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.
“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.