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Welcome to SEPULTURA 101. This is THE quintessential thrash metal album of the 1980’s. By 1989, the thrash metal movement was at the peak of its power. And Sepultura were right on top of the whole scene, four young, hungry guys from Brazil for whom being the undisputed kings of metal in their own country wasn’t enough – they were out to conquer the whole world!
The band consisted of Max Cavalera on rhythm guitar and vocals, Andreas Kisser on lead guitar, Paulo Jr. on bass, and Igor Cavalera on drums. What amazes me the most while listening to brutal yet technically perfect riffs on this album, is that the oldest member of the band, Andreas, was only 21 at the time it was released!
Anyway, onto the album… In a nutshell, it’s perfect. The gentle yet haunting intro to the title track soon gives way to vicious thrash riffing by the guitar duo of Max and Andreas, and those two don’t stop until the very end!!! The songs are cruel, fast – but at the same time they don’t show that primordial ugliness that was loved by some and hated by others on their previous efforts (“Bestial Devastation” in ‘85, “Morbid Visions” in ’86 and “Schizophrenia” in ’87). To some extent, this can be contributed to the fact that this was the band’s first album with Roadrunner and they were able to get a producer that knew what he was doing – Scott Burns. Some even go as far as saying that this was their “sellout” album, as Sepultura abandoned death metal – a genre they helped discover – and dived head-first into thrash. But the reader is free to make his/her own judgment – I’ll just say that Sepultura were never about staying in one place. When they felt they exhausted their artistic creativity in one genre, they went into uncharted territories.
But let the music speak for itself – and trust me, it can! If you’re not head-banging violently by the middle of the first song, there is a strong possibility you’re wearing a neck-brace. One of the most appealing things about Sepultura for me was the feeling of “completeness” I got from their songs. Unlike many other thrash bands at the time, they never abandoned a riff after three seconds to move onto the next riff, just to dump it for the next one. They let the listener fully enjoy the juiciness of the riff in all its glory, never losing any of the power and speed. Many a time, just as you’d think the song has nowhere to go anymore and your neck is about to break if he keeps it up, the band changes tempo completely and Andreas bursts into a beautiful yet crushing solo, or builds momentum until the next sonic attack.
The lyrics are nothing to write home about, though – which can be forgiven, since the band didn’t really know English that well, and so wrote some pretty standard cliché apocalyptic anthems. It would change pretty soon, though, as Sepultura would later delve into the world of social injustices and inner struggle. In that sense, “Inner Self” is a sign of things to come.
Highlights: Well, all of them! But if I was forced to choose, I’d say “Inner Self” – which is my 2nd favorite Sepultura track ever, and “Mass Hypnosis”, thanks to the godly guitar solo from Andreas.
Final verdict: If you like thrash, this album should already be in your collection. If you’re curious, THIS is the place to start. If you don’t care about thrash at all, you should still buy it, because it’s that damn good!