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“Arise” was the summit of Sepultura’s musical evolution since its inception, and the realization of the sound they had been building towards since “Bestial Devastation” and “Morbid Vision”. It is the most unified and complete Sepultura release in terms of imagery, lyrics, music and presentation – all the pieces fell in place. As the penultimate Sepultura effort it is testament to what the band could have been. From this point onward Sepultura would only deteriorate and regress in every aspect of its being, musically as well as artistically.

The album is evolved in the melodic sense, masterfully paced, and far more controlled sounding than both of its predecessors. It is the logical conclusion of the progression in musicality and technical prowess that “Schizophrenia” introduced. What it loses in riff count it compensates in visceral intensity, memorable hooks and nuanced song arrangements. Of the early Sepultura canon “Arise” is the most ambitious and dynamic in terms of songwriting scope. As a signpost for the end of the band’s early era it was the last to feature long-time studio keyboardist Henrique Portugal in any capacity.

‘Dead Embryonic Cells’, ‘Desperate Cry’, ‘Murder’ and ‘Subtraction’ are easily the most technical cut of the record. “Arise” tones down the sheer amount of riffs per song and the album as a whole, along with the band’s patented speed outbursts, in favor of a more controlled, refined take on their earlier sound. It is a significant change that would inform the band’s decision allowing for the groove metal pandering on “Chaos A.D.” and its eventual follow-up, the band’s creative death certificate “Roots”. On “Arise” the more deliberate pace allows many of the nuances in the songwriting and riffs to come more to the fore. It is the most death metal sounding of all the early Sepultura releases. The synthesizers by Portugal and the Kent Smith produced sound effects enhance the very otherworldly atmosphere. Sadly, it would never be revisited again in the band’s post-Cavalera catalog making “Arise” a unique proposition in that respect.

‘Altered State’ is opened with simulated wind sounds and tribal percussion. ‘Under Siege (Regnum Irae)’ with an acoustic guitar section and quotes two passages of the abbreviated prologue to the controversial 1953 historic novel “The Last Temptation” by Nikos Kazantzakis. The novel was famously adapted for the screen by Martin Scorsese as “The Last Temptation Of Christ” which in turn was sampled by Tampa, Florida death metal act Deicide on its third and most defining album “Once Upon the Cross”. In order to give “Arise” the proper marketing push two promotional videos were shot. Chosen for the treatment were ‘Dead Embryonic Cells’ and the title track. The latter led to its share of controversy as MTV refused to play the video due to its apocalyptic religious imagery. A further high-quality live home video “Under Siege” was shot in Barcelona, Spain during the band’s European tour in support of the album.

Seeing how “Beneath the Remains” was mixed at the renowned Morrisound Studio in death metal capital Tampa, Florida – it was only natural that Sepultura would record its next album at said facility. For “Arise” death metal sound guru Scott Burns manned the console. Of the early Sepultura catalog “Arise” had the best production work. The lead/rhythm guitars sound crunchy and concrete, the bass guitar tone is warm and commanding. The drum tones are full-bodied, organic and warm sounding. The album has the best bass guitar and drum tone the band was ever able to capture. Although credited in the production notes Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr. did not play bass guitar on the record. Andreas Kisser recorded studio bass parts for the album.

That “Arise” is the best produced record of the band’s prime era was in no small part due to the involvement of Scott Burns. Lending their expertise to the product were a number of other respectable figures. For “Arise” artwork by Michael Whelan was commissioned once more. On this canvas Whelan depicts H.P. Lovecraft's Yog-Sothoth, a cosmic deity from the Cthulu Mythos. The bone S that would become the band’s mainstream identifier and their most recognizable sigil is introduced here, as well as the enduring font logo. The old logo that was used up until “Schizophrenia” can still be found in the booklet. The album was mixed at Quantum Sound Studios, Jersey City, New Jersey by Andy Wallace. Wallace would produce “Chaos AD”, this album’s highly divisive successor, at Rockfield Studios in South Wales, England. Howie Weinberg at Masterdisk in New York mastered “Arise”. Kent Smith at Soundsmith Productions was responsible for the sound design and numerous studio effects that can be heard on the album.

As the most death metal sounding of all early Sepultura releases “Arise” is the zenith of the band’s individual and collective skill. Masterfully paced it is where Sepultura found the ultimate equilibrium between death – and thrash metal without doing concessions to either style. Next to being the most unified and complete in terms of presentation “Arise” is the zenith in the band’s early discography as far production work is concerned. Pushing the band to the limits of its capabilities, in both instrumentation and songwriting, “Arise” heralds the end of Sepultura as a death/thrash metal formation. The band would subsequently experience an identity crisis that would eventually fracture it at the height of its popularity. In the aftermath of said split Sepultura would regroup but never reclaim its place within the mainstream metal consciousness outside of its native land.

