Groundbreakers: Vulcano – Bloody Vengeance
Vulcano‘s debut album, released in 1986, is wildly influential in both obvious and subtle ways.
Even if you never listened to Vulcano before, this sound is probably familiar to you. Low production values, thrashy riffs on the verge of becoming something else, blast beats, and groovy sections taking turns while someone unleashes foul blasphemy into a microphone. This is the sound of a very specific period: the mid-80s, and, more specifically, the birth of extreme metal.
Metal music was never popular in Brasil; the little potential it may have had during the 70s was brought down to the ground not only by popular preference but also by the censorship perpetrated by the Military regime that started in 1964. The most popular rock acts in my country back then were Jovem Guarda, a collective of musicians led by O Rei (Portuguese for “the king”) Roberto Carlos, whose music sounded remarkably similar – to say the least – to The Beatles‘s early career. Some of the most creative artists at the time were exiled by the government. Others, like Raul Seixas and Os Mutantes played inventive and somewhat transgressive music, but none of it was heavy. None of it was metal.
At the beginning of the 1980s winds of change began to blow. Dire economic conditions and popular dissatisfaction forced the government to lift some of its restrictions on civil rights in order to stay alive. In tandem, tape trading culture grew exponentially, with some bands achieving a previously unthinkable reach on a worldwide level. Vulcano was formed in 1981 in Santos, the most important portuary city in the country. It is hard to say with certainty, but they were probably the first extreme metal band in Brasil and perhaps in South America as a whole.
Their first full-length record Bloody Vengeance was released in 1986 as an instant classic, an album truly defining and groundbreaking for its age. Seeping from early extreme metal stalwarts Hellhammer, Celtic Frost and Bathory, the Brazilians delivered 24 minutes of vile metal music without a single weak spot. One of the earliest examples of blast beats in metal, tracks “Spirits Of Evil” and “Ready To Explode” charge forth with fury. The guitar work is commendable, featuring curb stomping riffs that wouldn’t sound out of place in an Obituary record (like the intro riffs of “Holocaust” and the title track). The soloing in “Bloody Vengeance” boasts the same high level of quality; a personal favorite of mine.
A pioneer record of this quality would not be released unnoticed. This LP is directly responsible for shaping the sound and careers of legendary Brazilian bands like Sepultura (early on), Sarcófago, Sextrash and, to a lesser extent, Mystifier. Recently there’s been a huge influx of new bands in the war/beastial metal subgenre, with a lot of the greatest representatives of this insular sound hailing from South America. Slaughtbbath, Atomicide, Goat Semen are some of the names that come to mind.
Massive regional and genre influence is not all that Bloody Vengeance accomplished. In the same fashion of other Groundbreakers inductees, there are ripples of Vulcano’s impact to be found in many other places, spreading from band to band.
For example, Fenriz of Darkthrone has been vocal of how Sarcófago was a big milestone for him and the Second Wave of Norwegian Black Metal in general – mostly because of their aesthetics and raw production than their actual songwriting. Fun fact: what may have been a stylistic choice for those bands was a real economic setback for the Brazilians, who lacked the money to buy high quality equipment (which was most likely imported from the US) and had to settle for Chinese knock offs or cheap national brands.
Some might view this as a stretch, but some of the most melodic, NWOBHM-infused riffs in “Death Metal” also made their way into the Second Wave, best performed on Dissection‘s brilliant first two albums. Whether this was a product of a direct influence or similar tastes is hard to tell.
In sum, Vulcano’s Bloody Vengeance is a remarkably important piece of metal music history more than worthy of a place on the Groundbreakers hall of fame. This year, Greyhaze Records reissued Bloody Vengeance alongside a DVD featuring a live performance in Festival Da Morte (1986). You can pick up this cult classic 6 panel digipak from the label, or buy a digital copy over at Bandcamp.
Groundbreakers is the Toilet ov Hell’s Hall ov Fame where we induct some of the most important and influential metal albums of all time. Catch up on previous entries into this hallowed bowl.
Neurosis – Souls at Zero
Death – Symbolic
Fear Factory – Demanufacture
Voivod – Killing Technology
Today is the Day – Temple of the Morning Star
Avenged Sevenfold – City of Evil
The Moody Blues – Days of Future Passed
Acid Bath – When the Kite String Pops
Ministry – The Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Taste