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The 1980s were the years in which were born some of heavy metal's most important genres, such as black, death and thrash metal.
Sepultura, today's most famous Brazilian metal band created in 1984 by the Cavalera brothers Max and Igor, is one of those few bands that have managed to participate as a pioneering band in such musical genres, as well as bringing key characteristics into those rapidly evolving subgenres of metal.
Sepultura's influences are hard to discern at first, though the clear mark of hardcore punk's speed and attitude is easily recognizable.
This influence has been constant, from the band's earliest cult blackened thrash/death metal releases to the these recent years whence Derric Green was brought in to substitute Max Cavalera's departure.
This rebellious sentiment of distaste directed towards modern society reaches it's peak in total synchronization with the band's final acquiring of musical technique and an impressive inspiration on Sepultura's 1989 full length release “Beneath The Remains”.
The record's first apparent lyrical theme is surely apocalypse through warfare, but it is through further interest in the song titles and lyrics that we learn that this apocalypse Max Cavalera bravely barks about is happening right now as we know it, through the degeneration of society into a game of survival based only on self-trust.
The first song “Beneath The Remains” perfectly portrays what to expect from this album.
The sorrowful acoustic intro (surely in reference to a pre-apocalyptic life) provides a moment to breathe, but this is only the calm before the storm.
A brief moment of silence ensues in a sonic attack by a maddened and enraged riff, signalling the beginning of the end, the beginning of total degeneration.
The speed kicks in, speed that can be found everywhere on this album, and occasionally turns into a slower, groovier breakdown, that eventually leads to a frenetic bomb blast towards the end of each song.
This recipe works wonders on this album: used in addition to awesome, imaginative riffs and suffocating, brutal drumming, it creates a blueprint to thrash metal perfection.
The next song is “Inner Self”, a slower (in comparison to other tracks on the album) heavy metal anthem with a melodic passage that was bound to become one of Sepultura's most famous songs (a video was made for this song).
Then, the speed is quickly reinstaured with the following track “Stronger Hate”, which can equally be considered as an anthem, with a good balance of slow passages and fast passages, as well a memorable chorus (“stronger than hate!” an all star vocal performance comprised of Kelly Shaefer (of Atheist), John Tardy (of Obituary), Scott Latour and Francis Howard (of Death/Thrash band Incubus) lively shouts).
The guitars on “Mass Hypnosis” hypnotically swoop in, and once more a fantastically enjoyable rush of speed that lasts all through the song punches in.
The three next songs “Sarcasting Existence”, “Slaves of Pain” and “Lobotomy” are musical compositions that work perfectly with their lyrical themes and are enjoyably progressive.
They are followed (in my regards) by the weakest track of the album, “Hungry” which if left on it's own is still widely acceptable.
The album should finish with “Primitive Future”, a breathtakingly fun and fast track, but on the remastered version the Brazilian masters of speed choose to give extra bang for the buck with two instrumentals for the tracks “Mass Hypnosis” and “Inner Self” (get your karaoke machines!), and of course a hilariously good anglicized cover of Os Mutantes “A Hora E A Vez Do Cabelo Nascer (The Moment and the Turn of Hair's Birth).
This album showcased the impressive musical potential Sepultura acquired over the years (before they unfortunately downgraded themselves with Chaos A.D and beyond) mixed with truly wonderful song and lyrical writing.
The addition of lead guitarist Andreas Kisser proved to be a significant strategic move, as his leads and solos bring the cutting edge the vocaless sections of the songs need.
The drumming is fantastically delivered by Igor Cavalera, who uses brutal speed or more groove inspired drumming at times: all in all his perfomance provides a dynamic feeling to the music.
Paulo and Max do excellent jobs at what they do best, as Paulo's bass brings in the extra heaviness needed.
Max Cavalera's barking vocals convey an image of a desperate man in an apocalyptic world who sees a glint of hope in this blackened, futureless world.
His vocals take on a significant change from their earlier releases, being more of a shout than a growl.
The lyrics vary from political and medical condamnation to a more punkish charged themes such as individuality.
I consider this album as one of the highest peaks of thrash metal, as it perfects most of the genre's highlights, such as speed, technicality, great songwriting and quality riffing.
All in all, this album is nothing short of excellent and it is a must have album for a metalhead or anyone, really, regardless of genre preference.
Sadly, on later releases Sepultura sacrificed complex musical compositions for a more straightforward style of music( still maintaining a punkish attitude, but more dumbed down), which resulted in a good number of mediocre releases (such as “Roots”).
This is an album that will strike your heart with memorable tunes that will stick in your mind for weeks and will definetly make you want to headbang violently as well as turn you into a speed addict. A jaw-dropping release.