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Whilst Sepultura’s previous two albums (Morbid Visions from 1986 and Schizophrenia released in 1987) were popular amongst underground tape traders, the thrash world at large had ignored them. This was largely down to the fact that the distribution of these records had no clout but it has to be said that the quality of the song writing and the buzz saw production had put them in the third division of thrash metal and that’s being particularly generous. Enter legendary thrash producer Scott Burns, the man who had worked his magic on Obituary, Atheist and the outstanding Death albums. His clean production savvy combined with Sepultura’s ever confident and more mature song writing would have increased their standing for sure but it was singer and guitarist Max Cavelera who brokered the deal with Roadrunner Records which gave them the financial backing to break into metal’s elite and have the Brazilian noise merchants gain the popularity that Beneath The Remains deserved.
I bought this originally on cassette which just isn’t the greatest format to listen to it on. I always preferred to listen to tapes of my favourite albums on my Walkman that I would dub from vinyl. Beneath The Remains simply got side-lined for a good few months. Gradually though the hooks took hold. The opening line from Inner Self; “Walking down these dirty streets with hate in my mind” and its memorable chorus was the first inklings for me that this band could become something quite special. Walking home from a school I hated to a home I feared with these Brazilian nutcases pumping thrash metal in my ears eventually took its toll. I became a fan.
Mass Hypnosis was another stomper, the main guitar line cuts through with jagged stabs that simply entice you into the grooves. Where metal acts such as Suicidal Tendencies were going wrong, Sepultura seemed to be getting right. A prime example is the full pelt thrash of Slaves Of Pain, rather than ignoring their past and reinventing themselves as something adjacent to what they originally planned to be here Sepultura encompassed the pace of their previous output whilst improving their song writing and song structure, throwing in a great breakdown part and they even began playing with vocal textures. They made what was an otherwise middle of the road album track something special. Suicidal’s reinvention was simply too mainstream, what was a new outlook for them had already become an old pair of jeans for us local metalheads. Sepultura were leading the way forward.
Today I have a lot of respect for Sepultura. Along with Pantera they kept metal interesting during the grunge years. Of course many would argue that Machine Head should be name checked in the same breath but they didn’t have the same strengths or vision that the aforementioned bands had. Beneath The Remains for me was the curtain call of thrash metal. Thrash became over saturated and weak and died the same time as the hair bands did. Until it’s recent re-emergence I thought that thrash’s final page had been written with this record but as it turned out bands like SSS, Municipal Waste and Evile have rekindled the flame. Thrash metal is dead…. Long live thrash.