Style: Death/Thrash Metal
Release Date: 13 Mar 2020
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If I mention Brazil in conjunction with extreme metal, most of you are going to think Sepultura, but they weren't the only band doing that sort of thing in the early days because there was a major scene growing there back in the early eighties. Other pioneers included Dorsal Atlântica, Sarcófago and this band, Vulcano, who were formed in São Paulo in 1980 as Astaroth, changing to Vulcano the following year. They found their style in 1984, playing a hybrid of black, death and thrash metal that still feels proto-extreme today three and a half decades on.
While they only split up for five years in the early nineties, this is only their eleventh album, their first since 2016's confusingly titled XIV. It's good old-fashioned extreme metal, reminding often of early Slayer and Celtic Frost, which is no bad mix, especially when you add in some Teutonic thrash. I haven't heard Vulcano in a long while, so I'm out of date in what they've been doing. I'm not seeing great ratings on their last few albums but this certainly seems decent to me.
It's far from the most original album I've ever heard, but there's a hunger in the sound that I really like and an excellent production job that renders an almost live in my office feel. I really like that too and a blisterer of an opener like Bride of Satan to kick things off in old school Slayer style doesn't hurt either. Neither does the Teutonic vocals on Cursed Babylon. It all starts out great, with decent riffs, strong churns and excellent solos.
Its biggest problem is that it isn't particularly varied and, even where it is, the album's structure prevents us from seeing that in any big picture. A pairing of Evil Empire with its slower mantra-like Celtic Frost guitars and the up tempo Struggling Besides Satan with its frantic vocals that struggle to keep up with the music is worthy variety, but that's about it. We get the same sort of pairings throughout the album and not much else. Most of these songs are variations on the same styles.
Its biggest success is that the raw and live sound feels great and none of the songs outstay their welcome. Sure, part of that is because they're all short, with only one of thirteen tracks making it past the four minute mark and five of them lasting less than three. That makes this a real blitzkrieg release, one that ramps up early and sustains at least one of a holy trinity of speed, heaviness and intensity throughout, if not more than one at once.
What all that boils down to is that, if you're into that old school extreme sound but want to hear it recorded in a studio with modern technology, this is a great choice. We can even hear the bass, especially within songs like Dealer of My Curses, where it gets its own moment in the spotlight, or with songs like Inferno, where it rumbles along gloriously underneath everything else.
However, it doesn't deliver anything that you haven't heard before, making this more of a completist purchase for the diehards than a discovery moment for the curious. Now, if the latter do find it and love it, that's fantastic and it'll work well as a starting point for an exploration of the genre. The more discovery that curious listener does, though, the more this will vanish into the background.
This is one of those albums I'll give a 7/10 for being thoroughly enjoyable in a style that I love but should drop a point for people who don't share a passion for this sort of thing.