Friday, December 6, 2013

Review - Sepultura returns to Form

The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be The Heart

Sepultura, post the departure of original lead vocalist Max Cavalera, has never released a cd I "had" to run out and listen too. Their newest album came across my desk several weeks ago and I tossed it in the "will get to it when I have nothing else to listen to" pile. So this morning after perusing the vast wasteland aka current itunes playlist on my desktop and finding less than savory options, I decided to throw this album a bone. As a Cavalera loyalist it has always been difficult for me to listen to Derrick Green's vocals on any album branded SEPULTURA. I believe since my first listen to CHAOS AD, the lyrics "Biotech is Godzirra" have been permanently cemented into my cerebral cortex and that lineup will always be held to highest regards in this fan's heart. As a reviewer, it is often difficult to wipe the slate clean of a band's best effort in order to listen to the current offering with new ears.

Since this is actually my first foray into the new lineup after a fifteen year absence as a listener, consider this a fresh start. I'll admit that it helps that my favorite metal drummer appears on one of these tracks. Dave Lombardo, recently exiled from Slayer, lends some of his signature percussion on the brutal track "Obsessed". Surprisingly this isn't the only track I enjoy on this cd. For the most part this whole cd echoes some of the best moments of Chaos AD without completely sounding like a band rehashing old riffs. The vocals are what I expected, with Green sometimes sounding like he's having a hard time keeping up with the pace of the band. "Trauma of War" is the opening track, it's heavy, fast, extreme and kind of what the band needed to respond with considering Max Cavalera has been going increasingly (with the exception of the latest soulfly cd) in that direction for several years now. It is clear that this band even if they will not admit it, notice what their former band mates have been up to. Is it convincing enough to keep this listener interested? Indeed. Cut to the second track, "The Vatican", that begins with a great transition from the solemn church bells to a Pantera-esqu shred fest. A much heavier direction for this band than I thought they were willing to pull off. The vocals are pretty epic on this and it appears Green has finally reached the potential that so many fans have been waiting for. New drummer, Eloy Casagrande, is a powerhouse and has a really upbeat tempo that fills out a lot of the songs on the album. "Impending Doom" is a straightforward track that reminds me very much of a slowed down version of Pantera's "strength beyond strength".

Sepultura is Eloy, Derrick, Paulo Jr, Andreas
"Manipulation" pulls influences right off the bat from "slave new world" and "propaganda". Not bad source material. Green's vocals are a bit more "nailbombish" on this and it seems to work. The tribal breakdown really hearkens back to the Chaos AD sound as well. "Tsunami" opens with a nice bit of primitive cymbal work and heavy bass but the distortion throws the track off wildly and makes this the least enjoyable of the listens. "The Bliss of Ignorants" is also highlighted by some really interesting percussion and riffs. The song itself I'm not crazy about but seeing the potential of what the band is capable of is promising. Let's move on to "Grief". This might be more of a concept song and a throwaway at that. Not much interesting going on with the tune and that makes three tracks back to back that really lack direction and are probably closer to what they were doing with their sound before this release. "The Age of the Atheist" kicks in and is a bouncier tune with once again some really great percussion. Eloy deserves a raise. Overall the song feels like a good later track to throw in and the upbeat musicianship mixed with the slower howling vocals works for me.

As I commented before "Obsessed" is a great track for Lombardo to play on.
Dave Lombardo(Slayer
A song that goes further back into the Sep' catalogue style and is fast as hell. A classic Thrash tune that fits Lombardo like a glove. Finally we close this album with "Da Lama Ao Caos" complete with Andreas Kisser on vocals. Interestingly this track originally was released by the band Chico Science & Nacao Zumbi back in 1994, just one year after the release of Chaos AD. It's a really cool track that has all of the traditional Brazilian elements and groove I would expect from a Soulfly track. Was this just following the trend of bands like Testament who decide to toss on some cover tracks toward the end of their album or a quick shot across the bow at their former band mates?

My overall conclusion is that this a good album for fans that dropped off like me to pick back up on. After the squabbles and attacks in the media it's difficult to not want to side with one band over the other. I'll always be loyal to Max and Igor's sound but I do realize as a fan to appreciate when a band rights the ship and gives into what we expect once in a while. All bullshit aside, Sepultura lives!

(p.s. Make sure to sit still for the hidden Drum solo track, they know a good drummer when they've got one.)

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