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I.N.R.I. (1987)

I.N.R.I. is the debut album from Brazil's most legendary black metal cult, Sarcófago. The band was formed in Belo Horizonte, in 1985. They were highly influenced by Slayer, Bathory and Celtic Frost, which is obvious by the aesthetics of the album cover as well as the darkened sounds contained on this record. A short time after forming, they invited Antichrist to join as their vocalist, not long after he left Sepultura. After a handful of demos, the band released their first album on Cogumelo Records, in August 1987.

This influential black metal release begins with "Satanic Lust", beginning with hellish sounds of mid-paced riffs, demonic vocals and the screaming of guitars. Soon, the song picks up the pace and an evil tale is told with the possessed vocals of Antichrist, carried forth by the relentless blast beats.

"The night is cold
And the sky is without light
Only a darkned moon
Will be the witness in this night"

The vocals range from deep and guttural to high-pitched, raspy screaming. The feeling is chaotic and your flesh begins to burn from the flames of Hell rising out from the dark. This is intense and bloody evil as anything ever released, up until this time.

This Satanic onslaught is followed by "Desecration of Virgin", which is almost a continuation of the theme presented on the first song. This one, however, is far more vile. This fast-paced song is one of the shortest ones on here, featuring more of the demonic vocals in the background, as if Satan is making an appearance on the record. This is pure Hellish chaos, not for the faint of heart.

The next song is one of the best ever to be recorded by Sarcófago. "Nightmare" begins with slow, doom riffs, creating an absolutely morbid atmosphere. Antichrist's tormented screams rise up from the black abyss. With this hellish feeling growing and possessing your heart, you wish to take a razor or a knife and carve your flesh until it is difficult to recognize. The early part of the song utilizes dark and mid-paced riffs with extremely tortured and morbid vocals.

"Behind the gates only death
Burning your mind you hear the bell
The gates are open for your entry
Light of the day turn to the darkness of hell..."

After a minute or so, the pace picks up and the blast beats pummel you into near-unconsciousness. This epic piece of horrifying black metal is the longest track on here, and also one of the most memorable. The pace slows back down and the first verse is repeated. Following this, the tempo increases as the song turns into a maelstrom of hellish fury. It all ends with Antichrist screaming:

"You will never return

This track is very draining, leaving you feeling empty and cold. This one track epitomizes the evil sound of Sarcófago, leaving one to wonder if there ever existed anything quite as extreme as this.

"I.N.R.I." is next, beginning with thunder that continues as the tremolo riffs and blast beats rage on. This blasphemous track takes the evil of Slayer, the speed of Bathory and the brutality of Kreator and merges all of this into something that is beyond intense. The last lines of the song are some of the best as Antichrist screams, "Fuck you, fuck you, fuck you Jesus Christ!" It doesn't get more straight-forward and to the point than that.

The next track continues this theme, conveying a true hatred for the Great Lie. "Christ's Death" begins with a somber acoustic piece as you can hear a demonic voice growing louder. The song bursts forth as the voice explodes with fury. It is mostly fast paced, though the riffs change and slow things down, for a brief rest in the middle. Immediately, the pace picks up once more and the tension builds as Antichrist's screams become more tortured and filled with contempt and rage. At one point, he even emulates Tom Araya with a high-pitched scream. This precedes a slow, doom riff that drags you down into the murky depths with the feeling of an eternal funeral. The song reaches a powerful climax as a chorus of the most hellish, demonic and maniacal voices to ever be captured on tape screams with conviction and fury:

"...die! Die, Jesus!
Die, Jesus Christ!
I hate you! I hate you!
Die, Jesus Christ! Die, die die....."

This is bloody intense. Max Possessed did a decent job on Bestial Devastation and Morbid Visions, but one has to wonder what Sepultura really lost when Antichrist left. This performance is utterly brilliant.

"Satanas" is another fast-paced song that spews blasphemy in a most unholy way. This is, somewhat, reminiscent of the first song though it features a surprising guitar solo that is soon drowned out by more demonic screaming.

The next one causes the album to lose a little steam, as I don't see the value of a song titled "Ready To Fuck". Then again, this may have been inspired by some of the less serious Venom tunes, such as "Teacher's Pet". This is straight-forward and heavy, but the subject matter ruins it for me. It is a shame that they wasted such decent riffs on this nonsense.

"Deathtrash" continues this downward trend, as the lyrics are more self-descriptive and out of place. The delivery is no different, but the real power of this album has been in the message it has conveyed and the convincing manner in which it has done so. At only a minute and a half, this is kind of a throwaway song anyway.

The album is salvaged as "The Last Slaughter" returns to the blasphemous theme, with an even more violent and punishing approach than the previous songs. There is a nice tremolo melody that isn't fully realized, not long before the pace slows down. It is during these slower sections of the album that the atmosphere really has room to breathe. It also works as a good contrast to the faster parts, giving them more of an impact. The lead solos aren't particularly special, but they work well enough. The song ends with everything getting slow and dropping out. The album then ends with several seconds of nonsense.

I.N.R.I. is one of the most evil and intense records to rise from the flames of Hell. A couple songs miss the mark, lyrically, but classics such as "Nightmare" and "Christ's Death" make up for this. Sarcófago became totally worthless afterward, but this album remains one of the most important black metal albums of the '80s.
(21 Apr. 2009)

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