Hessians were always searching for anything heavy back in the eighties. Digging deep into the import section or buying blindly from catalogs or zines were the only ways to hear anything that could be heavier outside of rarely engaged in underground tape trading. Slayer was the heaviest mainstream metal ever got. Sepultura was one heavier.
Anything that even sounded aggressive was spun after Celtic Frost, Bathory. and Possessed were memorized. Random Kreator records sold tens of thousands of copies. Turd bands like Sacred Reich and Dark Angel released multiple albums. Time Does Not Heal even had a sticker on it claiming “246 Riffs!” None of them were more than background chugs and bouncy bullshit for the awful vocals.
Brazil was the exception. Sepultura and Sarcofago started out on by releasing inspirational early black metal records on Cogumelo Records. Bestial Devastation, Morbid Visions, and I.N.R.I. came out in short order. The original studio lineups of both groups fell apart. Sarcofago passed away for our purposes here and now. Sepultura quickly regrouped with new lead guitarist Andreas Kisser and put out Schizophrenia. The smooth and fluid tremolo progressions of Jairo Tormentor were nuked back into speed metal.
Sepultura were building towards death metal by Beneath the Remains. Each track was centered around key big heavy riffs arranged into a vague verse and chorus structure as in speed metal. However the verse riffs were arranged into a riff maze like Mercyful Fate and early Slayer. Beneath the Remains was a very effective hybrid and heavy as hell.
Igor Cavalera’s drumming was an adept hybrid of Dave Lombardo and Chris Witchhunter with tons of creative fills. Max Cavalera’s machine gun riffs were hyperspeed thrash while Andreas Kisser’s leads resembled an orientalist Iron Maiden. Each track progressed forward in the progressive style of Metallica on Ride the Lightning and Master of Puppets but with nothing extraneously thrown in to kill time and let more indulgent band members jam out. Everything works well together and fits like a puzzle. Beneath the Remains was a highly influential record, blowing out minds to realms unseen. Yes, Sepultura went astray in the nineties but their artistic sons lived on. Where can you go from there?
Massacra – Final Holocaust (1990)
Massacra stripped out all the fixed structures, heavy metallisms, and Iron Maiden theatrics from Beneath the Remains. They had to. It was begging to be done. Final Holocaust was rhythmically precise and almost robotic, Sepultura by way of terminators or maybe even machine elves. Final Holocaust emphasized riff variations that slowly shifted forward like Morbid Visions while keeping the TNT of Beneath the Remains.
Dismember – Like an Ever Flowing Stream (1991)
Dismember sidelined all of Sepultura’s speed metal elements. Metronomic d-beats minimized rhythmic flash. Leads moved from oriental mysticism to otherworldly thunder conveying celestial truths. Autopsy riffs oscillated back and forth like a minimally-phrased, sawing Morbid Angel gone grind. Thrashing wires pulsed through the sky like lightning from the Emperor, transcending both material space and time. Like an Ever Flowing Stream is heaven-sent comprehension of a chaotic, invisible reality.
Death – Human (1991)
Human sprinted backwards. Death dumb downed enlightenment into secular humanism. Machine gun riffs retarded into highly repetitive speed metal triplets with only occasionally progressed fills. Human sounds composed just for Chuck Schuldiner and Paul Masidval to wank off on; tissues for selfish indulgence instead of profundity. Schuldiner’s lyrics are whiny expressions of self-loathing that the music is frequently secondary too. Ultimately, Human is the kind of lame shit Testament would make if they were trying to play death metal instead of grunge in 1991.
Demigod – Slumber of Sullen Eyes (1992)
Demigod cut back all flash and atmosphere to focus on a handful of twin chromatic riffs resolving from dissonance to consonance. No big dumb rhythm parts distract from the guitar interplay. The riffs float vary like spinning flying saucers, occasionally harmonizing in unison. Slumber of Sullen Eyes is no human achievement. Demigod are not a terrifying horde of aliens but rather warring extra-dimensional entities making their true ways known only to the most blown out of Hessians who transcend earthly samsara. Slumber of Sullen Eyes is not humane or epic. It is cosmologic.
Serpent Ascending – Ananku (2016)
Serpent Ascending proves the spirit and the material are not one, not two, not different, yet not the same. Harmonically intertwined in the N.W.O.B.H.M. mold, Ananku occasionally uses spolia as columns for the metallic past to hold up a novel cathedral of otherworldly yet humane architecture. Godly spires are built atop primitive hand prints in the deepest darkness. Ananku’s genius transcends the Mass Hypnosis of mortal desire, gradually unifying genre, time, space, past, present, into the here and now. Nothing is reduced. The subtleties are not separated from the whole. The past is no longer real and the future is yet to happen. Where will metal grow?