Once someone gets into extreme metal, they find a point of glorious musical stupidity that they gravitate to. This point is normally either war metal (i.e. Revenge, GoatPenis, Conqueror) or the most delightfully moronic slam (i.e. the first Abominable Putridity record, Cephalotripsy). How did these endpoints come to be? Slam is an entire genre based primarily on one Suffocation riff and secondarily on gurgling and “ping” or “pong” snares. War metal is a poisonous brew of black metal and grindcore, but not in the industrial way of Anaal Nathrakh’s first record and EP. It’s more the Napalm Death Scum mold: indecipherable to the untrained ear, and so extreme as to almost seem like a joke. But a joke it is not; Revenge Is.Very.Serious. — just ask them. As Suffocation came from a pool of influences, so too did Revenge and Conqueror — and in this pool swims Brazilian extreme metal horde Holocausto, and Diario de Guerra is fresh blood in the water.
Why the brief, incomplete history lesson matters is because Holocausto was, along with primordial Sepultura, Sarcofago, Blasphemy, and others, first wave war metal (or “bestial black metal,” for those opposed to the war metal tag). Where Conqueror’s War.Cult.Supremacy is essentially one reading of the Nietzschean will to power set to music expressed through the idea of total war, Holocausto still retains the idea of fairly typical song structures, identifiable and obvious riffs, and an overall sense of coherence that war metal often appears to lack. This is still blistering stuff: it’s first wave black metal, primitive fast death metal (or death-thrash), and grindcore rolled up into one nasty package. As Brazil seemed to have its own particular sound and essence back in the late 80s/early 90s, the obvious and correct comparisons are Sepultura’s Morbid Visions, Sarcofago’s I.N.R.I., Vulcano’s Bloody Vengeance, Mutilator’s Immortal Force, and of course Holocausto’s own entry into that canon Campo de Exterminio. All these records, it should be noted, came out in the two-year period of 1986 and 1987; it is this particular snapshot in time which Holocausto aims to capture on their new material.
Holocausto in 2019 is far from the most extreme thing on the block. While Reign in Blood was the benchmark for (relatively) popular extremity in 1986, today the extreme in metal is relatively commonplace. Diario de Guerra, therefore, needs to stand out on other merits, of which the nostalgic pull of a return to simpler — perhaps purer — metal times is their obvious idea, both aesthetically and compositionally. First, the cover: in extreme metal’s artistic niche, it’s timeless. Not artificially dated and not pandering, it’s the start of quality nostalgia. The next step is to make something that makes the memory worth remembering. Blazing out of the gates after a seemingly obligatory intro “soundscape,” Holocausto’s eponymous song gets the blood pumping immediately. It sounds like it wasn’t played to a metronome, with the final chords of the riff almost sounding rushed in a live way. The riff is good, but it’s the energy that sells it — and this carries throughout the record. “Guerra Total Apocalipse” has a taste of Slayer to it, and it brings the memories of early extreme metal flooding back. This is the sound of a band playing as extreme as they can, with nothing but their own chops and knowledge of their own material to aid them.
Holocausto haven’t written a modern classic here but have presented a nice return to 1986-1987 that’s refreshing and exciting. Once the music starts, the production emphasizes the live aspects of the sound. The title track allows you to practically hear the picking in its opening riff, and the drums have varied volumes as they’re hit with varied force because nothing here is replaced or triggered. Vocally, we’re treated to barely processed, larynx-shredding screaming — no tricks here save water and lozenges. What holds Diario de Guerra back a bit is that the listener remembers the aura, the ethos, the “vibe” more than any specific riff, song, transition, or structure. The upside of this is the urge to hear the full album instead of this or that song — another charming and welcome throwback in the age of endless curated Spotify playlists and the perpetual shuffle listening experience.
Purposefully anachronistic yet wholly authentic, Holocausto have succeeded in creating a legitimate old-school proto-war-metal record with Diario de Guerra. It’s not for every listener nor every occasion, but when the itch for the extreme in its early form comes, Holocausto in 2019 is definitely up to scratch.
- But, just in case you need ONE… nuclearwarnowproductions.bandcamp.com/album/di-rio-de-guerra. ↩