Like Tony Martin era Sabbath, Sepultura plough on, indifferent to the sounds of demands for a reunion.
On this front, Paulo Jr. and Andreas Kisser have to be commended.
Lesser bands would have caved in years ago but, when your former front man and drummer are making a mockery of themselves on stage these days, it’s easy to say no.
Truth be told, it’s the Cavaleras who want a reunion. Because they know the game’s up.
Think about it this way: last time Soulfly played Dublin, it was in the Academy Green Room (capacity 500) and wasn’t sold out. Sepultura played the main Academy (capacity 800) and it sold out no problem.
Of course, you could argue there’s more attachment to a band name as opposed to the individuals, but that’s a different argument altogether.
They’ve also been fairly prolific over the last twenty odd years since Max left. The releases have been lauded by a crowd who accept and respect the fact that the band are going in different directions, but all the releases have fallen into a predictable pattern: they come out, get reviewed and then that’s it.
There’s little in the way of a buzz outside the hardcore fan base, and even the buzz around the live shows involve people saying “can’t wait to hear ‘Refuse/Resist’ etc etc” with no mention of the new material.
And so, we bring ourselves to ‘Machine Messiah.’
Release Of Emotions
First off, Camille Dela Rosa deserves full props for the cover. It is amazing. Jumps out at you in the way Michel (Away) Langevin’s artwork always does. Meticulous and full of colour. It really sells the album to the listener.
The title track begins proceedings, with a delicately picked intro and some overdubbed lead guitar. Decent enough intro, then the band kick in, with Derrick Green almost crooning the words “alone, awake, lord…Come and free the beast” while Kisser plays a climbing style riff. Once again, decent enough.
It hits it’s first peak as Kisser gives us a short break, with the same five or so notes. It fits well, representing a release of emotions from the machine. After this, we get more crooning and more climbing style riffage before the harsh vocals bring everything into place.
As an opener, it works. Decent song, great performances. It builds slowly, and hits hard on final impact.
‘I Am the Enemy’ is the sort of track you expect from Sepultura at this stage: thrash, with a little tinge of death metal in the pre chorus and a breakdown. It’s not a bad song by any stretch of the imagination, but one that could have been written any time over the past thirty odd years.
Another factor is the production, which seems to take out the liveliness and leave it rather sterile.
‘Phantom Self’ has been doing the rounds online, and seems to have polarised opinions, with some claiming Sepultura have gone djent (I’d have said Fear Factory myself).
Sure, the hands of producer Jens Bogren can certainly be felt here, but check out the work of drummer Eloy Casagrande here, adding Brazilian rhythms like Maracatu to the mix in a way that doesn’t make you sick (ala ‘Roots’) as well as (what I believe to be) a Romanian folk melody on keyboard (which it has to be said, does begins to irritate around the 3:10 mark).
It’s easy to see why this is the song they made a video for, as it does stand out a bit from the cookie cutter chugachugchug crowds that populate a good lot of metal YouTube feeds nowadays.
But it’s not the most exciting song you’ll hear this year, and surely the point of a video is to put an absolute beast of a song over it in order to get people’s attention?
In The Shadow Of The Horns
‘Alethea’, like ‘I Am the Enemy’ is another song that could have appeared any time over the last few albums, but the drumming on here pounds. ‘Iceberg Dances’ is a really cool and energetic instrumental that assembles Voivod riffage, prog rock style keyboards and flamenco to brilliant effect.
Closing with ‘Cyber God’, we go back to the template set by the title track, with spoken word and crooning being mixed in with 4/5 note riffs. Halfway through, we get double bass drum work a plenty as well as more screams, closing with a killer guitar solo.
It’s enjoyable and the shift in moods certainly add more to the palate, sonically speaking.
Unfortunately, for all that is good about the record, it’s not one that’s going to win them new fans, that’s for sure. But at least the use of horns and keyboards demonstrate the willingness to try something different.
It’s just that, like ‘Dante XXI’ (the last album I heard from Sepultura) it doesn’t inspire me to dig deeper into the Green era albums.
Really, after hearing the likes of ‘Iceberg Dances’ and knowing the history of the band, I should be making a valiant effort to catch up with the previous releases. But it leaves me with the same feeling that I had when I reviewed the last Terrorizer LP, “ach, it’s alright.”
With upcoming tours with Kreator and Testament, they’ll undoubtedly play a handful of songs from this album and the last few, which will be slowly ebbed out of the set as the tour goes on. Then they’ll record a new album and the cycle begins anew.
Unlike Tony Martin era Sabbath, Sepultura need a kick up the arse in order to get them to start grabbing people’s attention again. Get out of the comfort zone and record something that will knock EVERYONE for six. Including the Cavaleras.
The potential is there, but is the will?
2.5 / 5 – Christopher Owens ::: 05/01/17