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Sepultura’s first full-length, “Morbid Visions”, released in 1986 by Cogumelo Records, is one of the most criminally underrated albums ever made by the famous Brazilian band. At those times in Brazil, a little thrash scene was beginning to spawn around Cogumelo Records. In that year, Sarcofago and Mutilator were releasing their demos and would have signed very soon a contract with the most known Brazilian metal label. Most Brazilian thrash bands of that current year used to flirt with most extreme subgenres that were being “forged” in those years, like death and black metal, and Sepultura’s “Morbid Visions” is no exception.
While “Bestial Devastation” was one of the most brutal “proto-death metal” releases of that time, “Morbid Visions” is ascribable to the so-called “first black metal wave”, along with some other contemporary speed/thrash bands like Sodom, Bathory, Sarcofago, Necrodeath, Poison, Mefisto etc. That was the year of the monumental proto-black masterpiece “Obsessed by Cruelty” - just saying. And also in this case, like “Bestial Devastation”, for death metal, I have to say it: “Morbid Visions” (as well as “Obsessed by Cruelty” and “I.N.R.I.”) overcomes every single black metal album of the so-called “second wave” (which is the proper definition of black metal for me), including timeless masterpieces of awesome bands like Dissection or Darkthrone.
So you’d be wondering: what’s so special about this album? The most common opinion is that “Morbid Visions” is a highly sloppy release that shows a band that’s still not exactly familiar with its skills, lacks personality, and songwriting ability. The last point is fucking wrong. Technically speaking, Sepultura in 1986 was still a sloppy and immature band - that’s true, but musically speaking, they were one of the most innovative acts out there. Surely not the only ones to play proto-black metal (I listed some other names before and I should add also seminal names like Venom, Hellhammer, Celtic Frost, and Mercyful Fate), but their contribution to the genre was factual (and also many death metal bands cite this album as a source of inspiration).
While “Bestial Devastation” sounded literally like an attack on the human race from an army of demons coming from the infernal depths, “Morbid Visions” sounds exactly like being actually inside the infernal depths as Satan’s prisoners and watching a band of devils playing extreme metal. The beautiful artwork and, most of all, the spine-chilling production amplifies this feeling. Yes, the production sounds pretty much in the typical “Cogumelo trademark style” with a quite “thin”, but at the same time highly “rough” and “raw” guitar sound, and on this album the result is even better than usual, fitting perfectly with the atmosphere they intended to create. It’s exactly how a band would sound playing inside Hell.
Do you think that the songwriting of this album is immature and derivative? Listen deeper. Without a doubt, the guitar work is the most remarkable thing on here, and in fact these riffs sound unbelievably evil and hellish like never before, like as if Satan himself decided to become an extreme metal songwriter in order to overcome all those bands that tried to come close to “Satanic atmospheres”. Really, even “Show No Mercy”, “Haunting the Chapel”, “Hell Awaits” and “Reign in Blood” sound less evil than this. Even “Bathory” and “The Return” sound less evil than this. Even “Welcome to Hell” and “Black Metal” sound less evil than this. Maybe, even “I.N.R.I.” and “Rotting” sound slightly less evil, in comparison. Obviously, the only band that overcomes Sepultura in “evilness” is early Sodom, but well, that’s another story.
The question is: how can these riffs sound so evil? Why is the atmosphere evoked by the riffs of songs like “Morbid Visions”, “Crucifixion”, and “Funeral Rites” so... “unedited” and groundbreaking for those times? Well, did you notice that Sepultura were some of the first (if not the first ever, but I’m not 100% sure about it) to use open strumming in fast riffs instead of the typical “palm-muted” formula that’s so common in metal? This is the main recipe of black metal riffing - sinister melodies and open-strummed tremolo picking. And Bathory’s third album had still to come out. Maybe it was just laziness about guitar techniques (that would have disappeared in the following albums, also thanks to Andreas Kisser’s skills), but with “Morbid Visions” Sepultura diffused a new technique that was destined to be highly used in extreme metal. Obviously, not all the riffs included here are fast proto-black stuff; in every song there is at least one mid-paced part where the palm-muting technique is regularly used. There are still some extremely sinister doomy parts, especially in the intros of songs like “Troops of Doom”, “Show Me the Wrath”, “Funeral Rites”, and “Empire of the Damned”, and obviously, the hellish atmosphere is guaranteed.
Another essential element of “Morbid Visions” is Max’s vocal performance. He keeps using his “devilish” growl already featured on the previous release, but maybe this time there is more space to hear and identify his future “trademark” vocal style. You can already slightly feel what he would’ve become few albums later, for Max’s potent and cavernous voice is already here. However, these vocals are more hellish than ever also thanks to the high and reverberated mix that makes them sound exactly like as if there was a badass demon behind the microphone. By the way, it’s easy to guess that Max was still inexpert about singing and playing guitar at the same time. In fact, most compositions here are perfectly designed to be surprisingly easy to sing and play at the same time. Listen to “Mayhem”; you can hear actual riffs just when Max doesn’t sing, and when he does there’s only one note played over and over in a pretty black metal fashion (very static and glacial, almost in the vein of “Transylvanian Hunger”).
