So fans can ask why to speak about “I.N.R.I.”, the first album of the (now gone) Brazilian Death/Black Metal pioneers Sarcófago, and the answer is extremely simple: classics need to be praised as time passes by.
In those days (the years between 1985 and 1987), there was a kind of veiled ‘competition’ throughout the world for Thrash Metal and Death Metal: who would be the most fast, brutal, extreme and everything else? This is the reason for albums as Kreator’s “Pleasure to Kill”, Dark Angel’s “Darkness Descends”, Slayer’s “Reign in Blood” and many others exist. The order of the day: to be the ‘everything else’ extreme as possible. And Sarcófago was up to it.
The band said in an interview on an old Brazilian magazine prior to the release of “Warfare Noise I” (the compilation where the quartet along with Chakal, Mutilator and Holocausto recorded two songs, released at the end of 1986) that their idea was to fuse the energy and speed of Hardcore bands they hear (especially Finnish acts as Terveet Kädet) with Black Metal lyrics of idols as Hellhammer and Venom. The visual (spikes, corpse paint, inverted crosses, and all that stuff) was a consequence of what they were doing on those days, and that influenced heavily the Norwegian Black Metal acts of the Second Wave (namely, those as Mayhem, Darkthrone and others), or in other words: the visual and the music must be aligned in 100%.
Back to “I.N.R.I.”: the experience of recording the two demos and of “Warfare Noise” gave the band the needed background and support to a full album. And their label (Cogumelo Discos Produções, a Metal shop of the city of Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, a very religious and conservative state of Brazil) decided to release albums of all the four bands of the compilation, and Sarcófago was the third one. Time enough for a definitive change in the lineup: the drummer Leprous left the band and D.D. Crazy came back (it’s a personal remembrance of mine, for I still remember a press release talking about his presence on the band before Leprous).
“I.N.R.I.” was recorded in July 1987 at J.G. Studio in Belo Horizonte, Minas Gerais, under the guidance of Gauguin, Tarso Senra, João Guimarães, and only with 16 tracks on the recordings. Yes, this is the main reason of the bleak, dirty, crude and extreme (and on those days, the bands usually recorded their albums during the night, for the price was cheaper, and maybe it took a few days to end the sessions for recording things), but to be honest, no one cared about such aspect back then. The only things that mattered: it was ‘full’, extreme and brutal in a way that was different from other bands of those days. And the cover presented the definitive logo of the band (with all those inverted crosses), with pics taken at Cemitério do Bonfim (the older graveyard of Belo Horizonte, and one of the most visited points of the city since then). The yellow filter used for the original cover was really frightening for many people.
Musically, no one could expect such a level of brutality in the form of music, even considering their demos and “Warfare Noise”: it was the first time that blast beats were used in Metal (what makes D.D. Crazy a pioneer), but again: it was a consequence of their musical idea of mixing Black Metal and Hardcore (and other influences inherited of Heavy Metal, Death Metal, Thrash Metal and even classic Hard Rock, what creates a catching appeal, and no one on those days cared about what was in the mix), and the ‘competition’ named above. But no one could prevent such level of extremity in all aspects!
When dealing with songs such as “Satanic Lust”, “Desecration of Virgin”, “Ready to Fuck” and “Deathrash”, one can feel the mix between Hardcore, Thrash Metal (acts such as Sodom, Slayer and Kreator had a strong appeal on Brazilian Metalheads on those days) and Black Metal. On the other hand, in “Satanic Lust” some tempos and guitar arrangements are inherited from traditional Heavy Metal. “Nightmare” with its disgusting and creeping tempos depicts Black Sabbath and Hellhammer were seminal to the band. On “I.N.R.I.”, it’s a fast speed that no one could prevent, with a hail of extremely fast guitar riffs and bass arrangements. An eerie mocking intro begins “Christ’s Death”, a massive and fast bombing of the drums, with the vocals going from grunts to screams (in the same vein as Tom Araya) and some snarls similar to the shrieks of future Black Metal format. “Satanas” is presented in its definitive version, a bleak, eerie and charming song, with some technical care during the chorus (with the blast beats and bass playing supporting the oppressive weight). And “The Last Slaughter” is also another song on its better version, sharing Hardcore-like pinking, technical bass playing (it’s a matter of hearing the slower part to check this aspect), extreme blast beats (what’s usually called ‘metranca’ for Brazilian fans, for the similarities with shrapnel’s hails) and insane vocals.
Obviously after 36 years of its original release, “I.N.R.I.” had many reissues, with one of them being the best due to its remastering, slipcase and bonus tracks: the “Warfare Noise I” (“Recrucify”, “The Black Vomit” and “Satanas”, and a curiosity: all of these three recorded with 8 tracks), and the live shots for “Nightmare”, “The Black Vomit”, “Satanas”.
In those days, “I.N.R.I.” wasn’t a big commercial success, and had not the respect it gathered throughout the years. But if one can listen to it and think about the year of 1987, one would ask ‘How in the blazes this album could be done in such a way in those hard days’?
A last thing: the lyrics were in such form because it was a tendency for Metal to have such kind of themes, and the religious conservative thought of the people of Minas Gerais of those years (only two after the end of 21 years of military dictatorship) played a key role on such matter, but they took them to the extreme (a typical depiction the ‘fuck you’ ideology inherited of Hardcore, maybe)! No band dared to say things said on “Desecration of Virgin”, “The Black Vomit, “Christ’s Death” or “Satanas” until “I.N.R.I.” came to the light!
Personally, I had “I.N.R.I.” in its original vinyl form in 1987, and still today, time didn’t erode any aspect of such a masterpiece.
Review by Marcos Garcia
Managing Editor: Filipe Gomes