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Morbid Angel’s ‘Blessed are the Sick’ Turns 25

MA-sick

Morbid Angel annihilated the American death metal scene of the early ‘90s; specifically the Tampa, Florida, scene of the late ‘80s and ’90s. Their debut Altars of Madness wreaked havoc upon the extreme metal masses in 1989 and death metal has never looked back since. Then-vocalist David Vincent and drummer Pete Sandoval pummeled eardrums together while recording World Downfall for seminal grind act Terrorizer; they moved their attack from California to Florida by way of North Carolina and Morbid Angel was born. Their sophomore release Blessed are the Sick turns 25 today, and here is what it means to the band and the genre as a whole.

Of the first David Vincent era of the band only Domination gets overlooked more than Blessed are the Sick. Their aforementioned debut and their third release, Covenant, constantly garner great attention for different reasons; the debut for its no holds barred approach and the latter for their ability to change speeds on a dime. Blessed toes the line between albums quite well, much like Slayer’s South of Heaven bridges the gap between Reign In Blood and Seasons In The Abyss. The band experiments with slowed tempos on the album’s first track “Fall From Grace,” also shifting gears without a moment’s notice.

Flashes of Altars enter into the fray on “Abominations;” Trey Azagthoth skewers all comers with his fretboard flourish, delivering the fastest song on the entire album. Vincent’s vocals imbue much more of a guttural style than in the past, and this sound continues to develop and become more fully fledged on Covenant.

Tracks like “Doomsday Celebration” feel like a leftover from a King Diamond album; a classically themed interlude that also could double as Castlevania or Super Metroid music from Super Nintendo. Morbid Angel experimented with these bumper tracks on Blessed and made them more fleshed out on Covenant. Seeing as this kind of in-between track would likely be played by a live orchestra these days, it shows just how poorly the synthesized sounds have aged over time.

1991 was a great year for death metal and Blessed are the Sick had tough competition from the multitude of Swedish death metal albums and a genre defining album within the same scene; Death’s Human. Entombed released Clandestine, Dismember had Like An Everflowing Stream, and Suffocation had Effigy of the Forgotten. With all of this going on it makes sense that Morbid Angel would have trouble standing out at the time–the genre was a lot more crowded than it had been back in 1989 when they released their debut. Still, this well-oiled machine would continue to produce as the same collective for another five years and two more albums.

All in all, Blessed are the Sick is still one of the finest albums the band has ever released, however being a victim of its year of release and its own band’s discography likely hold it back from being more revered in the long run. 25 years later this album, with all of its orchestral wrinkles and scars, holds up quite well overall. Few bands can keep so much energy from album to album and Morbid Angel did just that, evolving all the way.

—Tom Campagna

This article has been updated to properly reflect the membership of Morbid Angel

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