Thrash ‘Til Death #06: Dorsal Atlântica (Brazil) 1984-1994

THRASH ‘TIL DEATH is a 50 week long set of features exploring the legends who crossed over between thrash and death metal between 1983-1993. The focus is primarily on under-served, unknown, and exemplar bands/releases. The selection is comprehensive but the numbering is not indicative of any type of rank or value: The order of appearance is arbitrarily chosen. E-mail me if you want to suggest any relevant bands!


Although they’ve been given credit and hailed as old school heroes throughout Brazil the greater world remains oblivious to the fascinating discography of Dorsal Atlântica. The greater São Paulo region had Vulcano and Korzus, Belo Horizonte would eventually produce Overdose and Sepultura, but Rio de Janeiro would luck out with obscure heavy metal gems like Excalibur, the Azul Limão/Metalmorphose folks and the wild ways of punkish speed metallers Dorsal Atlântica. Truth be told I don’t know the whole story, a great DVD was made exploring the history of the band but as far as I know it doesn’t contain sub-titles, all that I’ll dig up here will be modestly sourced. All I gather from the first three years of this bands life from ’81-’84 was that they arrived at a love of Motörhead and Venom before extreme metal hit Brazil, it wouldn’t be long before they were thrashing hard along with the best of ’em. This time around I’m breaking my own rule and reaching beyond 1993 to discuss their 1994 record ‘Alea Jacta Est’ because without it I think you’re missing the bigger picture.

Artist Dorsal Atlântica / Metalmorphose
Title [Type/Year] Ultimatum [Split EP/1984]
Rating [3.25/5.0] LISTEN on YouTube!

These two very young heavy metal bands from Rio de Janeiro who could barely play their instruments made a huge impression on the Brazilian heavy metal scene of the time with their punkish NWOBHM influenced sound. Neither were truly impressive at this point but in terms of Dorsal Atlântica vocalist Carlos Lopes had this wild speed metal howl and shriek style that is almost too fun for the dark and serious subject matter he’d sing about. I’ll admit that Metalmorphose makes a better showing here in terms of songwriting but the unhinged and hardcore punk influenced sound of Dorsal Atlântica holds up a bit more for my own tastes. This isn’t essential listening but it’ll make that first Vulcano 7″ look like a raw turd by comparison.


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Artist Dorsal Atlântica
Title [Type/Year] Antes Do Fim [Full-length/1986]
Rating [4.0/5.0] LISTEN on YouTube!

No doubt Possessed and Venom had hit Brazil hard by 1985 and if you scour the country for thrash full-lengths at that time most of the bands were playing some kind of crossover influenced by Ratos de Porão. ‘Crucificados pelo Sistema’ absolutely influenced Lobotomia, Armagedom, Sepultura but that influence was less obvious on Dorsal Atlântica‘s debut full-length ‘Antes do Fim’ a hidden gem of raw thrash, 80’s death metal, and with some crossover thrash influences. The record is considered one of the first to mix punk with metal in Brazil and I’ll have to generally take their word for it, though I think it is more vital as a true thrash record that came before ‘Morbid Visions’ and ‘Bloody Vengeance’ both of which were very raw and nearly unlistenable prior to remasters much later. For whatever reason this record reminds me of the earlier Vader demos, and that could just be the ‘Hell Awaits’ influence but either way this is an important release for Brazilian extreme metal.


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Artist Dorsal Atlântica
Title [Type/Year] Dividir & Conquistar [Full-length/1988]
Rating [3.75/5.0] LISTEN on YouTube!

Two years later the band would enter the studio with producer José Nilton, who would also produce Eros ‘Road to Wisdom’ and Metralion‘s ‘Quo Vadis’ in the same weirdly unbalanced manner. The mix is choppy and the overdubs are less than smooth but it should be immediately obvious that Dorsal Atlântica were aiming for a more technical form of thrash on their second full-length and this would have been entirely appropriate and expected at the time. If you enjoyed the Trash ‘Til Death entry for Transmetal you’re likely going to enjoy this record for its raw recording and pre-death metal heaviness. No doubt their love of Hellhammer and Venom shows throughout their discography but I feel like it starts to get a little sloppy when the riffs are trying to transition between ‘Release From Agony’ style technicality. If you’re really bought into ‘Schizophrenia’ like I am, this is one of those records folks always suggest as an “If you like… you’ll like…” comparison but ‘Dividir & Conquistar’ always felt like a mess next to the incredible thrash talent Brazil as a whole was sporting in the late 80’s.


