Riff Analysis: Sarcófago – “I.N.R.I”

So many bands have failed in continuing Sarcófago’s tradition of blasphemic and vicious black metal. Reducing the band to a set of aesthetics and confusing their minimalistic songs for dumb simplicity. I.N.R.I stands out not because of its context or its introduction of certain visual elements that would become common a few years later, but because of its nuanced composition that has eluded later bands. Let us look at the initial riff from the song “I.N.R.I” to understand why.

The riff is almost entirely tremolo picked save for the first tail which is sloppily picked in a triplet grouping before returning to the main body of the riff. There is a disorienting feel to this riff as the first section can be regrouped into a single 4/4 bar but the second section has an added beat that makes a 5/4 rhythm with the final grouping imposing it’s presence against the expectations of the listener. The drums add to this folly by playing two triplets per beat. That consists of eight groupings on the first part and ten groupings on the second part. The beat is ambiguous due to the lack of a kick holding the time constantly and due to the large number of groupings (eighteen per riff) which creates this pure chaotic feeling naturally without needlessly playing complicated syncopated rhythms.

The main motif consists of a tremolo picked F# which is a fairly bizarre tonal center as it does not occur on any of the open strings therefore limiting some of the movement available to the guitarists. The band do this to contrast with the song’s climax which is then shifted down a semitone in order to provide more impact. The song’s central motif then goes up an octave which is the most consonant interval possible before then being to destroy that consonance in any way possible.

the first tail jams three notes quickly before the bar and is forced to do so in a triplet grouping for it to fit. The progression is fifth, minor third an octave higher and then a minor second on the same octave as the minor third. A fairly difficult progression to play at such speeds demanding a fair amount of speed and precision. The progression uses chromaticisim to add variation and tension to such an agressive piece.

The second tail starts in the same way before breaking off into a fifth and then adding the minor second an octave above on the fifth beat to add even more violence on top of the dizzying rhythm really pushing their hatred to the limit on this short piece.The dexterity necessary is impressive and throughout the two minutes of this song, the band continue to use these ideas before introducing a vicious climax.

Here the band show us how to keep to a restrained set of ideas and then adding complexity naturally without diverting attention towards the tool themselves but using those tools to convey primal emotions in musical form. To convey emotions and sensations in music, the composer cannot impose a feeling on the listener but has to use nuance and contrast to discreetly lead the listener towards the path. Take a band like Conqueror that pushes similar sensations to this album but in such a stubborn that any feeling of anger is replaced with apathy, and this album that conjures such emotions naturally without having to enforce certain parts of its aesthetics. A truly great classic that has yet to be rivaled in its domain.

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10 thoughts on “Riff Analysis: Sarcófago – “I.N.R.I””

  1. Flying Kites says:

    These simple pieces are great for introduction to musical theory by these few mechanics done well.

  2. Svmmoned says:

    I appeciate those. I always get some new understanding from them.

  3. FrozenLake says:

    Nice job Nick, like many others,I appreciate these articles, along with the pices dealing dealing with classical music masterpieces. I understand your point is to exemplify true metal artistry, that is composed of phrasal motifs, stringed together in a logical way, rather than overly complex modes of composition that hide some musical inadequacy behind a technical smokescreen. That being said, most people, myself included, love to see what they like as the gold standard, and dismiss whatever does not fit the rules. Here is news for ya: there are no rules. Never have been. Rules are made for composition class and medocre msicians. The creators get the rules, play with them and invent new ones. And then mediocre fans take those new rules and try to make them into a new gospel, desperately fighting the “non believers” who have already moved on to more relevant things. The world keeps changing, there are some who resist the change and others who lead it. I believe you are French Nick, and the French metal scene is awesome right now. I won’t mention DsO, no, their latest album is subpar and also politically stinky (although you may like it). I’m talking Vous Autres, Creature or Esoctrilihum. Darn it, you love great compositional skills, so talk about these guys, especially Creature. Go listen to his two albums and come back and tell me what you think. They will blow your mind. Nick, you are also a musician, lead singer of Yearn for Change. Show us THE CHANGE, Nick. Go pick some awesome riff out there that has been composed right here right now and dissect it for our edification. I will suggest to start with Ceremony of Silence. And don’t get me wrong, Monsieur, I love this site, and I love the work you put into it. Thanks.

    1. Rules are good as they give a great starting point and insight on what works and what doesn’t.
      The best can bend bend the rules at their will, very true but they tend to have a somewhat decent understanding of the basics.
      DsO released an abortion.
      Thank you for your suggestions, will add them to my list of material to check out.
      Though I do believe that the best metal has already been written some time ago yet I hope to be proven wrong.
      Yearn for Change’s name was made 16 years ago, way before I was in the band. I just growl as loud as possible and write lyrics without thinking too much.
      Thank you for following the site.

  4. grammar not see says:

    allude – indirect indication

    elude – unattainable

    1. ku-faad says:

      What kind of attention-seeking poofter carves Slayer onto their forearm for mum and dad to see?

      1. grammar not see says:

        shove your riddles up your ass. you’ve only got, what, 3 or 4 sharpies up there already, I know you don’t max out til 5 or 6

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