It could be hilarious to say, but despite the sloppy musicianship featured on this album, Igor’s skills have monumentally improved since “Bestial Devastation”. Now, his technique is less approximated than before and he’s able to make several tempo changes without problems, switching from hyper-fast and hyper-blasted paces to more “canonical” thrashy up-tempos and in fact the songs are full of sudden tempo changes (to be honest, mostly guided by the riffs - just listen to “War” to notice several examples). His beats are also less repetitive than on “Bestial Devastation”.
If I had to choose an highlight in this masterpiece, the choice would go to “War”. Max’s vocals are totally sick, wicked, and depraved, and every time I hear that fucking refrain with that badass “semi-atmospheric” riff and Max’s insane shout (“WAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHRRR”), I go totally nuts. On the other hand, I don’t get all the hype for “Troops of Doom” above the other songs. I mean, it’s surely a great song, but it’s also one of my least favourites from this album. It has a lot more to offer beyond this track! Probably all this hype derives from the fact that Sepultura chose to re-record it as a bonus track when “Schizophrenia” had to be re-released by Roadrunner Records. By the way, the original version from “Morbid Visions” is absolutely better, no need to confront.
Anyway, there’s no need to complain after all. Whatever your favourite song, “Morbid Visions” is a timeless masterpiece of proto-black metal, worthy to be put aside other great “first wave” classics of other bands such as early Sodom, Schizo, Mutilator, Sarcofago, Necrodeath, and so on. Sadly, it’s often very underrated by most metalheads and even Sepultura themselves never judged it as one of their peaks (“Mediator” is better, huh?), but luckily it’s an album that found its cult fanbase along underground death and black metal circles. And by the way, some time ago I was browsing some past Soulfly interviews and I found a 2008 (“Conquer”-era) interview with Max Cavalera where he said that he was interested to make a little reunion with Jairo Tormentor (who used to play guitar in Sepultura in 1986) and to bring attention again around “Morbid Visions” - in his words, “a very overlooked album. The more I listen to it, the more I like it”. Yeah, despite his “nu-metal phase” (which I still love despite all the criticism around it), Max Cavalera never forgot his first years of insane music and he still remembers and gives the right recognition to his early legendary outputs like “Morbid Visions”.
Long ago, it was a time of peace, happiness, and prosperity. Little did everybody know that their time of peace was to end. Suddenly, out of nowhere, the ground shook, creating a mighty rumbling sound, and the people shook with terror. Then it came. Bursting out of the earth, coming from the very depths of Hell (Brazil, actually), the Sepultura rose. Its guitars growled with an ever burning hatred for mankind. This was the dawning of the Sepultura, a mighty beast which would destroy all with its wrath..... Yeah, I know, I went overboard a little with this, but Sepultura was actually a group of young teenage musicians, influenced by many bands, namely Slayer. They were still very young when they released their first full-length effort "Morbid Visions", and their lack of experience, along with the tight budget of the albums production, shows.
Everybody knows that the production that was used to make this album was low-fi and primitive. The sound may be pleasing to some black metal fans, but to others, it's kind of crappy. The snare drums sound like Igor Cavalera was hitting a plastic bucket rather than an actual snare drum, and the guitars have this sort of buzzing sound, kind of like that of swarm of angry bees. Both of them seem to drown out the bass guitar, which is barely even heard, if at all. I can't blame them for this poor-quality production, cos when they made it, they were young, and barely had any money to make an album using top-notch production. What's more is that Brazil, and especially Belo Horizonte, was very poor. Do you expect to hear an album coming from Brazil at that time sounding like it had been produced by a label such as Metal Blade or Megaforce? I didn't think so. I'm giving Sepultura a free pass on the production, though, cos hey, who can blame them? They didn't have a lot of money!
Now to the music itself. Even with the crude production, there are some things that the band needed to work on before actually shelling out an album. Some of their songs have the same chord patterns as others, making them sound almost like the exact same song. For example the intro to "Funeral Rites" sounds A LOT like the intro to the all-time classic "Troops of Doom". The speeding riffs on both songs also bear an uncanny resemblance to each other. The e-note rhythm is used quite a bit on the album too. All of the songs, not almost all of them, but ALL of the songs on this album feature the e-note rhythm. They are relatively easy to play on the guitar I'm not saying that it's a bad thing, I'm just saying that it shows the band's inexperience when they made this. It's sort of like Warbringer when they released "War without End", except with shoddy production. However, unlike Warbringer, their choice of time signatures did vary, though they were speedy. There was one to two different time signatures in each song (three if you count the intros to some of them). It's kind of hard to tell them apart, but who cares? At least they've got something going! Despite its lack of riffing skills, "Morbid Visions" has all of the energy and intensity it needs to start mosh pits.
