Review by Xephyr for Sarcófago - I.N.R.I. (1987) Review by Xephyr for Sarcófago - I.N.R.I. (1987)

Xephyr Xephyr / June 01, 2021 / 0

The Truly Tenacious Effort

I.N.R.I might be one of the most interesting Black Metal albums to come out of the initial surge of the genre following Bathory's debut and The Return.... given how much it embraces the fundamentals of extreme metal. The songwriting isn't exactly great, the overall production and the volume of the drumming compared to anything else is past the point of lo-fi novelty, and the band members are sometimes teetering over the edge of falling out of sync with each other, but man do they ever go for it. As I've gotten deeper and deeper into extreme metal genres I've come to learn that it's not always what you're playing, but how you're playing it, and Sarcófago have a distinct kind of evil, unhinged energy that really carries this release. Even though Black Metal has now etched its place into the modern metal landscape, releases like this show that its beginnings were similar to most other sub-genres in that other Metal styles just weren't heavy or satanic enough for them. These guys walked into the studio, blasted some nonsense into the tapes, and metalheads looking for the next step in evil, Black Metal aggression ate it up. 

What struck me the most with I.N.R.I is the obvious Death Metal influence which, considering Death's debut album Scream Bloody Gore was also released in 1987, seems like some pretty cutting edge genre fusion. I'm not sure how much of it was intentional, but the guttural, deep growls on this record honestly would feel right at home in some of the more Brutal Death Metal records of today. Even though I would hesitate to call them well done, they definitely fit into the unhinged feel of the whole record. Most of I.N.R.I. is a flurry of blast beats and thrashy tremolo riffs that oozes old school Black Metal personality but loses itself in the actual performance aspect of the whole thing. "Satanic Lust" starts out well enough with a decent main riff and a barely audible but cool solo amidst all the yelling and cranked up snare, but Sarcófago never really get back to that same kind of riff focused songwriting, preferring a more chaotic approach to the rest of the album. "Nightmare" is a decent attempt at the slower, more chuggy style of early Black Metal that Bathory was well known for and the ending of "The Last Slaughter" is especially brutal, but the rest of the album is varying shades of the same drumming and riffing with some interesting vocals here and there. 

The mixing on the drums absolutely ruins most of the positive things I could say about this album, with the snare and bass combo being five times as loud as anything else. I can see how fans of the extremely raw and brutal kinds of production gravitate towards this, but the incessant pounding of the same patterns under similar riffs doesn't really do much for me. At the same time, I.N.R.I. has way more charm and personality than some of the other early Black Metal albums I've heard. The closing track makes me think that this album isn't meant to be taken that seriously, along with some truly classic lyrics on "I.N.R.I." and "Christ's Death", but at the same time these guys really left nothing on the table as they channeled as many extreme metal influences as they could into one short album. Despite all its flaws I think this classic release has some charm that I wasn't ready to admit when I first heard it. It's raw in a way that didn't exactly age well on the surface, but the possibly unintended passion behind an admittedly less than mediocre album somehow won me over in the end. 

Comments (1)

Daniel Daniel / June 01, 2021

Great review Xephyr. It's a very accurate portrayal of what people can expect from "I.N.R.I.".