Sarcófago

The Laws of Scourge

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Finding it impossible to keep pace with the revolutionary musical refinements quickly achieved by their bitter cross-town rivals, Sepultura, Belo Horizonte, Brazil's "other important black/death metal band," Sarcófago, made certain that their early albums, I.N.R.I. and Rotting, made up the difference via sheer, provocative shock value, and incomparable levels of musical savagery. But, by the time they arrived at their third album, The Laws of Scourge, in 1991, Sarcófago's musicianship had improved significantly enough to do their more sophisticated songwriting ambitions justice. Not unlike Sepultura, in fact, who themselves had advanced beyond black metal's rudimentary satanic fury towards, first, thrash efficiency, and then death metal mastery, typical Laws of Scourge standouts like "Piercings," "Prelude to Suicide," and "Secrets of a Window" brimmed with memorable riffs, diversified tempos, and expertly placed melodies -- all benefiting from the added luxury of respectable production standards, one might add. Another highlight, "Midnight Queen," took even more daring forward strides, with acoustic guitars introducing unprecedented slow riffs, a user-friendly chorus, and -- most shockingly of all -- almost subliminal synthesizers, later used more extensively and openly near the end of "Screeches from the Silence." The misleadingly titled "Little Julie," on the other hand, had only a short stretch of non-grunted vocals and an admirably melodic guitar solo to soften an otherwise murderous sonic onslaught and positively despicable lyrics. But with the exception of resurrected early demo "Black Vomit," even the most brutal offerings on The Laws of Scourge, such as the title track and "Crush, Kill, Destroy," rose above cheap tricks and white noise to draw listeners in. Of course, irony of all metallic ironies, Sarcófago's deliberate act of self-civilization on The Laws of Scourge also meant that they were automatically branded as sell-outs by black metal's ultra-extremist brigade; but that's an entirely different argument, best left to sullen individuals doing time in Scandinavian prisons because, from a purely musical perspective, this is one of Sarcófago's finest outings, and an ideal entry point into their discography.

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