The band not only lacked musicianship when they first started out, they also lacked lyrical creativity. Have you ever noticed that pretty much all of the songs on here had lyrics that had to do with everybody's favorite Lord of Darkness? That's right, that's all they talk about. Look, I'm not a Christian prude or anything (I'm just as disillusioned with the corruption going on in the church as a lot of other people), I'm saying that Sepultura really didn't think too much about writing songs that were about things other than Satan. They could have written songs about how they were fed up with all of the poverty, the corruption, and the violence that was going on in Brazil. They could have at least written songs about wicca, or anything that isn't related to the church, but nope! It's all about the Father of Lies, here. Though, to be fair, singing about the Devil was all that the band needed to get attention. That's how Slayer got successful, and made them one of the biggest bands in the world. Sepultura, on the other hand, would eventually shove Satan out of the way in favor of writing songs about stuff not Satan-related in "Schizophrenia" and later releases.
What could you expect from a band of newbies on a small, unknown label? Not much, I suppose, but do I enjoy this album, despite all of the things that a young Sepultura could have improved on? I say I actually kind of do. It might not have been an excellent start, but it did get the band noticed, so that they could eventually get signed to a bigger label to produce "Schizophrenia", and eventually leave Brazil to tour the world. Max Cavalera himself admits that "Morbid Visions" wasn't Sepultura's best effort. He said that it was the product of a very young band with very little experience, and I can believe him. It's easy to acknowledge the band's lack of creativity when the album came out, but then again, Sepultura really didn't need much when it started its high-powered attack.
Sepultura… Yeah, that band really meant something back in the early 90’s. They were one of the first extreme metal bands, which I started to listen to and which I became fan of (and when I started to learn how to play guitar I played maniacally some of their songs, trying to play them as fast as Cavalera and Kisser… sick!). They were also a mandatory band for all metal maniacs here in Poland; whether you preferred death or thrash metal, you would always like Sepultura. There was something unique about this band; maybe it was because where they came from, or maybe just because they were very talented musicians… all in all, there was no metal fan back then, who wouldn’t have their cassettes in collection (CDs were still a rare thing)! Nowadays it is obviously different, the band is barely a shadow or caricature of what they once have been, in my opinion, their last really killer album for me is “Arise”… Yeah, an album from 1991! But this is exactly the same what I can say about Slayer or Metallica. The last really good albums of all these bands have been released in 1991, sorry to say so… ever since then all these bands started to play something what I cannot stand at all. Anyway, speaking about Sepultura I can even tolerate the modern metal they did on “Chaos A.D.” and the tribal metal of “Roots”, but to see this band without Max Cavalera behind the microphone is just enough and beyond my tolerance. For me this band doesn’t exist for almost 20 years now. Anyway, I still like to listen to some of the old Sepultura records and this week I decided to play a record, which I haven’t listened to for something like 15 years. This is Sepultura’s classic debut LP “Morbid Visions”. It is not the album, with which I started to listen to this band back in 1991, it was “Beneath the Remains”, but obviously I also had “Morbid Visions” in my tape collections. Nowadays I have it on vinyl, the old Roadracer version, which comes with “Bestial Devastation” MLP as a bonus, so it is a great collector’s item for sure. And despite having so many years, this vinyl still plays great. And despite not listening to it for so many years, I still remember every sound from it perfectly.
In my humble opinion “Morbid Visions” is not the best Sepultura LP, maybe it is only like my third favourite – after “Beneath the Remains” and “Schizophrenia” (and who knows, maybe I also prefer “Arise” over it??). Anyway, it definitely is an album, which can be called classic and cult release. Recorded back in 1986 (and “Bestial Devastation” MLP back in 1985) it was one of the first as harsh, as raw and obscure, relentless and brutal, evil metal releases of all time. In my opinion it is even more aggressive and darker than “Seven Churches” and for sure it equals such classics as “Endless Pain”, “Bathory”, “Show No Mercy”, “Hell Awaits” or “In the Sign of Evil”.
There are two things, which I need to point out about “Morbid Visions”. First of all, it is the production of this album. I must say that it is not my favourite sound, Sepultura sounds terribly messy and poor here, sometimes it almost feels like the band was just loosing the rhythm, played terribly uneven or something, creating a chaos and distortion. But despite that, it all seems fine anyway. Why? Well, it is because of the songs, which are on “Morbid Visions”. To be honest with you, you’ll find here some of the most memorable and classic riffs / songs of all time, when speaking of such extreme death / black / thrash metal. Track number three – “Troops of Doom” – is the most obvious example. For sure it is one of the most memorable and classic Sepultura songs ever, I especially like its opening theme, with that fantastic and catchy riff; oh, what a characteristic and timeless tune! It is almost pity that such an excellent riff is so short and will not be repeated later in the song, as it soon speeds up and gets way more extreme than this memorable opening part. But extreme is almost the entire album, often it is just incredibly fast and I can say that it is probably one of the fastest and most intense LPs of the time of its original release. And it is just great that all this relentlessness comes in hand together with catchy riffs, memorable choruses and just great songs – my favourites along with the one, which I mentioned already, would definitely be the title track (“Morbid Visionnsssss” – scream!), “Crucifixion” (oh, what a massacre!!), “Show Me the Wrath”, “Funeral Rites” (which has a lot of similar patterns to “Troops of Doom”, really)… All have some absolutely amazing parts and each also has that kind of chorus, where you just must join Max Cavalera and just scream the texts! I love them all, Sepultura created an evil and obscure atmosphere like no other band around and it just sounds great, even if that production could have been better (for instance I think I prefer the sound of “Bestial Devastation” little bit more). And besides, just listen to Max Cavalera’s voice – he does sound like a ghoul here (and his lyrics were all about the dark stuff: satanic, death, violence, rituals… classic metal stuff, far more what I like than reading about some Brazilian tribes living in the jungle or the police violence).
