VERSUS: Altars of Madness vs. Deicide
Welcome to Versus. The series where we look at two albums in metal history, compare them, and see which one was the better record.
In this edition, we are going back to the roots of death metal with two bands. Releasing some of the most memorable and legendary debuts in the genre themselves. Both bands touring strong, releasing death metal classics for over thirty years. Cementing their legacy, along with album sales, as being some of the most successful death metal bands of all time. Which of these legendary Florida death metal bands has the more iconic, heavier and overall better record? Prepare for some classic death metal in this battle I'm calling "The Battle of The Deadly Debuts".
Our first contender is Morbid Angel with their 1989 debut album Altars of Madness. This album, along with Possessed's Seven Churches and Death's Scream Bloody Gore, are cited as one of the earliest examples of death metal and helped pioneer the genre's sound. Deep guttural growls, heavy complex riffs and impressive guitar shredding from guitarist Trey Azagthoth, the record was heavy as it was fast. With a string of classic and memorable records following this release, let's start at the beginning and check out this popular debut and see how much of a legacy it has left behind it.
The album opens with "Immortal Rites". Opening with a thrashy guitar riff with reversing/backmasking like audio effects, into an opening snare hit. Then a chugging opening riff into the verse section. Drummer Pete Sandoval's double bass punches through, adding more aggression during the vocal section. The strings addition at the halfway mark add dimension and atmosphere to the song with the guitars, almost adding a horror movie like dread feeling. Sandoval goes crazy during this section, with fast-paced and frantic drum fills. "Suffocation" has a VERY thrash-inspired opening guitar riff and tone. Guitarist Trey Azagthoth is on point on this track, from his guitar playing to the insanely fast and manic guitar solo. Blast beats by Sandoval speeds the song up even faster. Vincent's bass shows up at the three quarters mark higher in the mix and playing, adding more bounce and a groove to the song. On "Visions From The Dark Side", the song reminds me a lot of Venom in its sound. The track has a thrashy, speed metal sound to it along with a very black metal influence to the track. Azagthoth's impressive guitar playing is all over the place with three guitar solos on the track.
"Maze of Torment" is a standout track. With the opening, reverb heavy riff, into the fast paced, in-the-pocket drumming, the song is death metal 101. With blasting drums by Sandoval, a fast-paced and thrashy palm muted guitar riff by Azagthoth and Vincent's death growls, it is a classic death metal song. Azagthoth's solo is so good on the song, it is a headbanger of a track and is just relentless in its speed and technicallity. The song's breakdown near the end is such a stank-face inducing, slow headbang moment before picking up the pace for one last guitar solo by Azagthoth at the end. The pace doesn't slow down with "Lord of All Fevers & Plaque". Drums and guitars are just not slowing down, and continue the fierce pacing of the previous track. Azagthoth again shines in his solo and riff mastery. Sandoval's blasting drums pick up the pace even faster after the solo.
The other standout track is "Chapel of Ghouls". With the wailing guitar solos and drum strikes in the opening into double bass, the song is just classic death metal in its performance and sound. Azagthoth shines again in his solo work throughout the song, while Sandoval adds emphasis, along with peaks and valleys during it, before returning to blasting drums and tremolo guitars. With choir vocal pads during the riff and breakdown, its add dimension to the track and different elements in the band's thrashy death metal sound on the album. Songs like "Bleed For The Devil" & "Damnation" continue the classic death metal sound with tinges of relentless thrash metal speed and proficiency. The album's closer "Evil Spells" is a great album closer. Vincent's gutturals, drenched in reverb, as the band goes full tilt behind him with speed up, slow down pacing. The album flies by and after the song ends, you are left with one sore neck from this classic album.
In the opposite corner, we have Deicide with their 1990 self-titled debut. Led by front man and bassist Glenn Benton, who famously has a upside down cross burned into his forehead. The band's lyrics dealt with Satan, blasphemy, serial killer Charles Manson, infamous cult leader Jim Jones, and The Evil Dead franchise. The record was influential in the death metal world for its brutality, which included Benton's deep guttural growls, featuring studio production that helped harshen his voice even further, which many bands weren't doing at the time. Did these barbarians of blasphemy (I'm trademarking that band name right now by the way) release a debut that is better than their opponents? Pray to whatever God you believe in as we dive head first into the depths of hell on this release.
The album opens with the chugging, thrashy riff of "Lunatic of God's Creation". With the double bass of Steve Asheim punching through as Benton's guttural and high screams ring out through the song. The Hoffman brother's guitar playing is so good and heavy sounding in the chugs and guitar tone. As the pacing picks up going even faster throughout the song, the song almost flies by with how fast it is. A strong opening track from these legends of death metal. "Sacrificial Suicide" opens with thundering double bass and a fast-paced tremolo style opening riff. An almost galloping guitar riff into the verse section. Benton's high screams into the breakdowns sound so good, along with his faster growling moments in the pacing of the song. A great guitar solo near the end is top-notch.
