Written by Mass
- Thrash Metal / Groove Metal
- February 7, 2020
- Nuclear Blast
Embrace a battle, Engage all-out war
Sepultura has always been a staple in metal, particularly thrash metal, since their conception in the early 1980’s where they were the sound of metal in Brazil and among the few who could compete with the metal scene growing – maybe even unproportionally – in the world-renowned Bay Area, with such acts as Exodus, Metallica, Testament, Death Angel, Megadeth and Blind Illusion. The original line-up of the band, with Cavalera Brothers, is still highly idolized and their work is often deemed superior to the more recent offerings of the band. I, admittedly, was one such person. Well I was until I heard this new release. I’m not saying The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart and Machine Messiah were inherently weak performances, I’m just saying this work is a cut above them.
Let me come clean first; Sepultura is yet to be what they can be and sound as they should. After years of miscalculations and unfeasible measures, wrong decisions and missteps, they are finally pulling themselves together and taking their music to a plateau higher than they have ever been; particularly, I have their classic thrash/death era in mind. They are not there yet, but they are up and moving toward that goal and I would say right on track. I can mention the symphonic sound they have recently infused into their music more proactively, or their departure from their nu-metal weight of past years and moving toward progressive metal as some illustrations of Sepultura trying to make amends.
Quadra is a 12-piece thrash fury which keeps the listener at the edge of their seat. It is surely more than simply thrash and it aims higher than your average, albeit classy, albums within this genre. It opens with a spacy ambience (intro to Isolation) and later on becomes and remains for most parts during the course of the journey proggy, it gets acoustic (Guardians of Earth intro) and above all, here and there, symphonic (Agony of Defeat). Be not mistaken, I am not saying that these innovations and variations have all worked out. Quite contrary, they have missed the mark, by miles I would say, in some cases. But the fact that they have displayed the courage to do so, to break new grounds in their music, is respectable.
One example, and maybe the major flaw with this album, is that their incorporation and execution of progressive pieces has, in the main, failed. They haven’t found the wrench to put the gears on their new cogwheel well into place… YET. The pieces feel jagged and serrated and they squeak while operating. The time signatures, the tempo changes, the riffs (the ones which were supposed to be proggy) and all sound sort of out of place and need some greasing. Take “Raging Void” as an example. Listening to the song, one might feel that there is no chemistry between the band members; it’s like the guitar is playing for himself and so do the drums. It could be even titled the weakest song on the album. But on the whole, I am positive about what they will do on the upcoming albums.
On the plus side, this album overflows with headbangable, mosh-pit-friendly riffs, all thanks to Andreas Kisser’s masterclass art of guitar. Except for said “Raging Void”, almost all the other riffs have this aspect of forceful guitar lines. Add to this, the solos which are a sight for sore eyes (or a tune for sore ears!) whenever they appear on a song. They are clean, fast, technical and to-the-point. Kisser has established himself as a reputable guitarist throughout these years, and so has Paulo Jr. on the bass. The bass lines are not negligible at all; in fact, they are on par with guitar pieces; however, they are not easy to pick while passively listening to the music.
The youngest member of the band, Eloy Casagrande, who was born years after the band had made their first release, shines dazzlingly bright behind the drumkit and demonstrates his prowess and skill. But the member whom I would pick for the top artist on this album is Derrick Green. His voice is damn strong and had it not been for some effects on his voice (such as the ones on Ali), which have actually tarnished his otherwise robust vocals, it would have been much more impactful than what it as a whole is. Also, Emmily Barreto of Far From Alaska, who provides guest vocals on “Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering” does the best she can in order not to be overpowered by Green, but she is incomparable.
One more thing which may leave the impression on the listener that it needed more diligence is the lyrics. The topics they have touched upon are similar to their recent albums: politics, addiction, social injustice, and inner struggle, as some examples. On a good handful of songs, they are thoughtful and artful at the same time (Isolation). On some others, regrettably, such as “Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering”, they seem inadequate and underwhelming.
Overall, this album is a beacon of hope. This Sepultura is a band which was desired for a while and finally surfaced and this album is a turning point in their career. The symphonic sound of the album, in particular, is much to my liking and I hope they integrate it more in the albums to come. If the band manages to hone their saw-edged proggy sound and make it flow more smoothly, grander works are upon us and more glorious days upon the band.
Highlights: Isolation – The Pentagram – Agony of Defeat
- Lyrics: 7.0
- Artwork: 8.5
- Musicianship: 8.0
- Vocals: 8.5
- Overall: 8.0
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