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Repress Reintroduction: Stream Sarcófago’s The Laws of Scourge

By the 1990s, Brazil’s Sarcófago moved beyond embryonic black metal. Whether North American modern metal archeologists will ever make that same leap is a different story. Don’t get me wrong, Sarcófago’s hugely influential I.N.R.I. deserves all of the daps it gets, from Fenriz on down to whatever comment troll is using its black metal-birthing art as an avatar. 27 years on, I.N.R.I.‘s bloodthirsty chaos is still bracing. It still holds up. It’s a rare historical marker that doesn’t feel like homework. But Sarcófago’s career didn’t end with Euronymous’s favorite record. Not by a long shot. Because, in August of 1991, Sarcófago would reemerge with a new sound, a new look, and a new album. The Laws of Scourge, released on the legitimately legendary Cogumelo label, finalized their metamorphosis. Sarcófago were suddenly a technical death metal band.

And, goddamnit, they were good.

South American listeners concurred, making The Laws of Scourge Sarcófago’s best selling record. (There, it endures. Check YouTube. Views aplenty.) Nowadays in North America? Maybe I’m an oblivious idiot (likely), but I hardly ever see it mentioned, as if the selective amnesia of the scene’s conquerors wrote it out of existence. That’s too bad. It is a worthy cold case to re-investigate. Luckily someone has.

Enter Greyhaze Records to the repress-rescue, continuing their quest to give former Brazilian bangers new life in this millennium. Like their previous re-dos, they’ve put The Laws of Scourge through a thorough dusting. Of course, the reason these songs truly shine are because, well, they’re gold. Weird-ass gold.

Aided by the fresh blood of the skillful Fábio Jhasko (guitar) and Lucio Olliver (drums), Wagner Lamounier (vocals, guitar) and Gerald Minelli (bass, jack of all strings) took the timbres of Altars of Madness, Harmony Corruption, and Spiritual Healing and added their own quirks to a genre that hadn’t yet hardened. In modern times, that makes The Laws of Scourge fascinatingly eclectic, even if that wasn’t the original intention.

Here’s what I mean: On the one hand, The Laws of Scourge fits right in with its peers — slip “Piercings” into a Folgers-style mix of the above-mentioned albums and few test subjects will notice. On the other hand, Sarcófago travel down avenues that would soon be deleted from death metal’s map. Case in point, “Midnight Queen.” Airy and atmospheric, “Midnight Queen”‘s first half is downright frosty, adding ensorcelled synths to a bleak trudge. Come the late-’90s, few copy-cats would attempt such a unification thanks to death metal’s fixation on prioritizing escalating br00ftality over mood. On The Laws of Scourge? Those rules don’t apply since they weren’t codified; the new cohort hadn’t chiseled the commandments yet.

However, that’s part of the reason The Laws of Scourge doesn’t land for a lot of people. I.N.R.I. still sounds like it’s presaging something because a lot of its elements continue to be recycled. It’s foundational. Conversely, The Laws of Scourge is in the same weird camp as Nocturnus’ The Key (or, hell, Disharmonic Orchestra’s entire career): more of an interesting time-capsule of what could’ve been had others taken on the influence. So, yeah, there’s something to be said about the role primacy plays in the things we remember. But, there’s also something to be said for an album that’s plain goddamn good, no matter how it reverberates through history. I’ll say it: Here’s a goddman good album. Dig it up.
Sarcófago’s The Laws of Scourge will be re-released on August 5 via Greyhaze Records. It includes tracks from 1992’s Crush, Kill, Destroy EP and the vinyl is available for preorder now.

— Ian Chainey

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