Brazil is not a country often associated with a high quantity of heavy music. But where they lack in exported quantity they more than make up for in quality. What would the metal world be without Sepultera? Founded around roughly the same time, and in the same South American country best known for beach bodies, great butts and soccer flops, Sarcófago expel a much darker, extreme blend of metal. Sarcófago originated a sound that would blend early black metal and death metal with the ferocity of thrash putting Brazil on the map alongside such legends as Celtic Frost, Venom, Possessed, Bathory and Hellhammer. So today we take a look at their debut full length, I.N.R.I.
The real genius of I.N.R.I. lies in the timelessness of both the music and the vision. Originally released as photocopied covers wrapped around a bare tape, has remained, to this day, a very “cool” way to release your music. In fact, I.N.R.I. wasn’t released on CD until 2002. (No indictment on the band’s popularity as that continued to soar). Still today, labels like Grimoire Cassette and Caligari Records exist producing limited edition tapes of underground and lesser known bands. It’s the old way. The feel of a tape in your hand. The click of the cassette player closing. Pressing play and hearing the hiss before the blast beats annihilate your tiny Sony tape deck.
The older metalheads will remember the invention of the cassette. The first time you walked into a record store and bought a tape secured in a 12″ long plastic security holder. Watching the clerk struggle with a special rubber key (usually worn on a lanyard) that was supposed to unlock the jail cell that held your prized new possession. The best part of cassettes? They are sharable. Easily. You could carry one in the back pocket of your acid wash jeans and play it for your friends wherever a tape deck was available. It wasn’t digital music where copyright issues prevent the sharing of music. And there is something beautiful about that. Music is ours. It’s owned by everyone and it’s to be shared communally.
But enough ranting. Sarcófago is more than nostalgia. Throw on an Abominator’s Evil Proclaimed or Abysmal Lord’s debut release from this year and you can immediately hear the lasting influence of Sarcófago. It’s as essential to modern metal as first-wave Scandinavian black metal. But it’s even more raw and exotic because of Brazil’s jungle landscape. The home-recordings of thunder, the growls and the backmasked vocals permeate the mix amid the oil drum like sound of the floor toms. American style blast beats predominate; driving the album forward at the lurching pace of steam engine. There is no relent.
Metal (at least black metal as we know it today) was still young in 1987. The concept of Satanic worship and occultism were merely beginning to dominate the lyrical and thematic landscape. Sarcófago, despite straying from the first-wave black metal sound, helped cement the evilness of metal. Separating metal from punk was not the clothing, or the anti-establishment attitude, but the lyrical themes. Sarcófago produced some of the most raw, aggressive and angry music to date. It’s a bold statement but the second-wave of black metal would not have been possible without the influence and work of Sarcófago and their debut album I.N.R.I. It’s a guarantee that every single metal band you know and love grew up blasting Sarcófago out of their cassette deck. It’s an album that our current musical world simply doesn’t exist without.