And speaking of “Bestial Devastation”, this EP has been added to “Morbid Visions” LP re-release from Roadracer and it is great, as this EP contains such classics as “Antichrist” and “Necromancer” – another classic Sepultura tunes. And who cares if the artwork for this MLP is just primitive and childish and the logo is awful? This is a killer beginning of a legendary band (which luckily soon changed their logo for the one from “Morbid Visions”- and it is one of the best logos EVER!). Musically I guess “Bestial Devastation” feels slightly more thrashy and not as obscure and aggressive as the full length album (did they sound more like Sodom or is it just me??), but obviously it also was pretty damn violent and crude stuff.
In the end I must say that I cannot imagine a metalhead, who doesn’t own “Morbid Visions”. This is one of those classic records, which are mandatory and which will always be praised. And who cares if the album may seem to get old quite badly and feels very, very archaic nowadays? I surely don’t, as this is why it also has a specific charm, feeling and atmosphere, which nowadays are almost impossible to capture.
Standout tracks: “Troops of Doom”, “Crucifixion”, “Morbid Visions”, “Show Me the Wrath”, “Funeral Rites”
Final rate: 85/100
It's hard to even properly interpret Sepultura's earliest works considering the direction they went later. Everyone's firmly aware that Sepultura began as a raw, unformed, primitive death/thrash band before evolving into one of the more seminal and technically accomplished bands of thrash's golden age, but making albums like this one cognitively jive with releases like 'Arise' is still challenging. A lot of people forget that at the beginning of Sepultura's career, they were knee-deep in the brackish Cogumelo sound of related bands like Sarcófago (which Wagner Antichrist would later establish after his brief term with Sepultura was up) or Holocausto, not the refined sound of American thrash that they would later come to more or less emulate. It's because of this that opinions on 'Morbid Visions' tend to miss the mark in my opinion; a great number of people put an excessive emphasis on the relative brutality or extremity of this album and the rest of Sepultura's pre-'Beneath the Remains' output and not enough on the pure songwriting involved. Is 'Morbid Visions' the most extreme work of Sepultura? Probably- but it's also a rather confused, very unrefined album that is more significantly dated than many similar records from the same period.
The most immediate sonic comparison is, rather unsurprisingly, Possessed, filtered through the more barbaric and primitive lens of early Teutonic thrash like Sodom or Kreator. A release date in late '86 gave the Brazilians plenty of time to spin 'Endless Pain' and 'In the Sign of Evil' in anticipation of their first full-length, and it shows: the ranting, too-fast vocal performance, tension-laced tremolo riffing, and sloppy, juvenile instrumentation are all directly derived from the German camp. From Possessed, though, comes a more immediately dark and twisted feeling, the hellish and fiery sound of which was clearly a conscious takeaway from 'Seven Churches.' Even though this is Sepultura's most brutal and crude release, it's still not quite as antagonistic and self-involved as 'I.N.R.I.' or 'Campo de Extermínio'- this album is the sound of kids who really look up to Slayer but are basically unable to achieve that level of instrumental prowess at their age. Hints of the sheer brutality of the Cogumelo scene will pop up in fits and starts in the form of sloppy, uneven blasts and even more malevolent than usual riffing, both of which dot tracks like 'Mayhem' with little ceremony or sense.
The playing is uneven and crude and the production is the same, but what I think prevents this album from really entering classic territory is the songwriting itself. As previously stated, this is clearly the sound of Sepultura trying to emulate several contrasting, combative styles of thrash at once, but the combination of all these different influences doesn't end up displaying hybrid vigor so much as a diluted sense of self. The riffcraft tends to be rather generic and over-simplified, with too heavy a reliance on typical thrash riff structures, a lack of rhythmic variation, and a lack of variation from track to track. Oddly enough, many of the musical ideas here are present on later albums- 'War' is like a prototype of the title cut off 'Arise'- but refined and streamlined, which really seems to be what Sepultura was originally made for. Even at a young age, Sepultura weren't quite the drunken sociopaths that many of their Cogumelo brethren were, and even on 'Morbid Visions' you can tell that they aspire to more mainstream and traditional ideas of quality.
All that being said, 'Morbid Visions' certainly occupies a crucial spot in early extreme metal history simply by virtue of its sheer influence. In one fell swoop, 'Morbid Visions' essentially codified the style of Brazilian thrash (even if it wasn't really a sterling example of it) and set up the beginning of Sepultura's legacy. While this is certainly not their greatest work, it's an invaluable look at the early Brazilian scene and the first real volley from one of thrash's pioneering bands.
