Album Review: Cavalera - Bestial Devastation / Morbid Visions
Reviewed by Dan Barnes
Since Max and Iggor’s fraternal reconciliation the brothers have periodically revisited their Sepultura roots with tours under monikers such as 2017’s Max and Iggor Cavalera Return to Roots and the pre-pandemic shows as Max and Iggor Cavalera Return Beneath Arise. As time passes, and with it being more than quarter of a century since Max departed at the end of 1996 – Iggor would follow suit a decade later after contributing his percussion to the first four Green-era records.
But, as the film Magnolia is want to repeat: Just because you’re through with the past, doesn’t mean the past is through with you, and the past does not seem to be through with the boys from Brazil quite yet. So, this month sees the Nuclear Blast releases of Sepultura’s debut releases: the Bestial Devastation EP and the Morbid Visions first full-length, fully re-recorded and given an update worthy of 2023.
Available separately, and issued under the name Cavalera, both records featured a pre-Andreas line-up when the brothers were barely into their teenage years, soaking up the sounds of bands like Black Sabbath, Motorhead and Sex Pistols, as well as heavier, more underground acts like Venom and Celtic Frost alongside a plethora of local Brazilian bands.
This would eventually lead to the early sound, which adopted the low-fi Black Metal approach suiting what Jason Korolenko called “fast, noisy and sloppy” (21) and in keeping with Sepultura’s inexperience.
Originally recorded in just two days, by folks calling themselves Possessed, Skullcrusher, Tormentor and Destructor, Bestial Devastation vomited forth from the eerie, striking clock and spoken word of The Curse. This new version sees the tinny production and unbalanced sound replaced by an altogether fatter and more lush presentation. The title-track, Necromancer and Antichrist lose nothing in the updating as guitars now buzz and drums boom. The solo on Bestial… is no longer lost amid the murky drums and is now crisp and clean.
Even The Curse has had a make-over, replacing the striking clock is the tolling of an ominous bell and the voice, a sixty-a-day rasp in 1985, is now demonic and horrifying. Soulfly’s output over the years – even the more refined nineties Sepultura albums – have led us to forget the evil quality of Max’s pipes and it is good to be reminded that he can go cvlt at the drop of a hat.
Additional to the five compositions of the original, Bestial… c.2023 includes a new addition in the shape of Sexta Feira 13, a Portuguese language track that is closer to the Schizophrenia era of the band than the darkness found here and elsewhere.
A year later and the debut album Morbid Visions emerged, maintaining the same gritty filth as its predecessor but showing an improvement in the band’s songwriting and musicianship. There was still an overabundance of songs about Satan, but we were all young once.
This new version again features a fuller sound and a more precise delivery, without really sacrificing the extremity at the core of the album. The title track’s riffs are choppy and demonic as required; Mayhem’s vocal speed is close to Grindcore velocity; the howling guitars in Show Me the Wrath have a more pained expression than they originally did.
Funeral Rites is still as black as ever, showing no amount of polish will lighten this dark heart and Empire of the Damned feels even more diabolical as it stomps like a behemoth. Only Troops of Doom survives in Sepultura’s regular set to this day, which is a shame as, judging by the version here, I’d love to hear Crucifixion played live.
Also updated is the artwork, replacing the somewhat amateurish covers with a couple of truly disturbing re-imaginings. In an interview, Iggor explained the pair always felt constrained and hindered by the recording process, which never fully captured the young band’s energy or raw sound.
Whatever you think of this endeavour will be how dear you hold the originals to your heart. If you’re Trve Cvlt all the way, then these updates might not be your cup of tea; yet those originals still exist and are available. Otherwise, here are two records that form a crucial part of the brother’s past and, if anyone has the authority to dabble with them, then it’s Max and Iggor.
Korolenko, Jason. Relentless: Thirty Years of Sepultura. United Kingdom: Essential Works, 2015.