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Class ?

Main Category: Heavy Metal
Also applicable: --------
Starting Period: The Divided Eighties
Also active in: From Grunge To The Present Day



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Year Of Release: 1986

Let me get this straight - the two stars on here are meant to celebrate the band's adventurousness and nothing else, because by any other normal standards this is just pure crap. I'm actually pretty sure the record had been intended for Brazilian audiences only, even if the lyrics are in English (that is, only if you are consulting the lyrics sheet; until I did that, I was pretty sure they were in Orcish all the way through); simply put, nobody needed an even more ridiculous variant of early Slayer out there in the European/American market. It's hard to blame the kids, though: rock records were hard to come by in Brazil, particularly heavy metal records, and they must have worn out their only precious copy of Show No Mercy to death before attempting to do something in the same vein. Sepultura are often said to have been influenced by Iron Maiden and Metallica, but you won't find any of these influences on here - the only thing that could have shaped these guys' early style is Slayer's debut. And how can a piece o' crap influence anything but a piece o' crap?

Not that the band don't manage to imitate Slayer well. They must have been practicing twenty hours a day, and in certain ways, already at this early stage they're already better players than Slayer. Igor Cavalera's drumming stands out in particular: at the same blinding hundred-notes-per-second tempo as Slayer's similarly constructed songs, he can play without making a simple mistake and actually take the time to insert real fills where necessary. Sure it still sounds goofy (I mean, at this speed the drums aren't so much keeping the rhythm as they're just adding to the mayhem, on a pure acoustic level, that is), but at least it's technically laudable. The rhythm and bass guitars are impeccable as well, and the solos are as maniac as required by the genre and more.

In other respects it is, of course, all rote. Every friggin' song sounds the same, and more than one of them actually recycles the riff of 'Symptom Of The Universe' - I mean, if you're in a speed-metal band and don't recycle that riff at least twice per each record, you gotta be a true Mozart of the genre. (I'm actually not even sure if they'd heard the song itself before making the album - must have picked it up from Slayer's albums). The first lyrical lines of the album go like this: 'The Roman Empire has crucified the Messiah, the bestial power has sacrificed your gods', and it don't get much better than that. Although, to be frank, they sound rather like 'Hrrrmph! Rrrraowl! Crrrrrraooogh! Rrrrruuumpphh! Hrrrrrrrr!' That was my written impression of Max Cavalera's singing - I'm sure anybody who's ever heard this album will find it most accurate. Of course, it's sort of normal for trash singers, but it also might have something to do with his trying to conceal his Portuguese accent to save himself from being ridiculed. I mean, it's easier to tolerate being ridiculed for singing gibberish than for singing with an accent, right?

There are also production problems as well; the budget for the album wasn't big, so the drums sound like Igor is pounding on a wooden table instead of a regular kit, and the bass guitar is practically inaudible. Not that it would have saved the songs if they'd enlisted a Phil Spector in the studio. Hey, I'm not complaining: for Brazil in 1986, Morbid Visions must have been a true metal revelation, and it certainly helped the guys to become a nationwide sensation and from there on start building up for the future. Today, though, it can only be viewed as a goofy historical curiosity; at the very least, I just can't imagine why anybody'd want to listen to this instead of the original Slayer.

To make matters worse, my version of the album comes packed together with an EP worth of tunes recorded even earlier and called (what do you think?) Bestial Devastation. Apparently, it came from a "joint" LP that the band recorded with another band named Overdose - one side each. Never heard of such practices, but guess Brazil was pretty hard for cash in 1985, so they had to resort to all kinds of tricks. The songs, of course, suck just as hard, but for some strange reason, the production is slightly better, with the drums more powerful and the guitars more upfront and ass-kicking. For an even stranger reason, the "demo" version of 'Necromancer' is much creepier than the 'non-demo' version, with a denser, more monstruous guitar tone. And then there's also a later live version of 'Antichrist', renamed 'Anticop' because, as Cavalera explains, "we changed the lyrics because we had some fuckin' problems with the police, now it's called 'Anticop', fuck the police!'. Needless to say, 'Anticop' is definitely an improvement over 'Antichrist'!



