Rock Brigade (1987)
Being a diehard Sepultura fanatic, I am certainly very open-minded towards other death / thrash metal bands from South America, and more specifically Brazil. In fact, I have made it my business over the last 18 months or so to try and check out as many Brazilian death / thrash metal acts as I can possibly get my hands on, and so far this has proven to be a fairly fruitful venture (after all, just hearing one good thrash band from Brazil is impressive enough considering that just a short while ago thrash metal was largely a Western phenomenon), although I have yet to hear another death metal band from Brazil that comes even close to the mighty Sepultura.
If their bio is to be believed, São Paulo’s Vulcano have now been together for no less than seven yearsl (!), during which time they’ve released a four-song single (‘Om Pushne Namah’,1983), a live album (Vulcano Live!, 1985), as well as two full-length studio efforts; last year’s Bloody Vengeance and its recently-issued follow-up, Anthropophagy (pay attention, that’s not “Anthroplology”). Now, while I found the live album to be a slightly dated affair, I have to admit that I quite enjoyed Bloody Vengeance (mainly because of its sheer brutality), and for that reason I was very much looking forward to hearing Vulcano’s new record. Unfortunately, the final product has proven to be short of my expectations.
As was the case on Bloody Vengeance, Vulcano still seem to be under the impression that machine-gun speed is absolutely essential to being an intense, highly effective brutal death metal band, and that’s where most of their problems lie. While on tracks like the opener, ‘Red Death’, and the frenzied ‘Stirring’, Vulcano successfully mix moderately-paced sections with more out-of-control, high speed rhythms to make them work to their advantage, on most of the rest of the album (the title track in particular) the band show inability and unwillingness to even try and slow down from time to time, and this puts a damper on the whole record as far as I’m concerned. Instead of using speed to enhance their sound and add to the overall intensity of their music, Vulcano simply drag the speed factor to the utmost extreme, and this in turn makes their songs rather bland and tedious to listen to.
Speed-trip aside, individual performances are rather average throughout, with vocalist Angel giving up his ever-so-brutal growling style of the past in favour of a slightly higher pitched and less convincing screaming delivery (but still good), while bassist turned guitarist Zhema and new boys Fernando (bass) and Arthur (drums) manage to display a fair amount of talent if not a whole lot of precision in their playing, and this alone saves the album from being a total waste.
Overall, Anthropophagy certainly shows Vulcano to be one of the better Brazilian bands, although I’m not quite convinced that that is good enough to warrant them a ticket to international stardom. With less emphasis on speed and more concentration on heaviness, brutality and variety in songwriting, they could indeed be something to talk about. For now, I maintain that Sepultura is by far and away the best Brazilian death metal band, and the only one that has even the slightest chance at success on a larger scale. Sad but true.
Review taken from Metal Forces, Issue 26 (1987)
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