While the Brazilian band Sepultura would later go on to play music with a groove metal edge to it, the late '80s/early '90s are considered by many to be the high point of Sepultura's career. An unholy metal trilogy was created with 1987’s Schizophrenia, 1989’s Beneath The Remains and 1991’s Arise. Sepultura rose above the competition with the smooth lead work of Andreas Kisser, the tight rhythm section, and Max Cavalera’s harsh, yet intelligible, vocals and his relentless rhythm playing. Sepultura has influenced countless bands and earned a place in music history as one of the major figures in metal.
1. Arise (1991)
The band’s magnum opus, Arise was an album where all the pieces seemed to fit perfectly together. The band experimented with tribal instruments on “Altered State,” but blistering thrash metal was still on top of their priority list. The title track is a classic, as well as controversial single “Dead Embryonic Cells” and the epic “Desperate Cry.” Sepultura would slow their tempo down and add in more industrial and groove metal influences after Arise, making their fourth album the last consistently stellar release from Sepultura.
A beautiful acoustic intro begins the album, a stark contrast to the ugliness that lies underneath the rest of the album. Sepultura is at the top of their game on Beneath The Remains, with Kisser finding his groove with the lead work. The production, overseen by Scott Burns of Obituary and Morbid Angel fame, was much improved over their previous albums. The songwriting was fantastic, with Sepultura extending the lengths of the songs, while keeping listeners on their toes from beginning to end.
Sepultura’s sophomore album was a huge progression from their debut, with better production and stronger guitar work. This had to do in part with the addition of Kisser to the ranks, who added a much-needed technical aspect to the band’s sound. While Morbid Visions lacked polish and structure, Schizophrenia gave Sepultura a direction for the first time. “Escape To The Void,” the awe-inspiring seven-minute instrumental “Inquisition Symphony,” and the re-recorded “Troops Of Doom” stand as fan favorites to this day.
The first Sepultura to head away from the death metal sound, Chaos A.D added in more tribal percussion, especially on instrumental “Kaiowas,” and slower tempos to the band’s core sound. While Roots dropped any trace of thrash/death metal, Sepultura did a good job of trying to please the older fan base, while attracting new listeners at the same time. “Refuse/Resist” is an energetic opener, while “Biotech Is Godzilla” is a quick punk-infused number. The mid-paced songs are solid as well, with “Territory” and “Propaganda” becoming a staple in Sepultura’s live show.
A rough debut album, but one that was highly important in the grand scheme of death metal, Morbid Visions hasn’t aged well, but still has a unique charm to it. Sure, the production is rough, and the guitars aren’t even tuned properly half the time, but Morbid Visions was the sound of four young and energetic Brazilians with an opportunity to make their mark in death metal. The lyrics are your standard “hail Satan” evil-forces slop that was big in the mid '80s, and Cavalera hadn’t yet perfected his trademark growls, but Morbid Visions gets by on sheer attitude alone.