If you have anything after the initial pressing of this album, you have the 'Bestial Devastation' tracks from Sepultura's split with Overdose tacked on as a bonus- considering the impossibility of finding an original copy of 'Morbid Visions' (or even a copy of the isolated 'Bestial Devastation') it only seems fair to discuss that as well. Even more overtly Teutonic than 'Morbid Visions' and somewhat less preoccupied with the burgeoning death metal sound 'Morbid Visions' clearly attempts to emulate, these short, violent tracks could easily be b-sides from 'Endless Pain', with an almost identical vocal delivery and chaotic, jerking drum performance. The aggressively '80s production (replete with vocal echo and half-distorted guitar) has a charm to it that 'Morbid Visions'' hazy cavern tends to lack, and the songwriting seems more genuine, enthusiastic, and less self-aware than the material off the band's first full-length. I personally prefer these tracks to anything off 'Morbid Visions,' but since getting them together is something of an inevitability, it all comes down to a matter of taste. I will say, though, that the Wagner-penned 'Antichrist' is probably my favorite track on the entire disc, mostly because it absolutely sounds like a forgotten Sarcófago track, with its ludicrous, clumsy blasting and adolescent joy.
Regardless of my particular feelings on this album, it's rather inevitable that I'm forced to recommend it to anyone interested in early metal. Enthusiasts for oldschool, primitive death/thrash will likely find a lot to love here, but more important than that is the historical relevance of these tracks. It rarely gets more authentic or archaic than this in extreme metal, and anyone who wants to hear the very earliest fires of death metal burn will need to pick this up as a matter of course. Even if you don't like it in particular, it inevitably occupies a valuable space in anyone's collection.
(Originally written for http://www.trialbyordeal666.blogspot.com)
I admit it was Beneath the remains and Arise, that got me into this band. I have been a very keen fan ever since, and even though they took a much different direction in the 90's, their debut seemed so alien in sound that, surprisingly it made me wonder if this was a different band by the same name. Don't get me wrong it's still thrash, it's still got a lot of "Sepultura" signiature to it, but it's much less inspiring and much more immature. Yes Sepultura were young, you could say they were in their embryonic stages, but this album wreaks of inexperience and haste.
Despite it's many shortfalls this album has some good qualities. For example it has that primitive black metal feel to it, speed infused with something much darker on offer in the thrash scene. Hey I guess you could say they were quite ahead of the curb, but ultimately Sodom would master this speed/black sound. Max Calvara's vocals serve the album well, every word spat with searing venom. I think Sepultura were much more influenced by bands like Celtic Frost or Hell Hammer at this point. Yeah they put on the bullet belts and looked the part, but one simply can't slap the "thrash" sticker on this record, because it has a lot of sounds thrown in a blender.
But there are way, way too many downsides. Like the guitars. They simply haven't been tuned properly, I kid you not. These guys went into a studio, whisked through the songs, put it all to tape, and they forgot to tune the guitars properly? I ask myself how? Even a young band shouldn't make that mistake. I'm sure Max and co have a good old laugh about it now, but my god does it make the album irritating to listen to. Yes there are good riffs here and there of course, but the sound is just terrible. Guitars aside, the whole album sounds terrible. It just sounds like it's been recorded on a tape in some bathroom in Brazil, then buried in the jungle for 50 years. Not good.
Morbid visions is one of the catchiest songs, maybe alongside troops of doom. The others just sound as though they tried too hard. I mean it's like they have tried their hardest to be extreme and against the grain, but it's just cliched. The lyrics, the songs...EVERYTHING. I mean look at song titles like: Crucifixion, Antichrist, Necromancer, Warriors of death. It's almost they have rushed into the whole process and said: "Yeah! Let's write songs about satan and death!" Maybe they really didn't give a toss. If it sounded too familair or too cliched, then it was tough. But if somebody who didn't listen to thrash, picked up this album, all their stereotypical fears about thrash would be realized.
First time I heard this I could barely keep awake, although I have to admit there are moments of real clarity. I can understand why it may have caught people's attention at the time of its release as well. Hey, all of a sudden Brazil were pumping out more extreme thrash than Germany and San Francisco, so who wouldn't notice? In one sense it serves a certain purpose. A band of young metal heads, reaching out, trying to satisfy the extreme needs of other younger metal heads. No matter how old you get, how mature you become in adult life, you can't help but admire that. When all is said and done, that what it is about, the more impressionable the band, the more of a different route the metal scene takes. But despite the sentiment, the album is just short of innovating, even for 1986. But it isn't about being the most original band that ever surfaced. It just sounds boring and awful, with something cool or interesting here and there.
I love listening to Morbid Visions for the physical tension that I hear in the playing. The album has no ambitions other than meeting its own demand for constant regimented violence. It’s like a blank background for the tendon-ripping ‘Marshall arts’ performance ethic underlying all extreme metal, here presented without distractions as the absolute center of drama. Sepultura only have about three or four different moves at this point in their career, which they link together by reflex in songs that feel like endurance exercises. But they execute each routine with the heart that many listeners identified as the band’s best attribute at their commercial peak. Whereas early material by influences like Sodom and Kreator has a decidedly gawky vibe due to instruments constantly falling out of time, the martial discipline of teenage Sepultura is well-documented by this record of their practice, an unwavering barrage of close-knit patterns of blows. Aided by a production that’s cheap-but-clear with cool effects, Morbid Visions is a great example of how to write metal with the sustained application of force as the only principle.
