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After the unexpected success of the “Bestial Devastation” EP Brazilian proto-metallers Sepultura were offered an extension of their recording contract. Invigorated by this early victory the quartet set out to craft its full lenght debut, aptly branded “Morbid Visions”. As a unabashed tribute to its American – and European inspirations, it is heavily redolent of Mantas/Death, Possessed, Slayer and a swath of European bands, including Celtic Frost. “Morbid Visions” is where Sepultura, slowly but surely, transitioned into more individual territory artistically.

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“Morbid Visions” was the only Sepultura album to feature early lead guitarist Jairo Guedz Braga, and to have contributions from exiled singer Wagner Lamounier. Lamounier, who went on to form his own highly influential band Sarcófago after his exit, wrote the lyrics for ‘Antichrist’. Sarcófago became an influential entity in the international underground scene in itself as it bridged the gap between the first – and second wave black metal sounds with its underdeveloped, often punk-fused barbarity. For the most part “Morbid Visions” is a crude tribute to formative underground metal combos Hellhammer/Celtic Frost, Possessed, Slayer and Venom. Brimming with youthful exuberance and gusto “Morbid Visions” is proto-death metal in terms of lyrics and composition.

The lyrics paint an apocalyptic vision of the world. ‘Morbid Visions’ (a clear tribute to Celtic Frost) deals with the crucifixion of Christ by agents of the ancient Roman empire. ‘Mayhem’, the first Sepultura song to protest the horrors of war, is a stylistic precursor to both ‘Beneath the Remains’ and ‘Arise’. ‘Troops Of Doom’ and ‘War’ largely deal with conflict and an apocalyptic vision of the end. ‘Troops Of Doom’ also references Slayer and Celtic Frost songs in its lyrics. The second half of the record puts a greater fixation on Satanic rhetoric. Of these ‘Empire Of the Damned’ is the best written of the bunch full of crudely inverted eccliastic imagery and even cruder descriptive language. On the subsequent albums the faux-Satanism would be abandoned and the focus would shift on the latent socio-political message that lies buried underneath the lurid imagery.

Exceeded in its ambition only by the dormant potential of its creative axis the sense of song arrangement and hooks, as crude and underdeveloped as they may be on this early release, are already accounted for in their most basic and embryonal form. “Morbid Visions”, as amateurish and hopelessly primitive it comes across by today’s standards, was a substantial leap forward for the band in terms of musicianship, imagery and composition. The obvious lack of instrumental prowess within its membership notwithstanding many of the chord progressions, transitions and tempo changes hint at what a few short years later would make them a force to be reckoned with in the international scene.

The original print for “Morbid Visions” was bookended by a movement from Carl Orff’s “O, Fortuna”, but these were removed on later versions probably to avoid copyright issues. ‘Crucifixion’ has backing vocals from Jairo Guedz Braga. Beyond one or two tracks much of “Morbid Visions” has been relegated to the band’s vaults. As visceral and intense as the album tends to be, not much remains after the initial onslaught. ‘War’ and ‘Mayhem’ probably inspired fellow Brazilians Krisiun a good deal in that both cuts set the template for Brazilian death metal a full decade later. The album is custodian to ‘Troops Of Doom’, the only track to have any kind of longevity and an early classic. The track mostly stands out thanks to its better developed structure. It is a stylistic precursor to the songwriting arrangements and - dynamics that would come to define Sepultura in the years to come. “Morbid Visions” lays the groundwork for the death/thrash titans the band would become.

“Morbid Visions” was recorded and mixed in seven days on 16 tracks at Estudio Vice Versa, Belo Horizonte, Brazil, August 1986 with Zé Luis and Eduardo Santos producing. Although credited in the production notes Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr. did not play bass guitar on the record. Jairo Guedz Braga (lead guitar) recorded studio bass parts for the album. Despite being recorded later and over a long time than the primal “Bestial Devastation”, “Morbid Visions” sounds substantially worse sonorically than its crude predecessor. In what must be a case of youthful naivité the guitars are out of tune for the entirety of the effort. Production shortcomings aside “Morbid Visions” is graced with an excellent cover artwork that is conceptual continuation of the template set by the canvas of its companion EP.

As a historical document “Morbid Visions” offers a look into the youthful past of one of South America’s most celebrated acts. As obvious as it is about its sources of inspiration the stronger it becomes when one considers the trials and tribulations that went into its creation. “Morbid Visions” was re-issued in North America by New Renaissance Records, the label owned by Hellion member Ann Boleyn. In between the “Bestial Devastation” and “Morbid Visions” sessions three quarters of Sepultura (the Cavalera brothers, and lead guitarist Jairo Guedz Braga) along with Silvio Gomes (of local band Mutilator, and Sepultura roadie) were in the shortlived  Guerrillha that released a studio and live demo tape in 1986 before calling it quits.

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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”.