Ex-MORBID ANGEL Guitarist ERIK RUTAN: 'TREY AZAGTHOTH Is One Of The Most Important Guitar Players'

September 8, 2023

During an appearance on the latest episode of the "Riffhard" podcast, guitarist Erik Rutan, who was in MORBID ANGEL from 1993 until 1996 and then again from 1998 until 2002, spoke about his working relationship with the band's leader and creative mastermind Trey Azagthoth. He said (as transcribed by BLABBERMOUTH.NET): "To me, Trey — there's no argument, as far as I'm concerned. Trey is one of the most important guitar players not just in death metal, but just period. If you're just specifically talking about death metal, of course, to me, I'm gonna speak of Trey, I'm gonna speak of Chuck [Schuldiner of DEATH], two guys that changed the face of of everything. What I love about Trey's playing is just his uniqueness and creativity and no-holds-barred approach of how he played. It just came naturally; he just felt it. And me as a player, although I'm a different player than Trey, we had similar traits in the sense of that we both just did whatever came naturally. We didn't think about the rules or logistics. It was just about, 'This is what I felt', and that's why I think that Trey and I were a really good team. We're very different but same as far as our approach. And learning all the classic MORBID ANGEL — man, I toured for four albums; I played on three."

Back in December 2021, during an appearance on "The Jasta Show", the video podcast hosted by HATEBREED frontman Jamey Jasta, Rutan spoke about his engineering work on MORBID ANGEL's controversial 2011 album "Illud Divinum Insanus". The LP incorporated industrial and electronic elements into MORBID ANGEL traditional death metal sound and was so widely panned that it plagued the band's momentum long after its release.

Rutan said: "To me, communication is key, and I think with Trey and with the 'Illud' record, I think there was a lot of probably miscommunications and stuff on what he wanted or what David [Vincent, bass/vocals] wanted or maybe the engineer that mixed the record, what he thought. And sometimes things get lost in the translation.

"I don't know if you knew this, but I actually recorded five songs of drums on the record and engineered it," he continued. "I didn't record the songs that were maybe deemed as — I don't know what the word would be — off the beaten path. I recorded 'Nevermore' and some of the death metal songs. I only recorded five.

"How that ended up happening was Gunter [Ford, MORBID ANGEL's manager] had contacted me about recording the drums. And if I'm not mistaken, I was, like, 'Dude, I only have X amount of time because MADBALL's coming in [to record in my studio] next week.' … So I remember when I heard the five songs that I recorded, the raw drums with the guitars, I was, like, 'Wow! This is fucking awesome.' And then they recorded the other six songs with Mark Prator, drums, and then they did the guitars and everything else somewhere else. But I only tracked five songs of drums. But when I heard the final record, I didn't even recognize 'em because there was all this extra stuff and the mix was a little bit different than I would envision. So I was, like, 'Oh, shit. I think I recorded drums on that song.'

"So that's a perfect example of lost in translation of Trey having a vision, maybe David having his own vision, just coming back into the fold, and then the engineer has his own vision," Erik added. "And I don't know because I'm not either of those guys but I assume that when I heard some of the raw stuff and what the final product was… Like I said, I only recorded five songs, but the raw drum tracks and the raw guitar on those five songs were killer. It was some of the other songs and maybe the mix of the songs and the added elements that threw it off to be, like, 'Wow! This is really different for MORBID ANGEL.'"

In a 2019 interview with Jorge Botas of the "Metal Global" radio show, Vincent spoke about the mostly negative fan reaction to "Illud Divinum Insanus", which marked MORBID ANGEL's first CD to feature his vocals since "Domination".

"Listen, I'll be the first person to admit and agree with you that there is some very weird stuff on 'Illud'," he said. "But when you are in a band scenario and there's things that are included, then you make the best of them, and that's what I attempted to do. Now, I think there's some fantastic material on that record, but some of the more… well, I guess, 'techno' stuff, that seems to be what some people were most annoyed about. And yeah, it's weird. I agree it's weird. But when a song is presented to me, it's my job to do the best I can with it, and that's what I did. I think there's a lot of good stuff on that record, and then, yes, there is some weird stuff on that record, but, well, it is what it is. And on we march. Everybody has the things that they like and don't like, and I'm the same, and you're the same, and everyone's the same when it comes to preferences. We like who we like. Is everything gonna have the same reaction as the last thing? No. Of course not. But there you go."

Vincent left MORBID ANGEL in 2015. He has since been replaced by a returning Steve Tucker, who previously handled bass and vocals on MORBID ANGEL's "Formulas Fatal To The Flesh", "Gateways To Annihilation" and "Heretic" LPs.

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