Spectrum of Death
When I spoke to our rotting mascot Dead Meat, he tossed this blistered fuelled release straight at me. I looked down at what was in my hands only to find an obscure classic from the thrash metal realm. This was Morbid Saint's full length debut entitled "Spectrum of Death".
Released in late 1989, Spectrum was a rare treat in terms of the vicious vocals and nasty riffs coagulating together as a newly formed musical hellspawn. I think this is probably one of the most ferocious thrash metal albums you could find coming out of the late 80's. The band formed in 1984 in Sheboygan, Wisconsin and debuted a demo in 1988 entitled "Lock Up Your Children". It was reissued a year later to the Mexican label Avanzada Metalica as "Spectrum of Death".
By all accounts, Spectrum pummelled your ears and drove moshpit enthusiasts insanely crazy during their live sets. The album clocks in at just over thirty-two minutes; providing eight tracks to rattle your skull and blow out all that brain matter into a fine misty spray of gore. Perhaps I'm hyping it up way too much, but this was an impressive thrash debut that sadly has been forgotten.
The experience begins with the savage and intense track "Lock up your Children". The drumming is relentless; drives the chugging riffs at the start and then gives way to one of the meanest solos I have ever heard. As an opening track, it's aggressive, and straight to the point. I love how the lyrics dictate the coming onslaught or violence and dark dreams, so do indeed lock up your children! But it doesn't stop there, when you get this banging little ditty called "Burning at the Stake". There's some obvious Slayer vibes in the riffs, but it's short and incredibly effective for a track that barely passes the two minute mark. The vocals of Pat Lind are spit out quickly, while keeping up with the vicious pace of the song. As a vocalist, his tone is shrill and dry sounding at times; closely falling into a death-laden echo.
The third number "Assassin" begins with a fast chug and just falls into a devastating pace. The song is the second longest track clocking in at just a bit over seven minutes and it never lets up. The galloping riffs breakdown and pick-up the tempo quickly, but I find it a tad too long and it could have been shaved down a minute or two for my liking. However, the sweet spot of the order slots in nicely with the blunt force track called "Damien". It's arguably my favourite piece on Spectrum because it's short and straight to the point; lyrically about the evil child from the Omen movie. Lind again spits out the venom and relies on his cohorts (Jay Visser and Jim Fergades) to provide the brutal guitar assault. The verse-riff combo is hellish sounding and I like to play this song repeatedly out of the bunch.
Another standout track follows with a wall of sound that will rain blows down upon you until you are on the floor in a weeping mess of submission. This is "Cry for Death" and it brings the pain, so it's no wonder the lyrics will have you crying for death. It's short, brutal and again the relentless chugging is most satisfying for any ardent thrash fan. We break up these pummelling numbers with the short and fluffy instrumental "Spectrum of Death" before it gives way to the masterstroke piece on Spectrum. It's a song called "Scars" and man does it ever deliver the brutality in spades. I guarantee you will be banging your head for the seven plus minutes of run time. The solos here squeal viciously while you start to overdose on the tempo changes and the piling on of riffs. I should point out the lyrics imply what it feels like to get blitzed on heroine and subsequently falling prey to your addiction.
The album ends on the riff-centric "Beyond the Gates of Hell" and let me tell you the meaty approach brings the Slayer vibes back in heaping amounts in regards to the tempo changes. The lyrics wax heavily upon the films of Italian horror director Lucio Fulci and everything gets moulded into a song that resembles early Chuck Schuldiner's Death. The song encapsulates the thrash/death scene at the time, so it's the perfect closing moment for a thrash metal record of this kind of ilk.
It's a shame Morbid Saint wasn't able to capitalize on this release back in the late 80's. In fact the band broke up in 1994 and remained defunct until 2010 when they reformed again. They had a new line-up, with only Pat Lind, Jay Visser and Jim Fergades returning to the fold. The band toured Europe and did some festivals before releasing a new compilation of their old material in 2012. They followed that up with their second studio release "Destruction System" in 2015 which was originally intended to be released in 1992 as the follow-up to Spectrum of Death. Currently, the band is working on new material intended for release in early 2024.
Overall though, Spectrum of Death was one hell of a debut as far as thrash metal albums go. The website Classic Thrash called this a rare treat and cited the album as one of the most ferocious ever recorded. The album also scored an overall rating of 96% based on 24 positive reviews on the Metal Archives, so why didn't it catch on at the time of the original release? It's a good question, but with poor distribution and not much label support, it's easy to see how the band could fall by the wayside so quickly.
In my mind this is easily a bona fide classic thrash album that needs to be heard by every thrash maniac on the planet. If you like bands like Slayer, Dark Angel, Sadus and Sodom then I highly recommend finding this album and blasting it on your stereo or streaming on Spotify.
Dead Meat's individual choice cuts: Lock Up Your Children, Damien, Scars and Beyond the Gates of Hell.
Rating: 10 out of 10 Skulls.
Kenneth Gallant for Dead Meat, HMS