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After stretching its wings with the exercise in technicality and experimentation that was “Schizophrenia” Sepultura streamlined its sound for maximum effect and impact. On its Roadrunner Records debut from 1989 Sepultura perfected its death/thrash metal sound to widespread acclaim and accolades. Structured in the same way as the legendary Cliff Burton-era Metallica albums “Ride the Lightning” and “Master Of Puppets", “Beneath the Remains” trimmed off all excess ballast. With a singular focus on efficient song construction compared to the overly technical but scattershot “Schizophrenia”, it was the album that broke Sepultura to a global audience thanks to the partnership with its American label.

“Beneath the Remains” is famous for applying speed metal techniques within a nascent death metal format. “Schizophrenia” already toyed with the idea, but the distribution of ideas is more effective here thanks to the solidified and more confident writing. Thanks to the increased songwriting expertise and technical skills within the ranks. On “Beneath the Remains” Portugal remains underutilized but he would get his moment in the spotlight on this album’s successor. “Beneath the Remains” forgoes the instrumental tracks of the preceding record, and is very much like Slayer’s iconic “Reign In Blood” in spirit while being influenced by Cliff Burton-era Metallica in construction.

The notion of an obvious Metallica influence in the writing is strenghtened by the brief acoustic guitar intro on the title track. In fact ‘Beneath the Remains’ is structured nearly identical to Metallica’s high velocity thrash epics ‘Fight Fire With Fire’ or ‘Battery’. ‘Slaves Of Pain’ was a song originally by Kisser’s former band Pestilence, but its lyrics were rewritten to fit better with Sepultura. ‘Stronger than Hate’ features vocal contributions from Kelly Shaefer (Atheist), who also wrote the lyrics, John Tardy (Obituary) plus Scott Latour and Francis Howard (Incubus). Kisser continues his ascent as a leadplayer. His best contributions can be heard on ‘Stronger than Hate’, ‘Mass Hypnosis’, ‘Slaves Of Pain’, ‘Lobotomy’, and ‘Hungry’. ‘Inner Self’, ‘Mass Hypnosis’, ‘Slaves Of Pain’, and ‘Hungry’ has Sepultura at its most rabidly efficient.

At this point Sepultura fully moved away from its nascent death metal imagery, and headlong into the socio-political arena with its lyrics. ‘Beneath the Remains’ is about the horrors of war. ‘Inner Self’, ‘Stronger than Hate’, ‘Slaves Of Pain’, and ‘Hungry’ are about overcoming personal limitations and tribulations. ‘Sarcastic Existence’ deals with isolation and depression. ‘Mass Hypnosis’ and ‘Lobotomy’ concern political demagoguery and the military-industrial complex. ‘Primitive Future’ is interesting in that it combines the post-apocalyptic imagery of its none-too-distant past with abstract socio-political musings that would define “Arise”. At any rate, Sepultura had drastically improved on the lyrical front by abandoning its anti-religious charade, and tackling relevant socio-political problems of its home country.

The artwork for “Beneath the Remains” was created by Michael Whelan. Given the choice between two Whelan works the band reluctantly agreed to use ‘Nightmare in Red’. When the label pushed Sepultura towards chosing the current artwork it led to some embarrassment for drummer Igor Cavalera who had part of the canvas tattooed on his body at that time. This, understandably, led to some friction between band and label. The artwork originally intended for “Beneath the Remains”, a ghastly piece named ‘Bloodcurdling Tales of Horror and the Macabre’, was eventually used to Tampa, Florida death metal combo Obituary on their second album “Cause Of Death”.

For this session the band decided to record at Nas Nuvens Studio in Rio de Janeiro with engineers Scott Burns and Antoine Midani. The greatest improvement is that the instruments are balanced better against each other while being tonally richer and more defined. Especially the drums, the bane of earlier Sepultura records, sound crunchy and commanding with a deep rumbling bass drums. Tom Morris and Scott Burns mixed the album at the famed Morrisound Studio in death metal capital Tampa, Florida. “Beneath the Remains” was mastered at Fullersound in Tampa, Florida by Mike Fuller. Although credited in the production notes Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr. did not play bass guitar on the record. Andreas Kisser recorded studio bass parts for the album.

By slightly reducing the amount of riffs, and giving each riff a specific function, allows Sepultura a greater dexterity in its songwriting. No longer overcompensating by sheer number - each chord, riff, solo or transition is embued with a greater sense of purpose within the song. Where the band previously sounded unhinged and out of control “Beneath the Remains” does not so much streamline the band’s sound, as much as putting the band’s convoluted writing style in a more efficient and lean form. The title track shows that the band has lost none of its belligerence, or speed, but it is distinctly more individual than any of the band’s prior works. “Beneath the Remains” not only was a good deal faster and more aggressive than the thrash metal of the day, it also cemented the promise and potential of the preceding “Schizophrenia”.