Morbid Visions - Bestial Devastation(Roadrunner - 1986)
A typically raw and under-developed debut album for a thrash band at the time. But as with all the classic bands in this genre, the raw sound and fresh energy rise above the poor musicianship and production slightly and did/will appeal to some 80s thrash devotees. These Brazilians took their cue from Slayer at first, so 'deathrash' is the more precise nomen dubium of this style, which uses prototypical death metal riffs, solos and vocals but is still firmly rooted in thrash metal. However, some songs can easily be classifiable as pure old-school death metal. As opposed to Metallica, Testament and Slayer though, this debut sounds emptier and even sloppy in places. Although it shows lots of promise and explains why their name spread at the time, it loses one's interest after a few songs. This is mainly due to the lack of hooks and the bad production, with one song sounding much like the next. Still, Sepultura's sound and later brilliance is glimpsed at here and both early Sepultura fans and 80s thrash fanatics will probably not find this a complete waste of time. The much more death metal and raw sounding Bestial Devastation EP has been attached to the debut for so long now, it has become inseparable. A few tracks like Troops of Doom, Crucifixion and Warriors of Death stand out, but otherwise it's safe to say that this is a mediocre album.
Schizophrenia(Roadrunner - 1987)
Enter Andreas Kisser on guitar, and a vast improvement in practically all aspects of the music except for the still somewhat low production values. Again, like many other thrash bands, they seem to have found their own sound on the second release. This is pure Sepultura deathrash by now (much more death than thrash actually), with their characteristically tight, dynamic and even complex compositions and dark riffs. This album already shows why Sepultura was one of the best when it comes to death/thrash composition, not merely playing brutal riffs or chaotic aggression, but writing tight, developing music that holds your attention and that keeps changing and building with complexity and refreshing dynamics. Cavalera roars, barks and semi-growls well even though he hasn't fully developed his power yet, but his voice and especially the drums are somewhat muted by bad sound. Inquisition Symphony stands head and shoulders above the rest of the tracks: a long gripping instrumental that showcases their compositonal and instrumental talent. There are no weak tracks here though and this one comes strongly recommended to fans of underground 80s metal and everyone else as well for that matter. Listen and learn.
Beneath The Remains(Roadrunner - 1989)
The breakthrough release. I suppose the success had a lot to do with Roadrunner picking them up, but their talent had already matured in the previous outing and this is only a small step forward. After a haunting acoustic introduction, the music erupts into full sounding deathrash with more fast changing, aggressive compositions and dynamic, gripping speed that surpasses even their previous album. No weak songs; No filler material; No boredom. Kisser's talent has progressed and his guitar solos scream, howl and shred with eargasmic power. The much improved production helps Cavalera's half barks, half roars as well as the powerful drumming. But the star of this release is the composition, once again tight, dynamic and sublime in its gripping intensity. The music is at times less death and more thrash though, even using a touch of melody in parts, paving the way for the next album and already making some extreme and touchy fans wary. An essential classic.
Arise(Roadrunner - 1991)
This is arguably Sepultura's Master of Puppets. They reached their peak of compositional talent and admiration by fans and at the same time managed to be accused of selling out by their more extreme followers. Most metal music lovers agree that this is their most musically mature and interesting however, and if there are any complaints, they are merely that this isn't relatively brutal or underground enough. And indeed the music is mostly slower thrash by now with a generous seasoning of death, and the straw that broke the extreme fan's back is that MTV gave the video for Dead Embryonic Cells a lot of air time. But like it or not, this album is the one that ages the best and does a lot more musically without changing the original sound or going commercially soft. Acoustics, melody, and harmonics are used sparingly, but very well, giving this album a dynamic and epic sound. Kisser's guitar shines, as does Max's rhythm guitar and vocals. Two long incredible tracks stand out (Desperate Cry & Altered State) but again, there are no weak songs on this release. Another requisite.
Chaos A.D.(Roadrunner - 1993)
The album that both ended and started it all. Old fans started dropping like flies after listening to the radically new and more accessible sound and the deterioration in musicianship. At the same time, Sepultura was suddenly loved by critics and the masses and arguably had a very big role in the birth of nu-metal. Ironically, nu-metal took the worst aspect of this new sound, namely the repetitive, simple but heavy riffing with down-tuned guitars, augmented by a fat bass sound and stop-and-go rhythms. That's not to say that this is what this album sounds like however - these nu-metal roots are only present here as one of many ingredients. The rest consist of lots of thrash, hardcore punk and touches of Brazilian tribal percussion in a couple of songs. There is a lot of pounding, punishing anger and dissonance rather than speed and complex, flowing composition. Although many would disagree with me, I think they did need to change their sound here after perfecting straightforward deathrash in the past two albums. After four albums of a similar musical direction, it's time for something new. So the experimentation on this album is welcome, the only problem being that it wasn't so successful. Amidst the roaring and contagiously intense 'Refuse-Resist', the thrashy 'Propaganda', the furious 'Territory', and perhaps a couple of other good, heavy songs are a collection of disappointingly mediocre tracks that just pound away without going anywhere special. Other obvious stand-outs are the pure Brazilian acoustic 'Kaiowas' and the melodic New Model Army cover 'The Hunt'. Overall a flawed album that's hard to recommend but the best thing it has going for it is the original and fresh heavy sound.
