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Sunday Old School: Sarcófago

Brazil, home of some of the most beautiful scenery, the most gorgeous women and most enjoyable football the world has ever seen. They’re also pretty great at producing extreme music, which is hardly a surprise given the contrasting violent history of the South American country. Of course, the most famous of these bands would be Belo Horizonte’s, Sepultura, which was founded by the Cavalera brothers, Max and Igor. While Max is widely regarded as the voice of Sepultura, he was not the first. That honour belongs to a man named Wagner Lamounier, who left the band before they were able to record anything and in unfriendly circumstances. Shortly after parting company with Sepultura, Lamounier was invited to join a new band named Sarcófago, who were influenced by even more extreme music such as Bathory and Celtic Frost. He adopted the stage name, "Antichrist" after contributing lyrics to the Sepultura song of the same name, while the rest of the band also took the monikers "Butcher," "Incubus" and "Leprous."

The group soon got to work on their first recordings, which surfaced on the compilation album, "Warfare Noise 1" and consequently led them to sign with Cogumelo Produções for their debut album, "I.N.R.I." by which time they had replaced Leprous with D.D. Crazy, the brother of Butcher. "I.N.R.I." was recorded in July 1987 and released the very same month, finding an audience with metal fans that were looking for a harsher sound. Everything about the album, though particularly the music, would prove to be a big influence on the future of black metal, including the corpse paint they adorned on the front cover. It’s impact on the Norwegian black metal scene was particularly well documented, with Mayhem guitarist Euronymous reported to have been obsessed with Sarcófago’s image and felt all black metal bands should look like them, as well as trading letters with Lamounier as the Norwegian black metal scene was beginning to flourish.

It was during this time that not only was their feud with Sepultura revived, thanks to an incident in which D.D. Crazy smashed a bottle over their new guitarist Andreas Kisser’s head, but a long standing animosity was also ignited with another Brazil’s more popular acts Ratos de Parão, after they performed a gig in Belo Horizonte, which drew jeers from some audience members including Sarcófago. Although there isn’t a definitive reason as to why this happened or what sparked the feud, the two most frequently banded theories are that Lamounier and RxDxPx vocalist João Gordo had been goading each other all night, while the other claims that Gordo wanted to know who had been spitting at him and his band, to which Max Cavalera accused Sarcófago. The bitterness was to turn violent at a later date.

In the meantime however, Sarcófago themselves had disbanded, albeit briefly, during which time Lamounier went to university in Uberlândia to study economics, which he now teaches himself at the Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte. The band soon returned, though without Butcher or D.D. Crazy and this time as a trio, with Lamounier handling guitar duties and partnering with returning bassist, Geraldo "Gerald Incubus" Minelli, as well as new drummer M. Joker. This new incarnation recorded a sophomore album, "Rotting," which was noticeably more technical than "I.N.R.I." and featured only six songs, including an intro, though they were much longer than the tracks on their previous effort and the record clocked in at over half an hour in length. Their second album would be their first to receive international distribution thanks to the labels, Music for Nations, who distributed the record in Europe and Maze, who released it in North America. The Maze release was to be the subject of more controversy for the band, after they censored the album cover, (which depicted the grim reaper licking the face of Jesus Christ,) and put a sticker on the band which said, "Featuring the original lead singer of Sepultura," which angered the band so much, they filed a lawsuit against the label.

Two years after "Rotting," Sarcófago released their third album, "The Laws of Scourge," which is unquestionably a landmark in the history of the group. It contained an approach more akin to technical death metal than their previous black metal efforts and was lauded for it’s improved musicianship and songwriting, thanks in part to new guitarist Fábio "Jhasko" and new drummer, Lúcio Olliver. The album would become the band’s biggest selling to date and allowed them to perform outside of Brazil for the first time, visiting other South American countries like Chile and Peru, as well as travelling to Europe to play in Spain and Portugal and be interviewed for British television. It was also while touring in support of "The Laws of Scourge," that they would encounter Ratos de Parão again, in even less friendly circumstances than in Belo Horizonte. Sarcófago were given the honour of opening for American crossover thrash favourites, D.R.I. on their first tour of Brazil, a slot that many thought would be given to RxDxPx due to their similar musical style. After performing in São Paulo, Ratos de Parão, along with friends from another respected Brazilian metal group, Korzus, forced their way into the backstage area, some of whom were armed with motorcycle chains. João Gordo punched an intoxicated Lamounier which sparked a massive scrap between the two camps, resulting in one of D.R.I.’s crew members having his arm broken.

Once again, the band made a change when it came to recording their new album, controversially replacing Lúcio Olliver with a drum machine, which Lamounier claimed wasn’t against any metal code since death metal bands frequently use trigger pads. They also made a group decision to cut their short, as a protest against more men growing their hair after the grunge explosion. The resulting album, "Hate," was a more straight forward affair than their previous release and featured some rather outlandish titles such as, "Anal Vomit" and "Pact of Cum." It also featured the song, "Satanic Terrorism," which described the acts of arson carried out by the Norwegian black metal scene which they had helped inspire. They followed this soon after with a compilation record entitled, "Decade of Decay," which contained rarities, demos and old photos.

Shortly after "Decade of Decay," Sarcófago released their fifth and ultimately their final full length album, "The Worst," which Lamounier and Incubus described as the "summation" of the band. It was a much slower album than "Hate" and is generally regarded as the weakest album by the group, though not necessarily a bad effort. It featured a shaven headed Lamounier on the front cover, (a possible nod to the album’s song, "Shave Your Head,") and once again utilised a drum machine instead of a drummer. There were plans to record and release another album, which the band previewed with a new EP in 2000 entitled, "Crust," which made their feelings towards the direction black metal was heading very clear with the song, "F.O.M.B.M. (Fuck Off Melodic Black Metal.") However, Lamounier and Incubus parted company before a new album could be recorded and the decision was made that without the two key members, a new Sarcófago album wouldn’t be worth making and the name was laid to rest soon after the pair split.

In 2006 a reunion of sorts occurred to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of the "Warfare Noise" compilation, though Lamounier declined to participate due to his reluctance to perform music as a professional (though he does perform in a crust punk band named Commander Kaos.) The resulting shows were performed as a Sarcófago tribute act featuring former members Incubus, Manuel Henriques, and Fábio Jhasko, along with long serving friend Juarez "Tibanha" on vocals. This is the closest the band has come to a full reunion since their dissolution in 2000, in spite of a rumour which circulated in 2009 that they were planning to reunite for a world tour, though Lamounier (now a professor of economics at Universidade Federal de Minas Gerais in Belo Horizonte,) shot down the whispers a few days later. While it remains unlikely that they will return to the stage, or the recording studio again, Sarcófago have assured their place in the metal history books and their influence can still be heard today in the more extreme areas of the metal spectrum.

Sarcófago - "The Black Vomit"

Sarcófago - "I.N.R.I."

Sarcófago - "Nightmare"

Sarcófago - "Screeches From the Silence"

Sarcófago - "Orgy of Flies"

Sarcófago - "Shave Your Head"

Diamond Oz's avatar

Ollie Hynes has been a writer for Metal Underground.com since 2007 and a metal fan since 2001, going as far as to travel to other countries and continents for metal gigs.

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