The single-mindedness connecting Max’s guitar and Igor’s snare is the album’s real currency. One gets the impression that the brothers have self-taught as a duo, developing complementary instrumental styles in tandem with a shared concept of the way thrash should be performed. To them, intensity lies in prioritizing control over constant aggressive strain: core strength. They structure individual riffs and entire musical sequences to contain pronounced synchronized rests on each instrument. This allows the players to get back in step with each other, as well as to conserve energy for their individual parts. It pays off in a huge yield of unusually well-matched speed picking and diabolic polka beat. Melodies are retarded most of the time, stunted little horrors dredged from the ugliest and most conservative parts of Hellhammer and Mantas. But something about the same-ness of it all, the fact that they constantly rearrange the same handful of ‘wrong’ notes, only adds to the impression of a band intently focused on their task.
So, this deeply shared musical language keeps all the band members focused on the conversation, but all they can do is keep repeating the same invocations of darkness, evil, and hatred. This suits me fine, and I’m not especially interested in those things. Because whatever the music may superficially be ‘about,’ its real essence is the sheer pleasure of being able to concentrate body-and-soul on creating something excellent, that thing being brutal pitch-black speed metal. Hearing it, I always get the impression of running around madly, to and from the possibility of life’s destruction, through a series of long black tunnels. In that sense the album is kind of like Satanic Blood by Von, especially with the reverb-ed vocals and overly loud drum fills, but with events and musical drama that prevent the metal from becoming trancelike and ritualistically decadent. In sum, Morbid Visions is just an enervating rush of youthful power desperate to perpetuate the terms of its own existence. Primitive thrash that makes you want to survive the impossible.
It goes without saying that what Sepultura has turned into over the years is not only disgraceful to the name of a once-was-great band, but really just metal in general. However, this is not a rant concerning the shit-eating nature of their post-‘Arise’ material, but rather a review of my second favorite release from the band’s ’85-’89 golden era (my first being the ‘Bestial Devastation’ EP), as well as a way of hopefully justifying the album’s downfalls.
‘Morbid Visions’ is one of those albums that has to be looked at in a contextual manner. Yes, it is sloppy. Yes, the production isn’t quite up to par with people’s need for digital perfection. Yes, the lyrics are retarded. All of these complaints are perfectly justifiable for those who just simply cannot handle raw recordings such as this one, and whose ears have been tainted by today’s modern metal standards. However, for all of us who can in fact appreciate albums such as this one, in all of its sloppy, ugly glory, then ‘Morbid Visions’ really is a classic, and it will always be considered as such.
One of the main complaints this album seems to get is the production value. Well boo-fucking-hoo, you pussies. Personally, I would have preferred another ‘Bestial Devastation’-type production job, but this one still does not bother me at all. The vocals are perfectly audible, and have a dark, cavernous reverb effect on them. The guitar tones are rather thin and tinny sounding, sacrificing a bit of the heaviness this album could have achieved, but still do not deter from the malicious aura this album gives off, and as long as you can still hear the riffing perfectly, which you can, then you really can’t complain. The bass, although not quite as upfront and kick-you-in-liver as it was on the preceding release, is still there, albeit a bit buried amongst the reverberated murkiness. The drums are also perfectly passable for an older black/death album, despite sounding rather distant and of course the sloppiness in which they are played with. Basically, if you can handle ‘Bloody Vengeance’, ‘INRI’, and ‘Immortal Force’, or pretty much all the other classic Brazilian recordings, you can without a doubt handle ‘Morbid Visions’.
Where as ‘Bestial Devastation’ had a much stronger thrash-oriented, proto-black/death sound, ‘Morbid Visions’, despite its primitiveness, is pretty much a pure black/death metal album, with little in the way of thrash influences. Max’s vocals on here are a bit deeper then on the EP, but not my much. He also continues to use his brief, gruff growls, with the occasional drawn out last couple of words of a verse, which often is also given another layer with even more reverb on the original vocal track. This effect has been used by many, and each time its just as effective as the last. The riffing is still quite simplistic and hadn’t quite reached the level of technicality, for lack of a better word, as on ‘Schizophrenia’. But I feel it’s really for the better that the riffs on here are as simple as they are, as the band at this point obviously was not capable of impeccable, precise thrashing madness. They use lots of tremolo picking, almost in a black metal fashion, mixed with death metal-like palm-muted riffs and things of that nature. I think they could have been even more effective given the proper production job, but the way they were recorded actually gives off a rather eerie atmosphere. The drumming is the sloppiest part of the album, as well as the most simplistic, but he keeps up pretty consistently, and when he does lose his place, he seems to find it again a short while later. The fills and snare rolls are kind of all over the place, and the double-bass skills are pretty much non-existent, but this all adds to savage, bestial nature of the album.
Once you stop being a pussy get past the production and sloppiness, this is a pretty damn fine piece of early black/death metal done in the 80’s Brazilian tradition that many of us have grown to love. I know it may be hard for some to believe that a band who sucks as much as everything released after ‘Arise’ did was actually good at one point, but I still recommend you forget about all of that and worship at the altar of this amazing piece of old-school history.