Roots(Roadrunner - 1996)
Having influenced Korn to start its own brand of heavy sound, Sepultura now seems to be the one being influenced instead. Whereas Korn focused on the chunky, down-tuned repetitive riffs (and added their own original twists) however, Sepultura opts to be more eclectic and experimental. Brazilian percussion, sounds and vocals decorate this fat sounding, heavy slab of gritty noise like an Indian war-dancing around an angry bulldozer. The slight touches of industrial hammering and dissonance from the previous release stuck around for this album too. This blend of sound is further supported by the hiring of a native Brazilian (Carlinhos Brown) and the Korn vocalist as session musicians. The guitars and bass are loud and tuned way down in Korn style, and Max roars and growls throatily as usual. This intriguing musical salad together with Sepultura's talent has a lot of potential which actually works out rather well on a few songs, but unfortunately the album gets too unfocused and self-indulgent. Every couple of tracks we are forced to experience some more world music and authentic Brazilian sounds, complete with tribes and instruments. At 72 minutes, this album gets extremely lost midway amidst too much noise and influences as if Sepultura suddenly didn't know what to do with all the new toys and just threw it all together hoping for a few hits. This album is in desperate need of compositional focus, consistency and interesting hooks. Grind, hammer, tribal dance, shout, distort, chant, percussive attack, acoustic ditty and back again, but what are we left with? A mess.
Roots of Sepultura(Roadrunner - 1997)
Originally a bonus CD for Roots, then separated, now rare. This is a collection much like Blood-Rooted. Included are unreleased covers, b-sides, demos, remixes and live songs clocking at a whopping 73 minutes. All the tracks are from the Bestial to Arise days which may attract fans of older Sepultura. Of the previously released compositions, four are 'original mixes' which aren't much different, two are demos and eight are live. The rest of the tracks are: Criminals in Uniform - a pretty good unreleased original from the Beneath the Remains days. Orgasmatron - a great Motorhead cover. A Hora E A Vez Do Cabelo Nascer - a cover of an uninteresting Mutante punk song. Drug Me - a brutal and speedy hardcore punk cover of a Dead Kennedy's song that sounds like something from Chaos AD. Not bad but short. Crucificados Pelo Sistema - more Chaos AD hardcore punk, this time in the form of a cover of a Ratos de Porao song (who?). Altogether an unremarkable release but definitely a worthy buy for completists or Sepultura fanatics.
Blood Rooted(Roadrunner - 1997)
65 more minutes of covers, b-sides, demos and live tracks, this time from the Chaos AD era onwards. Included are seven energetic live tracks, two demos and a twisted industrial remix of 'Look Away'. Also: Procreation of the Wicked - an extremely weighty, thick, moody and great cover of Celtic Frost. Inhuman Nature - a Chaos AD era b-side that would fit right in the album. Policia - fast hardcore punk. War - a Roots-era, long and boring experimental, somewhat atmospheric track. Crucificados Pelo Sistema - more raging punk. Symptom of the Universe - Black Sabbath made heavier of course with a few fun twists. Mine - more Roots era experimentation, this time penned together with Mike Patton. Lots of subdued dark moods and whispers erupting into shouts and noise, some of them interesting, but overall too long and unfocused. And Drug Me - the speedy Dead Kennedy's cover. A mixed bag.
Against(Roadrunner - 1998)
As a replacement for Max who left amidst bitter personal strife, the remnants of Sepultura hire Derrick Green to take over the vocal duties. Both fortunately and unfortunately however, that doesn't include Max's compositional direction. I say fortunately because I'm one of those people that don't like all this world fusion experimentation on Roots and Soulfly and prefer the harder edged sound present on Against. But at the same time, the songs here for the most part lack the ability to stand out and move me. The band sounds like exactly what they are: a group with a rich background and instrumental talent, but new to writing music on their own and somewhat lost or unremarkable without their frontman. Derrick takes care of the throaty, growling vocals very well however, sounding just as good as Max in places and adding tonal variety on some tracks. Igor is simply superb on the drums and other percussion, adding a layer or two to the songs all on his own. As for the music however, it lies somewhere between Chaos AD and Roots, using both lots of hardcore and some world beats, but having neither the roaring energy of Chaos or the novel, but loose experimentation of Roots. The punk influence in the music is very prominent in many tracks and while it's the single most important ingredient that gives this album its aggressiveness, this also detracts from the interest of the album with its simplicity. That said however, this album isn't always bad and actually shines in places, and it gives me an incentive to look out for their next release where they may settle down and find their own stride hopefully. Standouts: The throbbing and catchy Choke, the Japanese Kodo percussionists and flute on Kamaitachi (an interesting world-fusion track for once), and the cello on T3rcermillennium.
Nation(Roadrunner - 2001)
At first I thought Sepultura had actually fulfilled my modest expectations and settled down with a unique and enjoyable heavy sound. Nation starts well with some aggressive tracks that sound like a true synthesis of various styles. While they now employ elements of hardcore, nu-metal, thrashpunk, and alternative rock, Sepultura manage to be both all and none of the above. In the end I gave up trying to classify the sound and tried to enjoy it on its own merit. With an open mind and a taste for some 'alternative metal', this album actually has quite a lot going for it. The tracks vary and this album is rich in dynamics and mixed offerings, some successful and others not. Ultimately however, things start to get uninteresting after track 4, with not quite enough scattered moments of enjoyment to save the album for me. Border Wars and Reject are superb, dark, aggressive tracks, both Revolt and Human Cause are good brutal thrashpunk songs, and Uma Cura and Water are interesting and enjoyable subdued numbers. But then we have the annoying repetitive riff in Vox Populi, the horrible reggae vocals on Tribe to a Nation, the weird vocals by Biafra on Politricks and a bunch of mediocre tracks in between. That's about 7 good tracks out of 15. I can see how this would appeal to others though so try it out if you feel up to it. In any case, at least Sepultura is slowly going back uphill and have slightly better taste in guest performers, whereas Soulfly is taking an express trip on the opposite lane.