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Album review: Sarcófago – Hate (Reissue)

Hate is the record that defines the strengths of Sarcófago and, with this new remaster, it’s high time that it gets the attention it deserves

When it comes to the uber-important underground scene of the 1980s – one which provided a hotbed of inspiration for the upcoming death and black metal scenes that would dominate the late 80s and most of the 90s – there is one Brazilian band that had it all: the filthy and perverse Sarcófago from Belo Horizonte. Their debut album, 1987’s ‘I.N.R.I.’, was a perfect amalgamation of all the elements that would evolve into these extreme scenes to come. Basically black thrash metal with lo-fi production and unrelenting power, it has stood the test of time and still gets name-checked by all the major players and fans alike.

Two years later, they would release the ‘Rotting’ EP, which upped the ante and showed a progression of sound and direction yet retained the cult status. This growth would culminate in 1991’s ‘The Laws Of Scourge’, a furious, exciting foray into technical thrash metal with a brutal production that would have earned a higher level of success if it were any other band. You have to wonder if they chose to head this way after watching the meteoric rise of their Brazilian brethren in Sepultura, who, besides writing stellar music, were always in the right places at the right times with the right contacts. The ‘big break’ would elude them, unfortunately, and the band imploded in 2000 after a handful of mixed-bag releases and uphill struggles.

Buried fairly deep in this latter period of their discography is the woefully underappreciated ‘Hate’, the 1994 follow-up to ‘The Laws Of Scourge’. Band leader and visionary Wagner Lamounier (or Wagner Antichrist, as he was known) took the sound back to their roots on this one, but retained the solid production with a hard focus on an evil death metal style. In much the same way that ‘The Laws Of Scourge’ was incredible but just too late to ride the original thrash wave, ‘Hate’ was too late to the OG death metal rise (that was already in decline by 1994). This is a band that always seemed to be just that little too late to earn success.

Wanting the fastest, most brutal music possible, Lamounier made the controversial decision to use a drum machine over a living, breathing drummer. While this can often come across as clinical and lacking feeling when abused, it actually suits the material here, with its hard-nosed production and violent speed. The lyrical content is still fairly immature, evil, and filthy, and barked out with gusto and in broken English by Lamounier, whose vocals were always a highlight. His riffs are also super-solid and incredibly heavy – both catchy and ruthless – and Gerald Incubus fattens the sound up with his meaty bass backbone. The unsung hero of the record is Eugênio “Dead Zone”, who creates a great deal of the murky, cavernous atmosphere with his ethereal keys, but was also the programmer of those intense, synthetic drums. Together, they make for a tight unit with evil intent.

At a brisk run-time of 34 minutes, the 10 songs on offer are to-the-point and waste no time. Tracks such as Pact Of Cum, Orgy Of Flies, Satanic Terrorism, and Anal Vomit stand out with their eager titles and tight, vehement attacks on the senses, but the album as a whole works as one giant boot to the face. This is bona fide death metal in the realm of Death’s ‘Scream Bloody Gore’ and Autopsy’s ‘Mental Funeral’, but with more focus on the song structures than merely a simple blast-o-rama. And with the added spice of proto-black metal and thrashy bursts of intricate riffage, it comes across as a more cultured ‘In The Sign Of Evil’ mashed up with early Morbid Angel-isms, filthy and furious.

This Greyhaze Records remaster cleans up some of the production missteps, elevates the instruments and vocals, and gives the drum machine a more ‘human’ feel than ever before, resulting in the definitive version of ‘Hate’. It’s a loving makeover that yearns for a newer generation to seek out one of the previously unearthed gems of the true metal underground, and also gives long-time fans the opportunity to hear the album as it was meant to be heard. Standing meagrely in the shadow of its lauded predecessors, it’s the record that defines the strengths of Sarcófago without the all the praise and it’s high time that it gets the attention that it deserves.   

★★★★✩ 

FFO: Celtic Frost, Sodom, Bulldozer

Hate is out now via Greyhaze Records

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