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The unprecedented extremity of 'Reign in Blood' sounded the death knell for 80's thrash, but the pummelling perfection of 'Beneath the Remains' delivered the decisive blow. Sepultura accidentally broke a few extreme metal boundaries with 'Bestial Devastation', then showed that they could actually play their instruments with the promising yet ultimately transitional 'Schizophrenia'. Newly signed to Roadrunner and supporting Sodom on their European tour, Sepultura exploded out of Brazil with ruthless intent and showed the rest of the world just how good they were.
On the surface this is a tweak of their previous album, not an overhaul. Where 'Schizophrenia' was meandering and messy, 'Beneath the Remains' is tight, lean and relentless. The inexorable, driving thrash rhythms now twisted and turned with merciless precision and purpose. Igor Cavalera's powerful, dynamic, forceful performance established him as one of the best metal drummers. Andreas Kisser proves himself as one of the genre's greatest lead guitarists with relatively simple leads that emphasise harmony without resorting to mindless shredding. The last solo on 'Mass Hypnosis' is the best example; one of the best metal solos ever.
Scott Burns achieves his best production job here. This band's hunger and forcefulness slices through the murk, but creates an immense, brooding atmosphere of South American darkness in the process. It fully captures their brutal punk roots that were largely absent from their next album. Still, it is the songs that make this so essential. Side A is full of catchy, immediately recognisable 'hits' such as the immense 'Inner Self'. Side B has a stripped down, sharper thrash attack culminating in the flat-out speed of 'Primitive Future'. It is brilliant from start to finish. If Sepultura were to become one of the biggest metal bands in the world, then 'Beneath the Remains' is the reason why.