Brazil's first wave of extreme metal bands from the 1980s may have spawned just one significant mega-star in the international arena -- the legendary Sepultura -- but the notorious Sarcófago are not to be overlooked if one is to get a complete picture of the South American nation's contributions to heavy metal in general. And, ironically, Sepultura is where Sarcófago main man Antichrist (a.k.a. Wagner Lamounier) actually got his start. Kicked out of the band before they'd recorded a single note, Lamounier hastily founded Sarcófago and set about trying to one-up his rivals, dedicating himself to composing songs and lyrics of the most violent and scatological nature imaginable. Clearly this move doomed Sarcófago to certain commercial failure, but their 1987 debut, I.N.R.I. nevertheless went on to become an often referenced touchstone for black metal musicians worldwide. Named after the inscription supposedly written by Pontius Pilate over the head of Jesus Christ on the cross (meaning "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews"), the record lacked any semblance of production finesse, and its un-credited use of a drum machine (and the band's general inability to program it convincingly) was a potential sticking point with heavy metal purists. Yet these potential drawbacks were largely obliterated by Sarcófago's lustful enthusiasm throughout this set of hardcore-tinged black metal, which elevates Beelzebub-inspired ditties like "Satanic Lust," "Nightmare" and "Deathtrash," to an altogether more intense and undeniably entertaining plateau. Even a handful of amusingly over-the-top, somewhat dated bonus cuts like "Recrucify" (the band's demonic recitation of intent) and the virulent "Black Vomit" (yum, yum!) really only heighten I.N.R.I.'s appeal among modern extreme metal fans thanks to its 'less-is-more' philosophy. Some folks standing beyond the genre's influence may still write the album off as a good cautionary tale for anyone who insists on blasting Celtic Frost in their iPod while baking their coconut in the tropical sun; but any black metal enthusiast worth his salt will recognize I.N.R.I. as a historically relevant relic of a poorly advertised, but crucially important national scene.
by Eduardo Rivadavia