5, 2011, the band headlined the Scion Rock Fest in Pomona, California. This performance was their first in the US in six years, aside from a one-off show in Los Angeles in May 2009.[21] On March 18, 2010, the band announced that Tim Yeung would play drums on the upcoming album, allowing Pete Sandoval to recover from back surgery.[22] On June 22, 2010, the band entered the studio to begin the recording of their new full-length album.[23] On March 9, 2011, Morbid Angel confirmed that their new album would be called Illud Divinum Insanus.[24] The album was released on June 7, 2011 on Season of Mist.[23][24] In an interview in December 2013, David Vincent confirmed that Pete Sandoval is no longer a member of the band, claiming that Sandoval had "found Jesus", and stating, "Pete Sandoval and Morbid Angel are not compatible", laying to rest speculation that Sandoval would eventually be returning to the band.[25]

Asked in a December 2014 interview about Morbid Angel's plans for 2015, Vincent replied, "We're done [touring] for awhile. It's time to write."[26] Yeung said that the band was in talks of recording an EP.[27]

Reunion with Steve Tucker (2015–present)[edit]

On June 15, 2015, it was reported that David Vincent and Tim Yeung were no longer in the band. Former vocalist/bassist Steve Tucker has once again rejoined, and a replacement drummer has yet to be found.[28][29] Later that day, however, Vincent denied that he had left the band.[30] On his official Facebook page, Steve Tucker hinted in a post on the 17th of June that guitarist Destructhor is no longer part of Morbid Angel either: "Who will play second guitar? Time will answer that one..."[31] On June 18, 2015, this was confirmed, as Destructhor announced his departure from Morbid Angel to focus on the Norwegian death metal band Myrkskog.[32] On June 19, 2015, David Vincent confirmed that he left Morbid Angel, due to creative differences.[33]

On August 3, 2016, it was announced that Morbid Angel was signed to UDR Music and is currently at work on a new studio album, which will be released in 2017, with a tour to follow.[34] On January 9, 2017, guitarist Trey Azagthoth announced on his Facebook page that Scott Fuller from Annihilated joined Morbid Angel for the recording of their new album.[35] On the next day, the band announced that they had hired Dan Vadim Von from Vadimvon as their second guitarist.[36]

Legacy and controversy[edit]

Morbid Angel have been one of the most highly influential band in the growth and development of death metal along with fellow Floridian death metal band Cannibal Corpse.[1][7][37] Former guitarist Erik Rutan went on to form the successful death metal band Hate Eternal, while the South Carolina band Nile have gone on to enjoy significant levels of success in a similar style of death metal.[1] Their sound has also heavily influenced the growth and development of death metal and black metal in Brazil and South America, as well as of the early black metal scene in Norway.[1] Many bands have cited Morbid Angel as an influence on their own music, including Immortal,[38] Krisiun,[39] Gorguts,[40] Behemoth,[41] Dead Congregation,[42] Gojira,[43] Opeth,[44] Pyrrhon,[45] Revocation,[46] and many others. Their early release 'Abominations of Desolation' as well as 'Altars of Madness' are considered two of the earliest true examples of death metal.[47]

Guitarist Trey Azagthoth is one of the most influential and widely revered guitarists in heavy metal.[48][49][50] VH1 have described him as "a unique and thrilling lead player more following in the adventurous footsteps of Eddie Van Halen than a stiff tactician. Bands like Hate Eternal and Nile have used the now common death metal language that Morbid Angel commenced. Their influence is most clearly represented by current Metal heavyweight, Gojira."[51] SPIN write that "he has blazed a tension-filled style all his own" and that "when he solos, he enters a mystical mind state he calls the "Temple of Ostx".[52] During the 90s the band were one of a number of bands involved in the scare created around death metal, and were featured in a news report about the issue due to the band's overtly Satanic and occult lyrics and imagery.[53][54]

Musical style[edit]

