Born on September, 6th, 1964 in Tampa, Florida, Richard Brunelle joined American death metal pioneers Morbid Angel as second guitarist in 1985. At that point the band also consisted of guitarist main man Trey Azagthoth and the other founding members, drummer Mike Browning and singing bassist Dallas Ward.
A couple of promotional demo cassettes were recorded in 1986 along with a full length album, “Abominations Of Desolation”- financed and produced by future member David Vincent – which however remained officially unreleased until 1991.
1988 saw the release of the debut single, “Thy Kingdom Come”, recorded with a line-up that in addition to Trey Azagthoth and Richard Brunelle also featured drummer Pete Sandoval and David Vincent on bass and vocals, both also at times members of the Los Angeles based grindcore band Terrorizer.
This line-up also recorded the first two official Morbid Angel studio albums, the classic “Altars of Madness” (1989) and 1991’s “Blessed are the Sick”, after which Richard Brunelle was asked to leave the band in 1992 due to alleged substance abuse.
The debut was one of the earliest examples of death metal, pioneering the sound along with Possessed’s “Seven Churches” and Death’s “Scream Bloody Gore”. The Satanic and occult lyrical themes would also prove a significant influence on the early Norwegian black metal scene. The album’s style was characterized by extremely fast performances, complex compositions, and technically demanding musicianship. Trey Azagthoth has noted that psychedelic music was an inspiration for his writing on the album, particularly Pink Floyd, while David Vincent’s vocal style was influenced by the early English grindcore scene and Death’s Chuck Schuldiner.
With three tracks re-recorded songs from “Abominations of Desolation”, “Blessed Are the Sick” featured an overall slower sound with some influences from classical music. Trey Azagthoth dedicated the album to Mozart.
2015 saw the release of “Juvenilia”, a live album recorded in 1989 (when Brunelle was still a member of the band) during the “Grindcrusher Tour” that in addition to Morbid Angel also featured Napalm Death, Bolt Thrower and Carcass.
After his time in Morbid Angel, Richard Brunelle eventually formed Paths of Possession in 1999 with Randy Buttman (Silhaven), Jay Fossen and Erin “Goat” Fuller (Cryptic Winds). Performing a mix of traditional heavy metal with influences from Swedish melodic death metal, Paths of Possession independently released their first demo, “Legacy in Ashes”, in 2000. 2003 saw the release of their first official release, “The Crypt Of Madness”, a split with the band Dark Faith. Brunelle was replaced by Jack Goodwin as guitarist in Paths of Possession in 2004.
Throughout the 2000s, Brunelle struggled with cocaine abuse, having been arrested in Florida on cocaine-related charges 14 times between 2003 and 2014.
Richard Brunelle passed away on Monday, September 23 at the age of 55.
Pete Sandoval, Morbid Angel’s drummer from 1988 through 2013, confirmed the news of his former bandmate’s passing on Instagram. Captioning an old photo of the two of them, Sandoval wrote, “This is really sad! So many great memories we shared together that I’ll never forget, hope and wish you are in a better place. My condolences to his family. A little respect guys, don’t ask me the cause of death or something like that, does it matter? He just passed away and that’s sad. Thanks.”
Morbid Angel’s original drummer Mike Browning posted: “I am beyond devastated and shocked about Richard Brunelle passing away on Monday. As of right now I only know that it happened on Monday and I had talked to him just this month. Here are a couple pictures from when Richard played his first show with Morbid Angel in 1985, we have always managed to stay friends over all these years and he was always a friend to me since 1985 and at least we managed to make the album that started it all back in 1986. I had always hoped that one day Richard, Trey and I would at least get together one more time to jam, even if it was only in the back room of my house, it was then and still would have been pure Magick! Please do not ask me what happened because I only know what everyone else knows right now.”