SummaryCovered with corpse paint and engulfed in sin
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Look at that album cover. Don’t those guys look absolutely sick? Nowadays face paint might be an unnecessary cliché, but once upon a time it clearly wasn’t. Formed once Wagner left Sepultura, Sarcófago would release their shocking debut in 1987 on Cogumelo records and from thereon, black metal would never be the same again.
You could definitely argue that the roots of war metal lie can be traced all the way back to this album. Just consider what we’re dealing with: a series of blastbeats played by a drummer who probably had too many cups of coffee before recording, primal guitar work that hardly sounds connected thrash metal anymore and a vomiting vocal performance that spews out the most blasphemous words that you could think of (although not always in correct English, but that’s part of the charm). All this results into a 28 minute long ride of blasphemy, relentless aggression and… carnival music (that’s the outro of “The Last Slaughter”, in case you wonder). Indeed, despite the band’s attitude, it seems that Sarcófago want to let the music speak for itself and couldn’t care less about appearing like a bunch of elitists who take metal too seriously.
War metal isn’t my pick of choice (not that I prefer my metal to be about peace and hugging trees), but unlike many bands that were influenced by these guys, Sarcrofago manage to sound enjoyable to a certain degree. There’s an urgent feeling to these fast-paced compositions, yet a fair amount of mid-paced moments prevent I.N.R.I. from becoming a monotone experience and interestingly enough, these also result into my favorite songs. The five minute long “Nightmare” makes a moody change with some creepier guitars crawling over a filthy floor, making an enjoyable contrast when compared to the frenzied passages that quickly follow. “The Last Slaughter” owes a lot to its effective gunfire-riffing, but I also enjoy the mid-paced riffs that sound far catchier and more restrained – not to mention that happy-ending is an amusing way to finish the album with. Certain tracks also sound slightly more referential; with its brief thrashing riff leading into an unholy assault that you won’t forget anytime soon, “Satanic Lust” almost serves like a middle ground between early Sodom and Blasphemy and at the time, this was obviously something unheard of. Meanwhile, “Christ’s Death” provides some marching rhythmic work that could be traced all the way back to Hellhammer and who could forget that slow-motion assault of power chords to finish things off with? I bet that Samael certainly couldn’t.
While the longer tracks manage to make progression, the shortest ones can only rely on their berserk nature and honestly, I’m having some issues with them. Sure, I.N.R.I. features more flaws; the drums resemble a drum machine at times and at its most violent, it’s as if they and guitars try to destroy each other (then again, the drummer goes by the name of D.D. Crazy, so what do I know?), but I can at least put up with these things. The shorter songs get launched with fury and basically sound like the equivalent of Vulcano’s “Ready to Explode”… except that in Vulcano’s case, it was 1 undeveloped track that was surrounded by 6 superb tracks. In Sarcófago case, we’re talking about 4 out of 9 songs and it’s obviously a disadvantage. Only the title track manages to make somewhat of a difference, as it’s fueled by some maniacal riffing that’s memorable to a certain degree – with the exception of Wagner Antichrist’s guttural howls, the rest basically goes one ear in and one ear out, I’m afraid.
Whereas comparable albums such as Bestial Devastation, Morbid Visions and Bloody Vengeance sound intense and extremely memorable, I.N.R.I. isn’t quite on the same level. It remains an important piece of black metal history, but on a personally I’m not too crazy about it, even if it has its moments. By all means give it a shot, but if you’re looking for the best work of this band, try The Laws of Scourge first.
Release date: August 1987
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