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Morbid Angel 

With Molded Hate, Blood Coven, and Soulless. Wednesday, February 28, at the Agora.

When he formed Morbid Angel in Florida over 10 years ago, guitarist Trey Azagthoth had some lofty goals. He sought both to better the standards for death metal and to capitalize on a burgeoning genre. The group did something like that, releasing Altars of Madness (1989), an album generally considered to be one of the best death metal albums of all time, and signing with Warner Bros. for a short stint in the early '90s. The group sold truckloads of records without catering too much to the mainstream -- you won't find these guys cutting their hair to get their video on MTV. That attitude continues to fuel the band as it enters its second decade. A promo copy of last year's Gateways to Annihilation advertises that the band -- which also includes singer-bassist Steve Tucker, drummer Pete Sandoval, and guitarist Erik Rutan -- has given us another "masterpiece" that "represents all of what was, is and will be -- in death metal and beyond." While this stuff might have sounded innovative at the time, now it doesn't sound so groundbreaking. Losing singer David Vincent to the Genitorturers a couple of years ago didn't help matters, either. Gateways just doesn't have the same level of brutality you find on most Relapse Records releases -- or the chops of a band such as Sweden's Meshuggah. (Although we admit that the furious drumming in "Opening of the Gates" is impressive.) After a decade of aggression, Morbid Angel, which has spent most of this year opening for the likes of Pantera and Soulfly (this show at the Agora is a separate club date), now finds itself at the gateway to extinction.

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