A classic from the band is "Dead By Dawn". With opening blast beat drumming by Asheim, the song has its foot on the gas right out the gate. With a chugging, palm-muted opening riff into a shredding guitar solo before the vocals, the song is just going right for the throat. Benton's vocals, with effects at certain points, fits the theme of the Evil Dead II movie the song is based off of. When the blast beats and riff come into the chorus, with Benton's manipulated vocals screaming the song's title, sounds so heavy and ominous. One of my favorite tracks in the band's discography. "Blaspherereion" continues the speed and intensity of the band in the opening. Just relentless fury, and pissed-off energy. Benton's vocals are almost thrash/crossover sound in his delivery, more of a shouting style and less guttural, but it fits with the song's motif. The song "Deicide" also continues the thrash influence sound of the early days of death metal, especially in the opening. With a mid-tempo, slow down at the halfway mark, the band changes the pacing of the track before an awesome guitar solo near the three quarter mark.
"Carnage in The Temple of The Damned" has the creepy Jim Jones' cult like verbiage before the song picks up into a heavy, unrelenting death metal riff and drum section. With intricate guitar playing throughout, and Asheim's fast paced drumming, the song is a killer of a track. With short burst guitar solos throughout, the song is a classic for the band and is blasphemy incarnate in its sound. On "Mephistopheles", the drums are punchy and highlighted on the track with double bass and harsh snare hits punching through the Hoffman brother's intense, but complex riffing. Benton's high screams come through over the frantic and uptempo pacing of the band. The album's closer "Crucifixation" has a great opening riff and pounding double bass. With the wailing guitar solos with Benton's guttural growls and highs over it in the opening, its so different sounding not letting the solo breath and just intensifying the song's unhinged attitude. The song speeds up and just goes fast and hard to the finish line, closing this album with the same opening effects the opening song had.
After listening to these classic death metal debuts, who reigns supreme as the winner of this deadly debut matchup? This is a tough one honestly. Both records are SO good and are definitely strong releases from both the band and the genre, earning them the deserved reputation and influence that they have on the genre. I was almost tempted to have a tie, but I think the readers would have my head. For this matchup, I would go with Morbid Angel and Altars of Madness as the winner, by a hair. This record to me is just stronger and does more things musically then Deicide's self-titled album. I also think some of the songs on Deicide's debut do start to sound the same or blend together at certain points, while Morbid Angel's debut had more progressive elements, along with more things like strings and choir sections, making it more unique then just thirty minutes of gutturals and blast beats. Also, after listening to both records and the defining decision of which one I would hit replay on when it was done, Altars of Madness made me want to spin it again. Overall, both bands have classic death metal records and are worth checking out if you are a fan of the genre, or want to hear the evolution of the classic old school death metal sound, to the sound and influence the band would have on today's popular death metal bands.
Morbid Angel would go on to release countless and very successful death metal releases with their most successful records being 1993's Covenant, along with its follow up in 1995's Domination. Following Domination, Vincent would leave the band and would be replaced by vocalist Steve Tucker on vocals and bass for three albums. Vincent would rejoin the band on their infamous 2011 album Illud Divinum Insanus, before leaving the band once again. Their most recent record being 2017's Kingdoms Disdained, featured the return of Tucker on vocals.
Deicide would continue its reign of anti-Christian death metal with this lineup for fourteen years before both Hoffman brothers would leave the band due to royalty and publishing disputes with Benton. Their last appearance with Deicide was on 2004's Scars of The Crucifix. They would be replaced by former Cannibal Corpse guitarist Jack Owen and ex-Iced Earth guitarist Ralph Santolla on the band's 2006 album The Stench of Redemption. Santolla & Owen would remain with the band for three albums before both would leave in 2013. The band was then joined by Kevin Quirion and Mark English on guitars. The band completed work on a new album, Banished By Sin in 2023, but no release date has been announced.
Benton would join the band Vital Remains as a session studio vocalist in 2003. His debut with the band, 2003's Dechrisitanize, was considered the band's breakthrough album and received positive reviews from the fans. With fans citing it as the band's best record. The follow up, 2007's Icons of Evil, would be the last album to feature Benton on vocals as he would leave the band to focus on Deicide.
Do you agree with my decision? Who do you think should have won this matchup? Cast your vote on the poll below, leave your comments on our social media, and your suggestions who you think should step in the ring next. I’m Justin, your friendly neighborhood metalhead, for This Day in Metal and this has been Versus.