Review Summary: Welcome to the third world.
Beginning his musical career as a vocalist from a humble Belo Horizonte (Brazil) band called “Sepultura”, Sarcofago founder Wagner Lamounier quickly departed in 1985 to form another extreme metal outfit, after having multiple confrontations with his old band mates. And while Sepultura history is far documented and known, it's a shame that Lamounier second outfit, Sarcofago, didn't share the same luck.
A shame, because setting himself to “create the most aggressive music ever”, Lamounier invented a form of expression not only in his music (blackened death metal), but in appearance (corpse paint, bullet belts, leather jackets)in Sarcofago first release, I.N.R.I., that inspired countless other bands, and is revered up until this day as a classic in the genre.
Continuing with a second well received and controversial record (1989 Rotting), Lamounier learned how to play guitar and introduced a more thrash-alike sound to the formula, giving the songs a semi sense of progression not heard in the previous record. But by 1991 The laws of Scourge, he also dropped the satanic imagery and lyrics, to introduce a proto Technical Death Metal record, that might be the best effort not only for the band, if not the whole South American scene.
Since the start of the title track, you can heard that the influence of the new members Fabio Jhasko (guitar) and Lucio Olliver (drums), added to Lamounier´s new direction, giving the band a precision, musicianship and general direction not expected from one of black metal pioneers. Olliver drumming is not only aggressive and on point, but also tasteful, exchanging between blast beats and double blasts in some of the songs key parts, and creating a sound that hints both at the band past, and what to expect on the future. His fills are also pretty good, giving a really great backbone to the more slower songs. It's a shame he only played on this record, due to the use of programmed drums on the two next (and worst) records of the band.
Lamounier and Jhasko guitar duo is also pretty good, giving us good riffs after even better riffs, but not overusing them too much, something that makes the album sounds very dynamic, keeping it as far as possible from boring. They also have the ability to do more slow and mid paced songs, like Little Julie and Midnight Queen, sound really moody, and know how to prevent the mid to fast paced as Piercings and Screeches from the silence , from being stale, giving a fresh but not out of touch sense to the musicianship. The only fault that you could make is that the solo's are very limited and suffer from being a little on short side, but they are rightfully used on the songs, never choking the song . Sadly they aren't the kind that are going to stick on your head on the first couple listens, but they hold pretty well in the long run, in the context of each song.
While the bass is not deep buried under the mix, Geraldo Minelli playing is overwhelmed in the classic metal sense of the era: It follows for the most part the guitars, with some exceptions, like the intro to Little Julie. Luckily, he also handles backup vocals and acoustic guitars on some of the tracks ( like the fitting chorus of Crush, Kill, Destroy), that make his appearance on the record more than worthwhile. The album also feature some keyboard parts in some songs, and given the excellent, clear and sharp (for the era, not the overproduced sharpness of today) production and mixing of the record, they sound pretty good, giving an extra atmosphere layer without taking the main light of the other instruments.
Vocally, is where this record is most difficult to rate. Lamounier voice is just EXCELLENT, giving harsh thrashed vocals mixed with a deeper death growl (similar to Chuck Schuldiner, the kind that you can understand), some melodic parts and two(!) Halford alike high pitched screams, assuring that you`re not going to get bored of his vocals anytime soon. His range is pretty good, making each song really unique and whole, specially on the thrash fest Crush, Kill, Destroy, or his more tetric parts on Prelude to a suicide.
The problem arises with the lyrics: while they have improved a lot from the first two records, giving a healthy dose of black on The black vomit, death in The laws of scourge and Piercings, and the always welcome (and third world influenced) social commentary (like on Midnight Queen, about a prostitute or Little Julie, dealing with being in love with an underage girl), is Lamounier still present mispronunciation and (small doses of) engrish, that prevent the perfection. Surely he can be understood most of the time, and he is far from the ridiculous lyrics that permeated the band first record (except for The black vomit, a re-recording of an old song), but some small details still persist. The record IS going to keep you interested AND head banging WITHOUT laughing at the same time, but you are warned.
Closing, this is a really good record. Is not going to make you marvel at his technical parts or make you hail Satan with hoods and torches, neither is going to make you want to overthrow your justice system. But it melts all the influences from the extreme metal genres with excellent results, never overwhelming you (something that seems to be the trait with a lot of progressive and technical bands today), and mostly, never boring you, with cohesive and fun songwriting, vocals and (for the most part) lyrics. Give it a spin, it may surprise you.
The whole album is diverse and good to just pick a couple songs (all are good), but Piercings, Crush, Kill, Destroy, Screeches from the silence and the title track are my favorites.