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After the crude and primal excess of “Morbid Visions” Brazilian proto-death/thrash metal combo Sepultura improved drastically as musicians, individually and collectively. With an injection of speed – and traditional metal through the addition of lead guitarist Andreas Kisser the band now wielded a wider sonic palette. Better structured and paced than its two predecessors “Schizophrenia” was the transitional template from which their latter latter two, better known records would be build. Retaining the bloodcurdling aggression of its past, and laying the foundation for the engrossing song arrangements of its future “Schizophrenia” is the most ambitious, involved and technical (from an instrumental - and compositional standpoint) of all the early Sepultura output.

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“Schizophrenia” opens with a simulated violin cue from Alfred Hitchcock’s legendary thriller “Psycho” after which Max Cavalera growls the album title in reverse. The title was inspired, at least in part, by the second demo “Total Schizophrenia” from Italian band Schizo that Max Cavalera allegedly loved at the time. The lyrics have changed from incoherent Satanic ramblings into socio-political subjects set to death metal imagery. The album is a loosely conceptual effort about mental instability, psychological illness and - disintegration in the face of socio-political tribulation and hardship. Structured in the same way as the Cliff Burton-era Metallica albums “Ride the Lightning” and “Master Of Puppets”. In terms of overall complexity it sounds inspired by Slayer’s seminal “Hell Awaits”. The album represents a considerable evolution in terms of composition and performance in comparison to rather crude “Morbid Visions”. It makes one wonder what Jairo Guedz Braga could have accomplished had he remained with the band.

With the defection of original lead guitarist Jairo Guedz Braga and the enrolling of Andreas Kisser the band opted to drop the noms de guerre and psuedo-Satanic rhetoric in favor of something more relatable. Carried over from the earliest incarnation of the band is the socio-political angle that was deeply buried within its nascent death metal imagery. Instead of mimicing Slayer the subject matter is more earthly with the horrors of war, criticism of the clergy, religious indoctrination, betrayal, and political persecution. Expanding upon their sound ‘Inquisition Symphony’ is one of the few instrumentals that Sepultura attempted early on. Inspired by early Metallica instrumentals ‘Call Of Ktulu’ and ‘Orion’ it is a +7 minute exercise in musical ambition. Alternatively to that gargantuan construction is ‘The Abyss’, a brief acoustic guitar interlude, that serves a mood setting bridge to the album’s concluding song.

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After writing and composing 95% of the material for “Schizophrenia”, lead guitarist Jairo Guedz Braga decided to leave the band before completing the sessions. The reason for his defection being that he had grown tired of the death metal genre. Andreas Kisser, a lead guitarist from São Paulo, was installed in his stead. Taking a hands-on approach for his recording debut not only did he provide his serviceable backing vocals on two tracks, he also recorded studio bass parts for this album, despite Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr. getting the credit in the production notes. Next to donating a song of his prior band to the sessions. ‘Escape to the Void’ is reworking of ‘Escape Into the Mirror’ of Kisser’s former band Pestilence. To better fit with Sepultura the lyrics were rewritten. Vladimir Korg, who contributed narration to the opening track of the “Bestial Devastation” EP, wrote the lyrics to ‘To the Wall’. “Schizophrenia” was the first of three Sepultura albums to feature keyboardist Henrique Portugal.

Igor Cavalera shows the first signs of his flexibility and power as a drummer. Andreas Kisser conclusively proves why he was the perfect substitute for Jairo Guedz Braga. Max Cavalera has settled into his position as frontman, and is on the verge of finding his voice. The undeniable influence of “Hell Awaits”, the second Slayer album, and “Ride the Lightning”, the second Metallica album, on “Schizophrenia” is felt through its long-winded songstructures and convoluted riffing style. The riffing seems to mostly draw from Slayer whereas the melodic sensibility and prominent bass licks are redolent of Cliff Burton era Metallica. More importantly “Schizophrenia” is where Sepultura broke free of its obvious early influences and truly came into its own musically. As an evolutionary step “Schizophrenia” was the most important of the early Sepultura catalog. It would serve as a template for its next two more widely known albums.

The band hit its stride musically and the progress was to be harnassed in familiar surroundings. For the last time the band convened at J.G. Estudios in Belo Horizonte during August 1987 to lay down the sessions with Tarso Senra producing. The choice of studio was obvious as “Bestial Devastation” was the superior of the two earliest Sepultura efforts. Not only had the band improved drastically, so did the studio wherein they convened. It is hard to believe that this was laid down at the same studio where Sepultura had cut “Bestial Devastation” a short two years before. “Schizophrenia” combines the thickness and bass-heaviness of “Hell Awaits” with the richness in tones that characterized “Ride the Lightning” and “Master Of Puppets”. The guitar tone is some of the crunchiest and crisp the band would ever experience.

