Richard Brunelle, who was the guitarist in pioneering death metal band Morbid Angel during their early career, has died at the age of 55.

As a full-time member of Morbid Angel from 1985 through 1992, Brunelle played on the band's first pair of records, the landmark Altars of Madness (1989) and its follow-up, Blessed Are the Sick (1991). These records were pre-dated by a handful of demos and the aborted 1986 full length, Abominations of Desolation, which was later given a proper release, all of which starred Brunelle complementing founding guitarist and lone Morbid Angel constant Trey Azagthoth.

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."

Following his exit from Morbid Angel, Brunelle returned in 1994 as a live guitarist and later formed death metal group Paths of Possession. He left in 2004, but not before contributing to the group's first record, Legacy in Ashes, as well as a 2003 split with Dark Faith, The Crypt of Madness, which was the first material from Paths of Possession to feature George "Corpsegrinder" Fisher of Cannibal Corpse on vocals.

Throughout the 2000s, Brunelle struggled with cocaine abuse, having been arrested in Florida on cocaine-related charges 14 times between 2003 and 2014.

Our condolences to the Brunelle family and all those who knew Richard. Rest in peace.

See Morbid Angel in the Best Death Metal Album of Each Year Since 1985