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Sepultura Put Brazil on the Map - 86%

Superchard, September 12th, 2019

Similar to Sodom's legacy in the thrash metal world, Sepultura are more widely known by their thrash outputs on fan favorites such as Schizophrenia and Beneath the Remains, and to perhaps an equal degree are known for their 180 turn to groove/nu metal, with Max Cavalera leaving the band to have a his own project called Soulfly entirely dedicated to sticking with the 90's formula that changed the direction heavy metal took going into the next millennium. What they're not as widely known and celebrated for; however, is being one of the founding fathers of an entire genre known as "death metal", right there along with Sodom's Obsessed by Cruelty released in the same year in 1986, both beating Chuck Schuldiner to the punch before he could get his debut with Death out the following year in 1987. This time, the death metal sound wasn't hailing from Germany's Sodom or Canada's Sacrifice, but from Brazil. Before Florida would eventually be the Mecca of the sub-genre, it proved to be a movement that was slowly taking place worldwide as opposed to any one particular region, distinguishing it from nearly any other metal sub-genre you could think of as bands were coming forth with more independent, grassroots upbringings, and having to luck out to actually score a deal with a label to get their works published for the masses.

Sepultura would sign with Brazil's very own Cogumelo Records, a partnership that would see the beginnings of not only Sepultura, but their record label's foray into the world of heavy metal as well. Ever since Sepultura's debut, Cogumelo has been a sanctuary for Brazil's extreme talents providing an outlet for acts such as Amen Corner, Chakal, Mutilator, Holocausto, and the infamous Sarcofago. While Morbid Visions hasn't seemed to have made an impact north of the equator, not getting any of the recognition it deserves, the same can't be said when it comes to having an influence domestically. While they would leave an impression on the metal culture in their homeland, finding much out there to compare this to before the 90's took off with a death metal explosion is a bit challenging for me personally. It's not exactly a genre I'm well-versed in enough to know whether there was more out there to discover apart from the aforementioned bands and perhaps Possessed depending on who you ask. I found Morbid Visions to lack the creativity found in Sodom's debut album, going for a more straight and narrow approach with less experimentation, but it would be fair to say that Morbid Visions more closely resembles death metal as most of us would become more familiar with it throughout the 90's.

Furthermore, I have to say I enjoy the production on Morbid Visions a little more, though Max Cavalera's vocals can entirely overpower the mix when he's belting out his loudest cries as heard on "War" and "Mayhem". We're also inching ever closer to the guttural type of vocals that death metal would be known for. I suppose in retrospect, people could make the argument that Max Cavalera's vocals don't quite hit the threshold to be considered "death metal", and connoisseurs of the genre could make the same case for Sodom. To my ears, these earlier bands are all sufficient, and the spirit and attitude is there regardless. My only criteria is the I must not be able to understand every single thing you're saying, and with the way Cavalera vomits his lyrics out on "Mayhem", I am not left with unmet standards. I can read along to the music as much as I want, but I will probably get lost trying to follow along. Great, good enough for me, Sepultura are keeping it as raw as possible by also having that meaty drum sound with no resonance to speak of and your typical Slayer style guitar solos that focus on wreaking havoc as opposed to having any sense of melody.

Pretty cliche stuff by today's standards, and it's not going to be anything you haven't heard before, but back in 1986, this was revolutionary stuff. I would like to say this album was great for what it managed to accomplish for its time, but I really don't think it has aged all that well, nor is there anything I find to be all that memorable apart from the oddly funky grooves on "Show Me the Wrath". I don't play the drums, but this one sounds like it would be deceitfully challenging to replicate for some reason or another. I can say much the same for "Crucifixion", and it's not like Igor is playing all that fast for a lot of the album, it's just that something about his style feels a little disjointed, I really don't know anything about music theory, but perhaps he's changing time signatures on the fly and creating these oblong drum patterns for all I know, it's not as straight and narrow as your typical rock n' roll, that's all I know. In fact, it's on this latter half of the album where things are slowing down to this degree that I believe the album starts to showcase its best tracks, including "Funeral Rites" and "Empire of the Damned", as the first half of the album had me feeling a sense of deja vu after hearing "Mayhem" and "War" back to back.

From a songwriting perspective, Morbid Visions feels pretty basic. Many of the songs open up with a slower doom metal setting before the first verse kicks in and the band thrust into overdrive with your typical sloppy trill riffs lacking much nuance or attention to rhythmic patterns, so when the galloping Iron Maiden riffs are introduced on the penultimate song for just a brief moment, I'm given an idea of what Sepultura could potentially be. No one would truly know what they were capable of in terms of technique until the release of the subsequent albums that actually put them on the map. I believe Morbid Visions is just as historically important to the story of heavy metal's progression to more extreme reaches as Slayer's early works or Venom's first couple of albums. A decent introduction to the genre, especially for those looking for something a bit more unhinged and derailed than Scream Bloody Gore, though that very quality will certainly also turn a lot of people away, thus is the nature of these more brutal records.

Superchard gets super hard for:
Empire of the Damned
Funeral Rites
Troops of Doom