Review Summary: Don't judge this album by its cover: besides some shortcomings, it gets even more brutal than its artwork.
In the 80s and early 90s, in the beginnings of the Norwegian black metal scene, it’s not hard to imagine how life felt like for metalheads of that league: you can easily picture a bunch of guys with black T-shirts, jackets and bracelets blasting some Bathory, Venom and other extreme metal bands in the speakers of the basement of Helvete, the famous record shop owned by Mayhem’s guitarist Euronymous. But what is weird to imagine in that picture is their long hair banging to the sound of a South American band. It sounds strange, but it’s true: Euronymous himself, one of the founding fathers of Norway’s early black metal scene, cited Sarcófago’s debut album I.N.R.I. as one of his personal influences.
So yeah, Sarcófago made it big in the history of extreme metal with their first album, notorious for its blasting pace, blasphemous lyrics, broken English and very, very por production values (it was a low budget black metal album anyways). But their debut effort seemed to show them as a brute jewel yet to be polished, both musically and lyrically, since I.N.R.I.’s speed sounded a little bit hurried up sometimes and they weren’t even Satanists (unlike Euronymous, who claimed to believe in a supernatural demonic entity, Sarcófago’s vocalist Wagner Lamounier was a declared agnostic).
Therefore, their musical future seemed to point towards a departure from the raw black metal of their beginnings, and that’s exactly what started to happen with Rotting. Their first album was their display of metal power in pure form, their second effort showed their growing musicianship with glances at death metal and in The Laws of Scourge they actualized their full potential, achieving their unquestionable magnum opus before delving into a downward spiral of two awful albums.
When compared to its predecessor, Rotting is definitely bulkier in complexity and scope. It’s just an EP, but it packs a bigger punch than I.N.R.I. because it keeps the fury of their debut while adding the concrete lyrical brutality and melodic mayhem of death metal in the same mix. However, this record does so only when it really “goes for it”, since it has its share of fillers here and there.
With only six tracks and a length of 32 minutes and 44 seconds, it starts not too well. The Lust is just an intro of loud female orgasms followed by Alcoholic Coma, an overlong song that celebrates alcohol abuse with riffs that don’t match too well with the frantic music in the next tracks. Fortunately, Lamounier and company start to give a taste of their real might in Tracy, the most distinctive track off this record.
Showing a clear departure from the swift black metal from their debut, this song embraces the darkest depths of death metal with the very disturbing tale of a sadistic man who rapes and kills his girlfriend after many nights of unrequited, lustful desires. And if that were not enough for a track to be very, very brutal, add to it a carnaval of thrashy riffs that, this time, get even more destructive due to the lousy production values in the record. Clocking at almost 9 minutes, this track has it all: it wraps together approximately 20 riffs, two solos and drum tempo changes that reach gravity roll blasts of whopping 260 beats per minute.
From there, the title track follows Tracy’s vibe with lyrics that stick to their blasphemous, black metal roots and mashes it with riffs that get continuously faster. By the fifth minute, the rising cart reaches the maximum height of the rollercoaster… and then the song finally blasts two final minutes of thunderous tom-toms, machine gun snare drumming and guitar mayhem before fading away with its loud chorus: "Jesus is rotting! Jesus now died!".
And after 16 minutes of glorious chaos, Sarcófago celebrates debauchery once more with the pretty average Sex, Drinks & Alcohol, that this time doesn’t take too long to give place to the third and final round of epic headbanging session from the EP: a remake of Nightmare, the 6-minute long epic track from their debut. This time, however, the improvement is clear: the roaring “NIIIIGHTMAAARE” chorus is more powerful here and the thick, chugging guitar mixed with atmospheric keyboards in this version works way better than the dry sound of I.N.R.I.’s rendition.
In summary, Sarcófago made its warmup for the classy and technical death metal of The Laws of Scourge with an irregular bust mostly satisfying EP, with three pretty solid songs that make up for the album's lackluster moments. More than two thirds of the album are pure extreme metal gold, spiced with that lousy but classic “low budget” vibe of early black metal, and packing some Hulk punches like the glorious final minutes of the title track. So, besides its shortcomings, Rotting was a display of musical evolution for Lamounier & Co. and a clear warning sign that a very promising follow-up was yet to come.