Review by Daniel for Vulcano - Anthropophagy (1987)
It's not often that a band will begin their careers with a full-length live album however that's exactly how Brazilian thrash metallers Vulcano kicked off their recording careers. Unfortunately 1985's "Live!" showcased a band that was still very much developing their sound & technique & I found it to be a pretty unappealing listen overall. Surprisingly though. 1986's debut studio album "Bloody Vengeance" represented a huge improvement with the band championing a much more brutal & extreme style that really appealed to the old school tape trader in me. So why then did I not remember what the follow-up album (1987's "Anthropophagy") was like until I revisited it this week & why has it taken close to three decades for me to come back to it? Well it didn't take me long to figure it out to be honest.
Vulcano had returned with a brand new line-up that saw band-leading bass player Zhema swapping his chosen instrument & replacing the entire twin guitar attack as the single axe man with a mostly new support crew. A bold move indeed & one that you would immediately guess would result in a changed sound. But this change in personnel wouldn't be the main contributing factor in Vulcano's latest effort sounding noticeably different to its older sibling.
So what was I looking for in a Vulcano record? Dark & evil atmosphere? Check! Fast blasting thrash riffs? Check! Death & black metal influence? Check! Raw & brutal vocal delivery? Check! Absolutely unlistenable production job that causes physical discomfort to listen to? Che..... Wait.. WHAT?? Yes that's right dear readers. "Anthropophagy" is one of those rare records whose production job is simply so bad that it comfortably evaporates any positive attributes that the music may have possessed (Think Suffocation's "Breeding The Spawn" only much much worse). And look... from what I can make out there are plenty of attractive qualities here that would likely have appealed to me if there was any sort of definition to the guitar riffs. I mean I love the vocal delivery for starters & the fast rhythms & their accompanying blast beats would likely have gotten me charging if I could make out what was going on through the muck. It's just that the rhythm guitars sound like a mess of white noise with little to no weight to them & this is exacerbated by their melting into some crashy cymbals to give "Anthropophagy" a horrible layer of high end noise that regularly instigates cringes in this particular metalhead. And that's saying something given my years of trading underground demo tapes.
Interestingly, the only track that is able to overcome the production issues to become a worthy addition to your auditory library is the six & a half minute blackened stoner metal departure known as "Fallen Angels". This is mainly due to its much slower tempo & basic riff structures which see it being more memorable & noticeably more intelligible. I'd hazard to guess that if "Anthropophagy" was sporting a bumper studio production then this song would likely have stood out like a sore thumb as it definitely sounds a little out of place amongst the rest of the blasting thrashers but as it is it serves to provide some welcome respite from the barrage of meaningless guitar fuzz. It even showcases an obvious "Vol 4"-era Black Sabbath influence in a couple of the groovy stoner riffs on display.
So overall I find "Anthropophagy" to be a really annoying record. I can tell that there's a quality aggressive thrash metal album in there somewhere but it just seems to be sitting there taunting me as I sift aimlessly through the muck it's drenched in. I can only imagine that Vulcano must have been horrified upon hearing the result. At least I hope they were.