75. Morbid Angel, 'Covenant' (1993)
With a guitarist known for slashing his arms with a razor before gigs and an overtly satanic image, Morbid Angel hardly seemed like a band destined for the big time. But music-industry legend Irving Azoff saw it differently. "They had developed a rabid grassroots following with only the resources of a smaller label," he said in the book Choosing Death of his decision to sign the Florida death-metal outfit to his major-label imprint. "I was intrigued with what they could accomplish with the larger resources Giant had to offer." What they accomplished was the darkest album of their career. In the hands of Metallica producer Flemming Rasmussen, the band's churning, blasphemous attack – already fully formed on their classic 1989 debut Altars of Madness – took on a hulking new dimension, as mad-genius guitarist Trey Azagthoth's gnarled riffs and spasmodic leads swarmed the mix, drummer Pete "Commando" Sandoval's snare blasted with merciless speed and frontman David Vincent growled out proclamations of white-hot hatred ("Open wide the gate/Stain the world with the blood of man"). Somehow the band found a way to channel these chaotic elements into its catchiest songs to date, including the furious plea for possession "Rapture," the dirge-paced, two-part Devil's ode "God of Emptiness" and roiling rocker "Sworn to the Black." Credit the Eagles' manager for singling out Morbid Angel as the band best situated to take death metal to a fearsome next level. H.S.