...So why do I like it!? Considering this was their formal debut (I consider LPs to be a band's true debut), it's very disappointing and underwhelming. When you consider their next album, Schizophrenia, you can hardly believe it's the same band. The biggest crime here would be the tinny guitar tone, c'mon guys! Bestial Devastations had a better tone! The guitars are particularly cringe-worthy when the solos come. Not that Jairo T., who doesn't look like a metalhead in the liner pictures, is a bad guitarist. It's just that the production makes his solos so squeaky and difficult to listen.
The other aspects are slightly better: The drums aren't horrible but very, very sloppy; The vocals have this weird effect put on it that makes it sound louder and echo-ish but not quite as much as reverb; The bass...well the bass is there. Poor Paulo, this and the EP before is the few albums where you can here him. Although his bass playing isn't too special.
The songs...well they're okay. Clearly these boys had much potential, the songs are like a rougher and rawer version of Schizophrenia or Beneath the Remains. But the songs, although headbang worthy, don't stand out very much. Oh sure there are interesting riffs in the songs and some solos that are above average, but it's not as strong as their future records. Even Igor admits (according to the re-releases liner liner notes) that they were ripping off the songs from their heroes, thus there ain't much depth to them. The only one that stands out is "Troop(s) of Doom" but it still suffers from the same obstacles from the others.
As you'd have guessed by now, I'm reviewing the re-release with Bestial Devastations. But since there's a separate page for it, I'll review it there.
Conclusion: This album is off-putting at first, what with the rawer-than-black-metal production and kids playing it fast and sloppy. But give it a couple of listens, then this album begins to grow on you.
Get the re-release, you'll get more bang for your buck.
What can we say that hasn’t been already said for this great debut (in full length if we don’t consider the Bestial Devastation EP) by one of the most representative bands in thrash/death metal during the 80s? Every fan of this music not only should, but MUST, know this one like every album by Sepultura ‘till 1991 or, if you want, ‘till 1993 (it’s my case). This is one of the most influential blackened death/thrash release ever!
Teenagers who wanted to play Sodom/Kreator/Venom style, created an album to remember for the ferocious, vicious sound. The most thrash metal influences of their first EP were brutalized by a high dose of early black/death metal to create legendary tracks like “Morbid Visions” or the great “Show Me The Wrath”. Max's vocals are on the borderline between screams and suffered growls, the drumming by Igor is fast as hell with brutal, primordial up tempo parts.
“Mayhem” are total vocals madness: fast as hell in pure Reign In Blood style while the guitar parts are always easy but catchy and total impact. The solos are quite messy and very raw with tremolos and whistles. “Troops Of Doom” is the track that made history here because it would have been done again in the future and it’s the one that shows a quite more “mature” structure. “Crucifixion” has to be mentioned for the sick guitar lines and the Latin spoken part in the middle. Desecrating and blasphemous.
This album isn’t technical, isn’t melodic but it’s just fast as hell, brutal as fuck and a truly heavy influence for the future generation of deathsters. Evil, rotten, blasphemous…a fist in the stomach and a lesson of history. Almost everything started here for the extreme metal movements.
Let's be honoust. In essence there's a lot to laugh about concerning 'Morbid Visions'. These guys were still young kids here and it shows. The lyrics are pathetic and so are the performances and especially the sound. The compositions themselves stick to worshipping early-Kreator, Slayer and Sodom with more than a hint of 'The Return'-era Bathory. It wasn't until 'Schizophrenia' that the boys learned to play.
However! It all seems to work for some reason. The enormously simplistic riffs, the hideous squeeky solos of Jairo, the straight forward drumming, the over the top reverbish vocals and the awful production alltogether form a truly 'evil' hyperactive atmosphere that I really still like to put on my recordplayer every once in a while after all these years. I dare say it's because all the flaws fall in place with eachother in exactly the right amount and balance.
Not considering the performance and sound there are actually some great songs here. My personal favorite 'Crucifixion' (due to the vocal effects on the chorus and speed in general), 'Show Me The Wrath' and the titletrack of course. Most songs follow the same path and structure but the album doesn't get boring. The songs are all relatively short. The original version of 'troops Of Doom' is quite nice but the 1990 version showed the true potential of this song.
Yes, there's something about Morbid Visions
This is the album I think of when I hear the name Sepultura. Most people, these days, don't even know that they were ever any good and find it difficult to believe that they once released an album such as this. As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the roots of Black Metal. The atmosphere is evil as hell, reminiscent of Slayer's "Hell Awaits" in some ways. This album deserves to be mentioned in the same breath as the early recordings from Venom, Bathory, Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Destruction, Sodom, Possessed, Kreator, Sarcofago, Tormentor, etc. I think to say that this album is Death Metal or Thrash Metal really limits it and, of course, ignores the obvious Black Metal qualities of the release...
