Sarcófago

Decade of Decay

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Now frequently canonized -- along with Vulcano, earliest Sepultura, and a few other overlooked underground acts -- as one of the major Brazilian influences on the world-conquering Norwegian black metal scene (another case of musical "less is more," where nonexistent third-world resources were misconstrued by entitled Europeans as the most rebellious and primitive sounds ever made), Sarcófago frankly couldn't get arrested, inside or outside their homeland, for much of their career. However, that didn't stop Cogumelo Records from celebrating ten years of abject starvation in the name of heavy metal via 1995's Decade of Decay retrospective. And, interestingly, the decision to sequence these tracks in reverse chronological order makes all the sense in the world, as the trip through the cobwebs of time toward Sarcófago's primal beginnings casts the listener on a suitably spiraling descent through the nine circles of Hell. Not that the songs culled from 1994's Hate LP provide the most promising start to our journey, in part because the sleepy "Orgy of Flies" and even the amusingly named "The God's Faeces" seriously lag in terms of both energy and inspiration, but primarily because the album's superior production standards (relative to older material, that is) lay bare Sarcófago's ill-advised reliance on a drum machine -- something of a heavy metal no-no. By comparison, the rather intricate and frequently quite inventive death metal of 1991's The Laws of Scourge showcases Sarcófago at their most mature (note the contrasting melodic lines and synth parts enhancing the Tiamat-like "Midnight Queen" and multifaceted "Screeches from the Silence"), even though in some respects the band was still playing desperate catch-up to Sepultura. Moving right along: both the frenzied "Nightmare" and snail-paced "Rotting," from the 1989 opus sharing the latter's title, spin the counter-evolutionary wheel further still, firmly into Venom's blackened thrash territory, but it's arguably the unholy effigies drawn from 1987's landmark I.N.R.I. that define Sarcófago's proto-black metal legacy. Characterized by a caustic brevity worthy of hardcore, only a billion times heavier and nastier, "Desecration of Virgin," "The Black Vomit," and "Satanic Lust" (the last tandem delivered in their terrifying demo versions) could have realistically helped set the stage for those future Scandinavian atrocities, one would think...and if not them, surely the 30-second outburst called -- no joke -- "The Anal Rape of God." Such gratuitous blasphemy has obviously contributed to Sarcófago's lasting reputation, but don't let it cloud your well-founded curiosity about the band's uneven but unquestionable musical merits. As long as one grasps the lo-fi aesthetic central to black metal's aforementioned "less is more" philosophy, Decade of Decay will not disappoint.

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