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Artist Dorsal Atlântica
Title [Type/Year] Searching For the Light [Full-length/1989]
Rating [4.25/5.0] LISTEN on YouTube!

Not available on CD until 2009 and only available to me as a very expensive dog-eared 12″ copy from the Wild Rags Records limited run in 1990 ‘Searching For the Light’ represents one of the greatest challenges of my own personal record collection. When I see this LP I get happy very fast because I had to work for it and had gotten ripped off twice on eBay at the time (mid-2005). It is the sort of record that has me fantasizing about reissuing/remastering if I ever do fire up my own label because I truly believe if it had been easier to find it would be remembered more fondly. This is above-average thrash metal for the time with a technical/progressive thrash metal sound as ‘Searching For the Light’ would be the first of three high-concept albums from Dorsal Atlântica. The story they tell here is one of mans struggle within his hopeless station in society. Not only is it paranoid, frustrated, and honestly timeless with its examination of inequality but the music here is fantastic. If you’re familiar with Disciples of Power‘s ‘Ominous Prophecy’ and ‘Invincible Enemy’ you need to check this record out because the riffs and sound here is comparable and came a few years previous. If you’re a fan of technical thrash riffing, seek this one out best as you can. It is a fucking tragedy that Wild Rags didn’t do shit for this band! This album deserves better.


Dorsal Atlantica-1992 Musical guide from Stellium front & outer

Artist Dorsal Atlântica
Title [Type/Year] Musical Guide From Stellium [Full-length/1992]
Rating [4.0/5.0] LISTEN on YouTube!

This one is easier to find thanks go Cogumelo picking up the CD version. It also sees an interesting stylistic change for the band that lands somewhere between thrash, death metal and heavy/groove metal. Not the kind of groove metal you’re expecting this is just bigger, heavier grooves applied to their death/thrash rhythms. There is an idiotic review of this record on Metal-Archives suggesting this progressive death/thrash record was ‘commercialized’ or whatever but it couldn’t be further from the truth. Compared to the actually bad groove records from bands like The Mist, Chakal, and Overdose that would come soon after this plays much more like a death metal album and having been released in 1993 didn’t even have the scent of ‘Chaos A.D.’ applied. So, if you’re a death or thrash metal purist don’t shy away from this based on the foul, lazy misinformation surrounding it. This would be the second of three concept albums from Dorsal Atlântica and for many people who would never hear ‘Searching For the Light’ this would be the introduction to this more ‘death metal’ version of the band, without that transitional album this will feel majorly abrupt coming off of ‘Dividir & Conquistar’. This is as close as any classic Brazilian thrash band came to progressive metal that was true to the original scene, which I know is a weird statement but you’ll understand once you’re neck deep in their mixture of progressive thrash, death metal, and hardcore punk. I don’t own this record and as such I don’t really understand the concept of the album, from what I gather it deals vaguely with the cycle of destruction and rebuilding that sustains mankind.


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Artist Dorsal Atlântica
Title [Type/Year] Alea Jacta Est [Full-length/1994]
Rating [3.25/5.0] LISTEN on YouTube!

Upon firing up ‘Alea Jacta Est’ you’ll hear those brutal Brazilian groove metal influences have finally landed within their sound but the album more or less continues the style of ‘Musical Guide From Stellium’. The heavy sound mixed with hardcore influences definitely begins to resemble grindcore upon a cursory listen but I’d say it kinda fits into the weird ‘Diatribes’ era of Napalm Death as much as it does ‘Mexico Barbaro’ by Transmetal. I won’t do you the disservice of recommending a groove/death/whatever record from 1994 but if you want the biggest possible picture of where Dorsal Atlântica took thier sound within the space of one decade this is an interesting point to end with. I think fans of 90’s metal will find value here as their approach is still remarkably progressive with turn-on-a-dime switching between groove riffs, death metal, and their own brand of hardcore/grindcore weirdness. The more you’ll listen I think the more you’ll hear them blurring the lines in interesting ways.

The band would fade out after their ‘hardcore’ record ‘Straight’ (1996) and later reform to crowd-fund ‘2012’ (2012). This would allow for enough momentum for a couple more albums since but for my own taste the really essential Dorsal Atlântica material comes with ‘Antes Do Fim’ and ‘Searching For the Light’. I find the progression from one of Brazil’s earliest heavy metal bands towards a unique mix of progressive death/thrash music is one of the more compelling stories I’ve been able to piece together, here’s hoping I figure out how to watch that DVD!


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