Stress

Stress

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Recorded in Rio de Janeiro, a full three years before Sepultura's own, amateurish debut EP, as well as the watershed Rock in Rio Festival (Brazil's post-dictatorship reintroduction into the international rock & roll community), Stress' eponymous first album is arguably also the first Brazilian heavy metal album ever recorded -- period. It sounds like it too, suffering from a rudimentary "production" job, at the hands of oblivious studio hacks who evidently lacked even the slightest inkling of how a heavy metal album should be captured. But the members of Stress had been working towards this opportunity for nearly a decade and weren't about to squander it; they were extremely well rehearsed and virtually willed the desired volume, aggression, and distortion into the LP's eight tracks by way of their possessed performances -- even though the complete sessions lasted a mere 16 hours. And ironically, the resulting, bare-bones aesthetic imparted upon frantically paced originals like "Sodoma e Gomorra," "A Chacina," and "O Viciado" (all sung in Portuguese, as if you couldn't tell) wasn't very far removed from that of then thriving New Wave of British Heavy Metal bands like Saxon, Venom, and Angel Witch (plus original speed metal godfathers Motörhead). On the other hand, Stress' slower, more diverse, and generally older material (dating as far back as 1978), surely would have benefited from improved recording conditions, but still manages to get their qualities across thanks to the musicians' sheer verve and instrumental prowess. Looking closer at these: heavy metal founding fathers Black Sabbath and Judas Priest commingle beautifully in the band's biggest radio single, "O Oráculo do Judas" and "O Lixo," which boasts incredible solos from guitarist Pedro Valente; Deep Purple's shadow looms large over the proggy keyboards of futuristic fable "2,031" (provided by rarely used charter member Leonardo Renda) and the driving, "Highway Star"-like "Mate O Réu"; and the band's first ever composition, "Stressencefalodrama," also stands up to age and scrutiny with its heady lyrics, varied arrangements (both supplied by powerhouse drummer André Chamon), and mind-blowing musicianship. The latter also introduced a few vibrato-laden screeches from singer/bassist Roosevelt Bala, who otherwise stuck with a more measured melodic style throughout the album, but really let it rip on the CD reissue's scorching bonus cut, "Inferno Nuclear" (which appeared on Stress' second LP, 1985's Flor Atômica, and sounded like a Raven outtake). In sum, despite all of its limited resources and lingering audio-fidelity issues (made even more evident when transferred to CD), Stress' debut still showcased a band of extraordinary talent and almost unbelievable resilience in the face of incredible odds. After all, not only were they years ahead of their time, where the stylistic evolution of Brazilian heavy metal was concerned, but most of their next-generation successors (Sepultura, Sarcófago, et al) wouldn't achieve similar levels of instrumental accomplishment until the end of the 1980s! As such, true magnitude of Stress' lengthy head start as Brazilian metal pioneers should not be underestimated.