Morbid Angel is an American death metal band based in Tampa, Florida. 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”. 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), 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.
Morbid Angel 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 were also the first death metal band to have a touch of mainstream success in connection with being signed to Giant Records in 1992 and having the music video for the song “God of Emptiness” shown on an episode of Beavis and Butt-head.
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, 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 (their first album starts with the letter A, the second with B, etc.). Guitarist Trey Azagthoth commented in an interview that it was a coincidence with the first two albums, but has been done consciously since then.
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 1986, David Vincent of the grindcore band Terrorizer 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 a death metal classic.
1991 saw the release of their second album, Blessed Are the Sick, which was met with widespread critical acclaim. The album differed from its predecessor, showcasing a more “sludgy” side to the band. Two years later, the band released the album Covenant, which went on to sell over 150,000 copies in the United States. This album is considered to be one of the darkest and most Satanically-inspired releases by the band throughout its collection. The album spawned two of the band’s most well-known tracks, “God of Emptiness” and “Rapture”, both of which had videos made for them. The same year, guitarist Richard Brunelle departed the band.
The band released its fourth studio album, Domination, in 1995, which featured new guitarist Erik Rutan of Ripping Corpse. The album spawned one single, titled “Where the Slime Live.”
Steve Tucker era (1996–2003)
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. With Tucker, the band released the albums Formulas Fatal to the Flesh, Gateways to Annihilation and Heretic in 1998, 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.
Reunion with David Vincent (2004–2014)
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. In May 2008, it was announced that Destructhor would be the band’s new guitarist and Destructhor would appear on the new album. 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.
On June 22, 2010, the band entered the studio to begin the recording of their new full-length album. The album called Illud Divinum Insanus was released on June 7, 2011 on Season of Mist. 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.
Reunion with Steve Tucker (2015–present)
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. On June 18th, 2015, Destructhor announced his departure from Morbid Angel to focus on the Norwegian death metal band Myrkskog. On June 19th, 2015, David Vincent confirmed that he left Morbid Angel, due to creative differences.