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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”.

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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.