Review Summary: Beneath the remains….there lies pure awesome.
A former, sadder shell of itself, thrashers Sepultura have been mired in obscure mediocrity ever since lead singer Max Calavera left the band, though the band was heading in the wrong direction since Chaos A.D. Personally, I think their move from Thrash to Hardcore would be akin to Will Smith quitting acting and producing movies and deciding to work at Taco Bell, instead. Whatever their reasons for deciding to move to a more Groove Metal / Hardcore sound, we can’t forget the epic Thrash gem that is Beneath the Remains.
Produced on a meager budget of only eight thousand bucks, the band threw away their Venom and Celtic Frost-influenced songwriting and sound for a straight Thrash Metal sound. From beginning to end, Beneath the Remains is chock full of heavy thrash riffs, frantic drums, harrowing-sinister vocal delivery, and chaotic solos. The title track starts with a calm, quiet intro, and this is probably the only moment in the album where the listener gets a moment of peace. Seconds later, the listener’s ears literally explode at the onslaught of frantic, fast-paced riffs as Max Calavera describes a John Connor-esque nuclear cataclysm.
Of course, many people who’ve listened to this album complain about the production, as it sounds a bit muffled and poor, compared to the follow up to this album, Arise. The production is a bit weak, but this fact doesn’t take away from the enjoyment of the album. The raw, less-polished sound makes it sound more like a thrash album from the middle eighties, like one of Metallica’s earlier endeavors, and I like it. The thrash attack doesn’t skip a beat with “Inner Self”, a heavy attack against societial orders. “Stronger than Hate” is equally frantic and fast-paced, and as an added bonus it has a sweet bass solo right at the song’s end, which is a rarity in metal. Unfortunately, this bass solo is the only point in the album where I can actually hear the bass guitar. On the other songs, it gets mired in the guitar riffs and drum tracks, making it inaudible.
The vocal delivery is simply top-notch. Dark, punishing, foreboding, I don’t think there are enough words to describe the pure evil in Max Calavera’s voice. The lyrical theme of this album deals with war, society, and basically the worst parts of human existence. After having a father succumb to death, the Calavera brothers turned to the darkness of bands such as Kreator, Sodom, and Exodus, and this is clearly apparent during all of these songs. This album has probably the best Thrash vocals I’ve heard, and I think Max’s Latin accent, as well as the entire band’s limited knowledge of English, gives the vocal delivery a distinct edge. Hearing Max scream “BRAIN KILLING BRAAAIIIIIINNNNNN!!!” at the end of “Lobotomy” is effin’ awesome.
The drums are punishing and lightning-speed. Igor Calavera doesn’t miss a beat, matching the albums, and I believe the album’s speed and power surpasses even that of Slayer’s Reign in Blood. Well, maybe not, but the song’s are definitely more diverse. However, the best part of this album is the fact that there’s no filler. None of the songs seem to feel like the band just wrote them as quick as they could to take up time on the album. Sure, there are some songs that stand out better than others, but none of these songs are boring, or feel rushed and slipshod. Each song is individually powerful, and there was no point where I felt like skipping a song.
The album ends with “Primitive Future”, the shortest song on the album. Clocking in at just over three minutes, we are treated to three minutes of blistering speed. Right off the bat, the drums are in seventh gear, making this probably the fastest song on the album. Each verse is at a blistering pace, and the song only slows down to allow Andreas Kisser to conduct the guitar solo. The album ends abruptly, in the echo of an explosion, as if we had been dropped on a desolate planet full of mutated horrors wishing us dead, and we were only given a sawed-off shotgun to defend ourselves. The entire album is the listener frantically dashing through this desolate, horrific wasteland, only to die in a sudden shock, as we step on a landmine and erupt into an explosion of crimson gore.
Sepultura would expand on their concepts of war, anti-society, and the struggle to survive in a horrific world with their 1991 album, Arise, and many think that album is the band’s magnum opus. While it does have clearer production, more progressive and experimental elements, and even some tribal influences, I have to stick to Beneath the Remains. The band kept it simple and kept it Thrash on this album. They managed to mix speed, intensity, and a brutal assault of the senses while keeping the album interesting and listenable as a whole. While songs like the title track, “Inner Self”, “Stronger than Hate”, and “Primitive Future” stand out in my mind, the rest of the songs in no way should be skipped.
Listening to this album just makes me wonder why the band decided to take a *** on themselves with later endeavors like Roots. I mean, I can’t blame the band for trying something new. I know I’d probably be sick of playing the same awesome, frantic riffs, but it saddens my soul to see the greats of thrash become another soulless groove metal band. Like the grandiose heavy metal band, Metallica, Sepultura would make a lame move to a genre of music no one likes and be marred by their lackluster CD sales, to the point where both Calavera brothers would leave the band. Unfortunately, unlike Metallica, Sepultura wouldn’t make a sweet comeback with Death Magnetic, and would instead circle the clogged toilet which is Groove Metal for years to come.
I can only look to the past and remember the good times.