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Among the early pioneers of the death metal sound, Brazilian thrash maniacs Sepultura naturally shared a fairly close stylistic relationship with that of Possessed and Death, thus putting forth a sound that is often considered more of the thrash persuasion rather than that of death metal. Their stylistic evolution tended to resemble that of Possessed a bit more, as their progression from "Morbid Visions" onward brought them closer to the dominant sound of the general Bay Area scene, thus culminating in a famous collaboration with studio magician Scott Burns, another figure very important in the development the characteristic sound of death metal. The level of production clarity, punch and muscle behind their 3rd and heavily lauded LP "Beneath The Remains" is undeniably masterful, but manifests itself as something not quite as overtly nasty and menacing as what would be heard out of Burns on his work with Cancer and Cannibal Corpse.
As an album, this thing is heavily tilted towards the complex, fast-paced, machine-gun riffing approach typical to bands such as Vio-Lence and Dark Angel at around this juncture. In fact, apart from a deeper, slightly nastier vocal display out of Max Cavalera that somewhat resembles the earliest work of David Vincent at times (before he became a bellowing bullfrog), this listens dangerously close to a Bay Area thrash album. The riff work is possessed of a similar combination of deep, rapid chugs and little melodic motives that graced the rugged, bone-crunching work heard on "Eternal Nightmare" and "Leave Scars", throwing in a near equally heavy hint of Slayer's dissonant tremolo riffing and haunting harmonic contour. But even more indicative of the heavy tilt towards San Francisco brand thrashing is the lead guitar work, which is remarkably similar to the absolute mastery displayed out of Flynn and Demmel on the aforementioned Vio-Lence debut.
Arguably, this is the least death metal informed album on Sepultura's early catalog, though the same ear shattering guitar sound and crisp vitality that was typical of a Burns production job is easily heard from one song to the next. Right from the reverb drenched acoustic intro of "Beneath The Remains", an inescapable sense of inevitability paints the landscape, one loaded with battle dead corpses under a blackened, smoke-filled sky. But after the first electric guitar begins pounding away, this album proves to be a constant barrage of heavy fire, like an artillery division with an endless supply of munitions and tireless robotic soldiers. An occasional breakdown to half-tempo may commence from time to time, but they are fast fleeting. It becomes impossible to really pick an obvious standout track when looking to the most exaggerated display of unfettered rage as an example, though "Sarcastic Existence" and "Hungry" do distinguish themselves nicely in how they balance out catchy, melodic guitar motives with gut-wrenching power chord mayhem.
One could liken this album to a berserker leading the charge amid an entire legion of battle-hungry Vikings, and that is the one area where this album falls a tiny bit short of its predecessor "Schizophrenia". This album is basically a straight-shot of extreme violence, one that casts aside any notion of nuance or subtlety. By no means it fall short of deserving all the praise it has garnered, and it definitely is far more accessible to the average thrash maniac than the low-fidelity character of the band's mid-80s sound. It's out on the front lines and its incredible ferocity will assure it a very high body count, but it isn't quite the album that commands the brigade.