Brazilian thrash artists Sepultura can be summarised by two distinct eras: one with Max Cavalera, and one without. While the Cavalera brothers are off touring the 20 year anniversary of seminal sixth record ‘Roots’, whilst the band (fronted by vocalist Derrick Green for the last 19 years) are set to release their 14th studio record, ‘Machine Messiah’.
Those 19 years have been inconsistent to say the least. No doubt in part attempting to pine for those fans who lust for the Max-era Sepultura to return (rumours are still flying around about that long awaited reunion), but the band have failed to light the same fires that brought them to prominence in the mid-90s. So, it’s with great interest that the start of this new record is so strong.
The opener and title-track moves along at a lumbering pace and is relatively doomy in places, while a couple of decent Andreas Kisser solos help to give the song a bit of diversity. ‘I Am The Enemy’ ramps the pace up significantly, with speedy guitar interplay and Green‘s harsh chanting vocals coming to the forefront.
This form continues through ‘Phantom Self’, where dense and thunderously heavy guitars combine with faint hints of synth melody in the background at various points of the song. A brief experimentation with some odd electronics halfway give the track a slightly orchestral feel, which lends to an interestingly large shift in dynamic.
Unfortunately, at this point, the album (bar a couple of stronger moments) takes a disappointingly meandering journey to its conclusion. ‘Alethea’ is typical Sepultura fare replete with tribal drum intro and catchy guitar riffing, and ‘Silent Violence’ has changing levels of technicality and melody but lacks anything that even remotely sticks in the mind, and ‘Iceberg Dances’ stands as a relatively pointless and uninspiring instrumental.
However, there are the aforementioned highlights. ‘Sworn To Oath’ has a militant lead guitar riff running throughout, breaking out into a slightly slower pace complete with symphonic elements in the background. The chorus here is hugely anthemic, and adds real depth the overall stylistic feel of the song. The closing passage of ‘Resistance Parasites’ slows the main head-banging guitar riff into something that reeks with heaviness, while ‘Cyber God’ adds a layer of Fear Factory industrialism, factoring in mechanical riffing and the odd melodic vocal passage from Green.
After 33 years of creating music, ‘Machine Messiah’ offers an interesting blend of thrash metal, hardcore, and metalcore with flurries of doom and symphonic elements thrown in for good measure, altogether creating a body of work that’s both reminiscent of older material and bold enough to venture into experimental territory. It’s a shame that some of the aforementioned inconsistencies have held this back from being a great album, but there’s plenty here for the die-hard fan and the newcomer to embrace.
Written by Neil Criddle (@DJCriddz)