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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.