Morbid Angel's style of music has undergone a number of changes throughout their musical career. The band's sound is characterised by harsh, growled vocals, technically complex guitarwork that frequently makes use of fast tremolo-picking and palm-muted riffs.[55] Azagthoth's guitarwork is a core part of the band's sound, as he displays "mad virtuosity in riffs and solos alike, wielding atonality and shred in solos like a version of Kerry King that knew what he was doing."[49] Pete Sandoval's work behind the drums has also been crucial to the band's sound, and "is known for his great double bass drum speed and technical proficiency" and as one of the fastest drummers in metal.[56] In addition, "Sandoval is also among the first extreme metal drummers to champion the use of acoustic drum triggers."[56] On their early albums, they pushed metal to its most extreme level, musically and lyrically.[14] The band has evolved their anti-Christian lyrical themes from these early works. On 'Altars of Madness' the lyrics largely consist of simple blasphemous and overtly Satanic proclamations.[1] However the sophistication and depth of the lyrics has grown over time. On their 1993 album 'Covenant', the band articulate more broadly anti-theistic lyrics, and profess "anger at a higher power." Today, "the band's lyrics are even more philosophical and thought-provoking. Current lyricist Trey Azagthoth has diagramed his personal ideology in the album "Formulas Fatal to the Flesh". His stance is blasphemous and non-traditional, but hardly evil."[1]


Morbid Angel in 2008

Current members[edit]

Former members[edit]

  • Mike Browning – drums, percussion, vocals (1984–1986)
  • Dallas Ward – bass guitar, vocals (1984–1985)
  • Terri Samuels – vocals (1984)
  • Richard Brunelle – guitar (1985–1992, 1994, 1998)
  • John Ortega – bass guitar (1985–1986)
  • Kenny Bamber – vocals (1985)
  • David Vincent – lead vocals, bass guitar (1986–1996, 2004–2015)
  • Wayne Hartsell – drums (1986–1988)
  • Michael Manson – vocals (1986)
  • Sterling Von Scarborough – bass guitar (1986; died 2006)
  • Pete Sandoval – drums, percussion (1988–2010)
  • Erik Rutan – guitar, keyboards (1993–1996, 1998–2002, 2006)
  • Jared Anderson – vocals, bass guitar (2001–2002; died 2006)
  • Destructhor – guitar (2008–2015)
  • Tim Yeung – drums (2010–2015)

Timeline (Recording Era; 1988-present)[edit]


Studio albums[edit]

Year Album details Peak chart positions Sales


1989 Altars of Madness
  • Released: May 12, 1989
  • Label: Earache
1991 Blessed Are the Sick
  • Released: May 22, 1991
  • Label: Earache
26 81
1993 Covenant
  • Released: June 22, 1993
  • Label: Giant
1995 Domination
  • Released: May 9, 1995
  • Label: Giant
13 93 124
1998 Formulas Fatal to the Flesh
  • Released: February 24, 1998
  • Label: Earache
22 93
2000 Gateways to Annihilation
  • Released: October 17, 2000
  • Label: Earache
2003 Heretic
  • Released: September 22, 2003
  • Label: Earache
27 28 146
2011 Illud Divinum Insanus 141 3 24 97 18 41
"—" denotes a release that did not chart.

Live albums[edit]

Year Album details
1996 Entangled in Chaos
  • Released: 1996
  • Label: Earache
2015 Juvenilia
  • Released: 2015
  • Label: Earache

Compilation albums[edit]

Year Album details
2012 Illud Divinum Insanus – The Remixes
  • Released: February 28, 2012
  • Label: Season of Mist
2016 The Best of Morbid Angel

• Released: September 30, 2016

• Label: Earache

Demo albums[edit]

Year Album details Peak chart positions
1991 Abominations of Desolation
  • Released: September 2, 1991
  • Label: Earache


Year EP details
1994 Laibach Re-mixes
  • Released: 1994
  • Label: Giant


Year Song Album
1988 "Thy Kingdom Come" Non-album single
1990 "Fall From Grace"


"Day of Suffering"

Blessed Are the Sick
1991 "The Ancient Ones" Blessed Are the Sick
1993 "Rapture" Covenant (Morbid Angel album)
1994 "God of Emptiness"
1995 "Where The Slime Live" Domination
2001 "Opening of the Gates" Gateways To Annihilation
2011 "Nevermore" Illud Divinum Insanus

Music videos[edit]

Year Song Director
1989 "Immortal Rites"
1991 "Blessed Are the Sick/Leading the Rats"
1993 "God of Emptiness" Tony Kunewalder
1995 "Where the Slime Live"
2003 "Enshrined by Grace" Pete Bridgewater[70]
2012 "Existo Vulgoré" Thomas Mignone


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External links[edit]