The guitar tone is perfect and the production is raw. The tempo is, for the most part, very fast but there are several places where it slows down with a Celtic Frost-type vibe. The vocals are absolute demonic evil and fit this sound perfectly. There are plenty of thrash riffs as well, but I still say that this would be best described as 80s Black Metal, considering the dark atmosphere and the lyrical content. This is dark, primitive and filled with hate. The influence that this album had on later bands, such as Mayhem and Beherit, is quite obvious and deserves credit. This is music for Satanic rituals. Listen with darkness, except for the light of black candles. If you like the aforementioned bands, this is a must. If you want something dark, ugly and black as hell...forget the cheesy garbage with keyboards and female vocals. This is all you need...
Sepultura kicks it into high fucking gear here, issuing their edict that THIS is how to play heavy fucking metal, and ya know what, I'm game, I'll listen. This is 1986, where pretty much thrash comes to a boil, and both the good and the bad aspects of it are polarised and appear in mass quantities... I won't dwell on the bad (let's just say that it is anally expelled by Danish trolls), but note the good. Pleasure to Kill. Reign in Blood. Darkness FUCKING Descends. The unholy trinity...
And then, just on their heels as far as influence, and completely as good, is this album... similar to the second Possessed, in that it's not nearly as out-there as the album (or EP) that preceded it, but still competely extreme and still completely fucking metal. This is pretty much straight-up thrash metal, a la Schizophrenia, but with the death-metal necro vestiges of Bestial Devastation sometimes quite prevalent, mainly in the production values and also the occasional off-kilter drumwork (those toms are mixed rather loud). The production kinda blows ass, being neither here (necrotic chainsaw-gougings in the vaginal region, a la Bestial Devastation) or there (precise bludgeoning trauma wounds to the neck and face, a la Schizophrenia), but the riffage is top notch.
Songwriting follows a basic style... similar to the EP in that just about every song is fast, then slow, then fast again - the thrash breaks are very crisp and very clean and very overt, and Nuclear Assault is the only other band I can think of that drops to 50-75% speed this consistently and this effectively. Throw in Max's narration - he says "thrash!!!" in at least three songs, and we've squarely identified the genre.
Highlights... War is basically a sloppier version of Escape to the Void (especially in the pattern of the vocal delivery), and Mayhem has that nifty middle break, which is probably the best of all of them out here... Morbid Visions has a damn catchy four-note riff that comes in just enough times to leave you wanting more...
Some of the songs sound really damn similar - check out the intros of Troops of Doom and Funeral Rites for example. Troops of Doom, incidentally, is not all that different from the Schizo version, other than the production values. Both are raging thrash beastfucks of the highest order.
And yes, Crucifixion does have a random silly Latin passage... and that final outro to Empire of the Damned is just plain hilarious - but hey, they were 17, they can't be blamed for not having any idea of what is correct... this album doesn't sound very much like anything else out there, and for that they must be commended. Staple thrash metal. Along with the next two LPs by this band, and maybe even the one after that, this one is recommended.
Here we have a classic example of a band at its most brilliant, if not necessarily as technically proficient as it would eventually become. Sepultura showed astounding promise with this release, and would go on to make some equally killer albums before sinking into oblivion. "Morbid Visions" is a bare-bones death metal record that sticks to the core ideals of the genre, not straying too far in any one direction, and not collapsing on itself due to lack of innovation.
I admit that by the time the last track rolls around, things sound a bit dull and contrived, but that is easily forgivable. Almost every song is a winner, and the raw production only serves to purvey the aggression and determination of the band. Max's singing is suited well to the minimalist style of the record, and the lyrics, although silly at times, do the job. Igor doesn't bust any balls, but the drumming does set a nice pace. As for guitar, Jairo provides ungodly shrieks and squeals on lead, and Max shows signs of the potential that would be realized on "Schizophrenia " and "Beneath the Remains".
Overall, a definite must-own for anyone interested in early Death Metal, and the beginnings of a band that would equally mesmerize and disappoint as time went on.
So, this is where Sepultura started (actually, it was the Bestial Devastation EP, but that would be another review). Before they got into the thrash assault of later albums, the teenagers Max, Igor, Paulo and Jairo wrote fast and evil sounding compositions that took all the good stuff that was in Hell Awaits (i.e. all of it) and made it more insane and uncontrolled. Despite the quality on future releases, they could never match this except for Beneath the Remains which is different in style but still very fucking good.
The main thing that differs from all the later Sep albums is the evil as fuck vibe that makes you feel that you're wandering alone in a cemetery on a misty night with church bells tolling on the background. Some may say that the production here sucks, but again their mothers could have been on coke while pregnant which ocasionated their offspring to start talking at the age of 12 and later become Skylark fans. So that you know, the production values here are PERFECT (think Seven Churches with Darkthrone tweaking the knobs) and keep the rawness and the atmosphere of the songs the way it should be.
All the songs here range from good to fucking excellent, but my personal choices would be the title track, "War", "Crucifixion" (I never thought that the latin spoken part on the middle had very much sense, but that's a minor complain) and "Funeral Rites", which is similar to the more known "Troops of Doom" only way much better. Sepultura later re-recorded "Troops" and made it thrashier and more technical but lacking the evil feel and the vibe that is the single most important thing about this album.
If you consider something worthy of being titled "metalhead", or like anything that has to do with the word "rule", then get this NOW!