A minor critical – and commercial success in North America and Europe as a much sought after import title “Schizophrenia” consolidated Sepultura’s position as South America’s most promising young act. It was the last effort of the Cugomelo Records contract, one of the earliest local Sepultura supporters. Shark Records licensed the record for Germany. Based upon the performance of “Schizophrenia” Roadrunner Records would offer Sepultura a recording contract, thus increasing their distribution, visibility and opportunities as a band. The album in all probability made an impression on the young Immolation as their debut “Dawn Of Possession” has many stylistic overlaps with this record, drawing heavily from its convoluted riffing style, and busy percussion.

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Of all the early South American underground metal acts Belo Horizonte natives Sepultura would prove the most influential, and the most enduring. Along with local upstarts Armmageddon, Genocídio, Holocausto, Mystifier, Sarcófago and Vulcano they set the global scene alight with their highly aggresssive, unashamingly primitive early records. Launched towards worldwide superstardom with the support from the Cugomelo Records label imprint Sepultura’s path is one with many twists and turns.

Originally the band was going to be called Tropa de Choque (what from Portugese translates to Shock Troops), but it was changed into Sepultura once it was found out the name had already been in use by a band from São Paulo. Its new moniker was chosen by translating to the lyrics to the Motörhead song ‘Dancing On Your Grave’ from 1983's "Another Perfect Day". The album title is (in all probability) a reference/tribute to ‘Bestial Invasion’, a song from German thrash metal pioneers Destruction, and their 1985 album “Infernal Overkill”. Destruction and Sodom greatly informed the early Sepultura sound.

Sepultura existed in an earlier form in 1984 with a set of different local members filling the guitarist, bassist and drummer positions. Eventually the membership solidified with the Cavalera brothers Max and Igor (on vocals/rhythm guitars and drums, respectively), lead guitarist Jairo Guedz Braga, and bass guitarist Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr. forming the first definitive line-up. According to genre conventions of the day each member adopted a stage name, a nom de guerre. Max Cavalera called himself Possessed, Jairo Guedz Braga dubbed himself Tormentor, Igor Cavalera became Skullcrusher and Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr. branded himself Destructor.

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As legend has it the narration to the ominous introductory track ‘The Curse’, by Chakal vocalist Vladimir Korg, was allegedly recorded without any studio effects whatsoever. Replete with desolate wind effects and chiming funeral bells it is a harbinger of things to come. The title track has a churning riff section or two, and a screaming Kerry King styled solo. ‘Antichrist’ draws equal inspiration from Venom and Possessed in terms of song structure and riffing. ‘Warriors Of Death’ starts off with a drum roll and has the most elaborate guitar lead of the EP. Its transitions are among the most accomplished of the EP. Much of the riffing and rhythms would inform the early work of Cannibal Corpse (especially on “Eaten Back to Life”) and to a lesser degree Immolation. In Europe it would serve as inspiration to the young Mayhem and its two demos, most prominently among those the even more primitive and reductionist “Deathcrush”.

The connections with Chakal run deeper as earlier vocalist Sérgio was responsible for the artwork that adorns the “Bestial Devastation” EP. This EP and its corresponding album are thematically linked by the devil figure that appears on both cover artworks. Cheesiness and crudeness aside, it perfectly encapsulates the apocalyptic atmosphere and seethingly anti-religious sentiment that form the pulsating black heart of the release. The lyrics make a surprising amount of sense given that none of the members mastered the English language to any workable degree. Like early Slayer the lyrics boil with a seething anti-religious sentiment, with central themes being the apocalypse and warfare. In the best instances, a combination of all three. While none of the members mastered the English language to a workable degree the lyrics are surprisingly coherent. The lack of linguistic mastery excuses the more glaring examples of the butchering of Shakespeare’s language in some of the lyric passages.

“Bestial Devastation” was recorded in just two days in August 1985 at J.G. Estudios in Belo Horizonte, Brazil with Joao Guimaraes producing. For a recording done as quick and cheap as this the EP has a surprisingly worthwhile production. The EP rumbles with a thick bass guitar tone, an earthy but functional drum tone and slashing razorwire guitars. Although credited in the production notes Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr. did not play bass guitar on this record. Jairo Guedz Braga recorded studio bass parts for this album. Cavalera’s vocals are drenched in copious amounts of echo. Originally released as part of a split recording with Overdose, “Bestial Devastation” went on to sell an impressive 15,000 copies in Brazil alone. Its sales figures would boost the band’s hunger and ambition to better themselves, musically and lyrically - thus setting them on a steady path out of the underground and onto the biggest stages around the world.

Essentially nothing more than a glorified demo recording “Bestial Devastation” was the first effort from one of South America’s most successful extreme metal bands. Even at is crudest and most primal the songcraft that would later define Sepultura is in but embryonal form on this debut outing. The EP served as the template upon which its next four substantially more ambitious albums would be built. The riffing, arrangements and dynamics that would thrust Sepultura into the international limelight can be traced back to this effort. While the band would improve drastically in both musical expertise and lyrical prowess its roots lie in “Bestial Devastation”.