Year Of Release: 1987

Still nowhere near a masterpiece, but they're slowly starting to get there! In every single respect, this is an improvement over that Devastatedly Morbid Slayer Ripoff. First, they probably got a bigger budget for this thing - the production is significantly improved, with the drums already sounding like real drums and the guitars way more distinct than before. So even some of the "insanely fast" tunes don't sound nearly as much parodic as they used to. Second, they got a new lead guitarist, Andreas Kisser, and he actually plays different solos, as well as introduces the band to the concept of acoustic guitar.

Third, the band had obviously expanded its horizons; right now, they're not as much ripping off Slayer as they're trying to combine Slayer's relentless lightning-speed fire with the adventurousness of Metallica's Ride The Lightning, resulting in longer, more carefully planned songs. This is obvious from the very first song - 'From The Past Comes The Storms' - which starts out as your usual thrasher, but then changes its signature one minute into the song and you finally get a chance to see Sepultura in slower action.

The album's centerpiece is the seven-minute instrumental 'Inquisition Symphony', which obviously owes a lot to Metallica's multi-part instrumentals. It's not as good as Metallica's stuff (after all, the guys were still learning), but it's listenable all the way through, and some of the riffs are actually good! Beginning and ending with a few medieval-tinged acoustic lines, it incorporates a whole bunch of slow-to-fast sections, including even a moment where they take that scary guitar tone from Metallica's 'For Whom The Bell Tolls' and try to see what happens when they speed it up. Not that anything particular does happen, but you gotta give them credit for trying! Besides, that's just me talkin'.

The biggest improvement, though, is probably in the vocal department. Cavalera's singing hasn't changed much; he still throws out the words of his mouth as if they were a bunch of poisonous ants that crawled in there while he was snoring. But I'm insanely proud of myself cuz I've managed to decipher some isolated lyrical snatches anyway! And actually, the lyrics are much better this time around: essentially still a bunch of generic apocalyptic wailings, but at least it doesn't sound like the band's main goal is to incorporate every existing cliche. In particular, there are very few Satan references; they really try to stick to the concept heralded by the album's name (after all, it does start with an introduction based on the theme from Psycho), and instead of Satan, there's countless references to insanity, bloodshed, death, and adjourning matters. It's still bad, but not proverbially bad.

It's pretty hard to name any favourites on here cuz they all sound so alike, but at least you can easily tell that you're dealing with a bunch of different songs on here. They start, they go on, and then they end. They sometimes even have melodies! And they've also learned that playing at an insanely fast tempo might be cool, but it really ruins any hopes of making any differentiations between the songs. So only about half of the record is based on these insane girations; they try to incorporate a super-fast part into every song, but they don't always make it the centerpiece. And thus, when I listen to something like 'Escape To The Void', I actually have a better chance of understanding what brilliant musicians they are. Listen to Igor Cavalera pounding out that complex rhythm pattern - does he make any mistakes? Not to my knowledge. And the rhythms on this album are much more complex than before, it doesn't just all boil down to the matter of being able to play a fill at space rocket tempo. Listen to that lead guitar part - doesn't it kick even more ass when you can actually notice when one note starts and another one begins? I sure can't still hear the bass, but you can't always... ah, never mind.

In short, this is an enjoyable record if you're into that speed-metal thing at all. Even the minor things work, like that short acoustic solo ('The Abyss') before the last song, which works both as a breather and by itself. I think that some songs on here might even be memorable, you know? Oh! And don't forget that the last song on here is a re-recording of 'Troops Of Doom' which beats the shit out of the original version. In particular, Cavalera gets a Sabbath-esque, doomy guitar tone which is lacking on all the other songs on here, and it's fun to hear him shout "uno dos tres" before launching into the main fast part. Funny, though, how that friggin' 'Symptom Of The Universe' chord change sticks to so many songs, isn't it?


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