Sepultura – Morbid Visions (1986)
Note: Although Morbid Visions is often bundled with the 1985 “Bestial Devastation” EP, I’ll be focusing on the studio album itself.
Morbid Visions is one of the granddaddies of deliberately sloppy Brazillian extreme metal – a long and glorious trend that Sepultura themselves were quick to replace. It belongs to that early period of extreme metal where genre descriptors (death, black, grindcore, etc.) weren’t so clearly defined, it’s hastily performed, and the songwriting is surprisingly solid when you actually sit down and think about it. This puts Morbid Visions squarely in the low tech but highly ambitious sector of the extreme metal world that so many people seem to value.
I would go as far as to say that Sepultura’s full length debut (and to be fair, the EP that preceded it) is a result of the mid-80s’ metal teardown, for want of a better name. Between the influence of hardcore punk and an increasingly viable independent music scene floating around in cassette form, anyone who was alive and sentient enough to take place in the extreme metal revolution presumably listened to a great deal of albums that essentially ignored conventional basics and began forging an unfamiliar musical language in the process. You’ll hear a great deal of that on Morbid Visions, with its fast but sloppy rhythmic backing over monophonic droning riffs. Not hard to imitate; not exactly a form of pop music in 1986.
However, Morbid Visions goes further at times. For an album of such battering instrumental simplicity, it makes a surprising amount of room for compositional variation, especially given how brief the songs are. In layman’s terms, there’s quite a few riffs per song even if the riffs are painfully basic to the point I can imagine myself playing them on a guitar even though I have literally no experience with said instrument. Future Sepultura albums would briefly see advances in this realm, for what it’s worth. Still, this one’s a good example of the second part of the process I was describing earlier – extreme metal bands elaborating on their new styles – sometimes by reincorporating older elements, and other times by inventing new ideas wholesale. At this stage in their career, Sepultura was more inclined towards the latter. It certainly bore fruit – while Morbid Visions has its share of immature ideas, many a band saw enough value in them that they improved on them.
Over the years, I’ve found Morbid Visions to be one of those many albums that seemingly would be the antithesis of my musical preferences, but actually turn out quite entertaining and worthwhile. Most likely, it’s because the album reveals its depths with time.
Highlights: “War”, “Crucifixion”, “Show Me The Wrath”