Review Summary: Many fans prefer Arise, but I’ll stick with Beneath the Remains. For me, after Chaos A.D., this is the real Sepultura classic.
Despite having become a self-parody in later years, Sepultura remain the
stalwart of Brazilian metal, largely because of their pre-1994 career with Max Cavalera at the helm. During those years, they released at least two influential albums and influenced many young bands, most notably countrymen Krisiun. Not bad for a band from Belo Horizonte, eh?
One of the records that made Sepultura a household name was Beneath the Remains
. On this album, the death-tinged, brutal, technical brand of thrash the band had presented on their first two outings was perfected with better musical chops, better songwriting and, for the first time, a real producer. In fact, for this album, the brothers recruited Scott Burns – later known for working with Obituary, among others, bot for whom this was the first ever solo production job. Rather than travelling to Florida, however, they had Burns come to Brazil to produce in their home town of Belo Horizonte. Their first impression of the producer was not so great – Max says that they ended up calling him «chinelão», which is Portuguese for «big sandal», due to his abuse of that particular piece of footwear. However, the relationship between band and producer deepened and gave birth to a great album, sound-wise. The guitars are crisp and crushing, the drums are seismic and the vocals blast through our speakers with indomitable force. The bass is also audible at times, although not very often. Overall, the sound is powerful and clear.
And then there’s the songwriting. It’s noticeable how much it has evolved since Schizophrenia
. The band’s sound was slowly becoming more personal and less dependent on icons such as Possessed and Celtic Frost. Tracks like Inner Self
and Mass Hypnosis
blend technical death metal riffs, crushing thrash beats and roaring, guttural vocals. On occasion, the band also intersperses some clean, acoustic passages into the songs, that – while they sometimes sound tacked-on – are a refreshing respite from all the sonic violence going on.
Lyrically, Max – and, on Stronger Than Hate
, Kelly Shaefer of Atheist – continues his crusade for freedom of thought and his denouncing of the worst in Man. Even though he still writes in wobbly English, his messages are becoming progressively clearer, and provide a good coupling for the band’s aggressive sound.
The problem, then, is that this album is still not as consistent as later offerings would be – Chaos A.D
. chief among them. Sure, the first few tracks are great, but the latter suffer by comparison, and the album never really picks up again (unless you have the re-issue, in which case you get another awesome track as one of the bonuses).
However, the first half of this album would suffice to consider it a classic. The first five to six tracks are great and will definitely please any death or thrash metal fans.
Take the title track, for example. It evolves from the mandatory acoustic fade-in intro to a brutal riff from Andreas and Max, shortly joined by f***ing fast drums, courtesy of Igor Cavalera. Max spews out his lyrics with sardonic hate and tops them off with a catchy-as-hell chorus, supported by another great riff. There’s also a spiralling thrashy solo from Andreas. All in all a really good song, and a fine way to start the album.
But the best is yet to come. Innerself
is probably the biggest hit to have come out of this record, and deservedly so. It chugs along at a comfortable mid-pace, propelled by great thrash riffing and culminating in a monster of a chorus, with the beat picking up a little to create one of the most memorable moments of the album. Paulo's bass makes the walls shake, and drives the song along with a huge low end. There is a more atmospheric section, but it is well inserted into the context of the song. Overall this is the best song on the album, and it remains a live staple to this day.
The third and fourth tracks are hidden gems. Stronger Than Hate
features lyrics by Kelly Shaefer, friend of the band and singer for prog-deathsters Atheist. Once again, the lyrics deal with frustration and pent-up hatred, and they could have been written by Max himself. The music is mid-to-fast-tempo thrash metal, with excellent gang vocals on the chorus and another good solo by Andreas. This is where the tacked-on atmospheric passages arrive, but they don’t really spoil the song. One of the forgotten tracks of Sepultura, but one more people should bother to discover.
sounds a bit lame upon first hearing, but grows on you afterwards. It’s a crushing thrash metal track, with a sort of echo effect in the chorus giving it a really eerie feeling. The lyrics are about alienation, and the listener does feel the psychosis that Max is trying to convey through his words. Couple this with another strong performance by all four musicians, and you have another quality track.
This is where the album starts to decay a little. Sarcastic Existence
is nothing special, despite a really good set of lyrics. Slaves of Pain
, however, still manages to rank as a good track, mostly due to a good chorus and another good set of lyrics from Max. The musicianship is again tight, but this track is slightly less memorable than those which came before it.
The next two tracks are pure filler, and not only do I not remember anything about them musically or lyrically, I don’t even remember their names
. That’s how throwaway they are.
Fortunately, with Primitive Future
we get a decent closing track (for the regular edition). This is another song that varies between slow and fast, and it has a decent enough chorus. It never even touches the first half of the album, but it’s definitely better than the last two.
For those who got the remastered version, the pleasure is not over yet, because you get a great cover of a song by the Mutantes (The Mutants), a very famous Brazilian rock group fronted by Raul Seixas. Seixas was known for his deep meaningful lyrics, and is now a legend in Brazil. He went crazy and was put into a madhouse. For this cover, Sepultura adapted the original Portuguese lyrics to English, and while they came off fairly ridiculous, the music makes up for it. It’s fast, crushing punk/hardcore, of the old-school persuasion, and it literally rocks.
Unfortunately, this track is followed by two perfectly useless «demo versions» for Innerself
and Mass Hypnosis
. These bear no significant difference from the originals, apart from the fact that there are no vocals. They’re supposed to be scratch demos or whatever. What they are is just plain dull.
Still, neither these nor the two filler tracks can detract from this thrash metal classic. Many fans prefer Arise
, but I’ll stick with Beneath the Remains
. For me, after Chaos A.D.
, this is the real Sepultura classic.
- Vastly improved songwriting
- Tight musicianship
- Perfect blend of death and thrash
- Igor Cavalera
- Couple of filler tracks
- Stupid bonuses
Beneath The Remains
Stronger Than Hate