Tale of the Tube: Morbid Angel – Live Madness (1989)
On November 14, 1989, Morbid Angel played UK toilet circuit stop Nottingham Rock City. Altars of Madness, their debut full-length featuring one of the greatest paintings to ever grace a death metal album, was 186 days old. Dave Vincent (bass/vocals), Trey Azagthoth (guitar), Richard Brunelle (guitar), and Pete Sandoval (drums) were still at the stage in their careers when they were willing to bleed for metal. In Azagthoth's case, literally. Throughout the set, two streams of blood trickled down his forearm. It didn't impede his performance a bit. Hey, that whammy bar isn't going to bend itself.
The Nottingham Rock City date wasn't the tightest performance of Morbid Angel's career, but at least it was filmed and released as Live Madness, catching the band near the sweet spot between youthful excitement and skilled professionalism. They sounded dangerous, dripping with a rawness and viciousness that isn't always present in the original Morrisound Recording mix of these songs. (The setlist almost follows the LP's running order, inserting "Lord of All Fevers & Plague" before "Evil Spells" as an encore.) Plus, their bottom-heavy live tone was dirtier than Caligula's brain dropped into a sewer. If you've experienced any metal fatigue lately, it's an energizing reminder of everything worthwhile in the genre.
It's also 1989, so it's hilarious. Let's give it the Tale of the Tube treatment.
Everyone in this thing looks like a Jack Chick rendering of a metal fan and I mean that in the most loving way possible. Sadly, if you took a screenshot, added the filter of 'nostalgic forest fire,' and posted it on Instagram, no one could tell this is almost 25 years old. What goes around comes back around. Also, so many white hi-tops were scuffed on that stage.
Check out Dave Vincent's chain strap. He's safe to take through a snowy mountain pass.
So, this kid jumps on stage. He lingers. He stares at Richard Brunelle. He's transfixed. He collects some of Brunelle's pit sweat on his hand and he wipes it on his jacket, thus begging the question: THE FUCK KIND OF SERIAL MURDERER ARE YOU? Who does that? This entire sequence should be slowed down and accompanied by a Robert Stack voice-over. Was this a common occurrence? Is this the Nottingham Perspiration Bandit? Does he use that jacket like a trophy to collect dates? Sup, smell my right pocket. That's K. K. Downing, yo. Lemme buy you a water. Considering it was Brunelle, did the Bandit get a contact high? I HAVE SO MANY QUESTIONS.
Dave Vincent's stage banter is always a treat. Love the Hammer Horror affectation. Apparently, you go to Nottingham Rock City, you take on the accent. Maybe it's part of a curse. Maybe a gypsy's daughter was run over by band's van and that gypsy king doomed anyone else taking Rock City's stage to sound like a Victorian shock jock. Reminder: Dave Vincent doesn't always sound like that.
Take a second and marvel at Pete Sandoval's kicks here. Deadly.
Pity the stagediver that gets up at the end of songs. It's like leaving the restroom with wet hands. You need to work on the timing, my man.
Holy shit, it's Van Angel. Metal is the best. "We're gonna do a song now. About a place where we go. Out to the end. A place where there's no escape from the walls of the maze. 'The Maze of Torment.'" That is some Lovecraft on Ambien-level nonsense, Dave. Never change.
Dave's laugh and the ensuing speedfest are why you go to a metal show. Play that for anyone who questions your weekend plans. In addition, your album isn't a classic without maniacal metal laughter. It's a prerequisite. Do not pass go without a goblin/sad wizard chuckle.
Unfortunately, the triple jump stage dive isn't an Olympic event. Yet.
Pete's face here is classic. "More? The hell, Trey."
Dave Vincent as Lemmy as the Crypt Keeper.
Ah, my favorite crowd surfer: Sweaty Guy Without a Shirt. Sweat Bandit is like, "NO, DO NOT GET PLEB SWEAT ON ME. THIS JACKET IS ONLY FOR THE GODS."
Nice Billie Jean jacket.
Whoa, is that Marc Bolan? A skinny Messiah Marcolin?
During this whammy onslaught, Trey shakes out a hand cramp and it's a relief to know he's human. I keep expecting him to tear away flesh and expose his T-800 skeleton.
Obviously Dave wishes there was more to this song title.
Snark and people-watching aside, this riff. THIS RIFF.
"This next song is about thinking for yourself and rejecting programmed society and if you think hard enough about that, you'll know what I fucking mean." Is this an SAT logic question? I have no idea what you mean.
I've been the idiot that tries to start the "MORE" chant at shows and no one joins in. It's like being in the cafeteria when it unexpectedly quiets down for you to reveal something like, ". . .but the doctor doesn't know why my farts smell like a farm. Oh hi, everyone." Not a good look.
The encore is worth watching uninterrupted. The groove that ends "Evil Spells" is a hell of a way to go out. If you've been confused by dancing stormtroopers, "Evil Spells" is the reason your older brother/sister owns the Morbid Angel belt buckle. Warlock's voice surrounds your dreams/ Baking soul within your screams!