Sepultura – 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.

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