Sound — 8
The post-Cavalera bros era of Sepultura may be a bittersweet reality, and fans may still be hoping for a Cavalera/Kisser reunion to occur, but Sepultura have continued to stay a strong metal band regardless. With their current streak of albums being concept-driven, 2009's synth-adorned "A-Lex" was a crowd-pleasing nod to "A Clockwork Orange," whereas 2011's "Kairos," despite its lofty concept aimed at time and anthologizing the band's many styles, arguably missed its marks, but was redeemed by its successor, the theatrical and thrashy likes of 2013's "The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart."
Now on their fourteenth album, "Machine Messiah," Sepultura continue their stride by reiteration, and do it strongly. From stoking classic thrash energy in "I Am the Enemy" and "Vandals Nest," Slipknot-esque nu metal in "Phantom Self," textural noise-play in "Cyber God," and blackened tremolo in "Resistant Parasites," Andreas Kisser and Derrick Green's riffing offers a bigger variety of metal styles compared to the band's previous two albums, and the additional sonic flavors of string arrangements in "Sworn Oath" and Latin percussion/acoustic riffing in "Iceberg Dances" further widens this scope. Kisser's lead guitarwork also ramps up even higher compared to "The Mediator...," heard in his shredding in the eponymous opener and frenetic tapping fits in "Resistant Parasites," but the rhythm section has spotlight moments of its own, like Eloy Casagrande's furious drumming in "Alethea" and "Iceberg Dances."
Lyrics — 7
With their previous album's concept focusing on religion and what negative effects it has had in the world, the concept of "Machine Messiah" carries that theme of worship and applies it to the modern obsession and dependency on technology. But despite being the titular theme, the album's lyrics only revolve around technology in "Cyber God" ("Behind the glow / Is a darkness showing / A strangling guilt / With selfish motives") and the allusion to the fate of singularity in the eponymous song ("I'll cure humanity / Shelter, security / I'll make you part of me, I have returned"), and the majority of the album's lyrics focus on the band's favored theme of world corruption, from conniving overlords in "I Am the Enemy" ("What do you see and what do you hear? / Conspiracy plots in a culture of fear"), absence of justice in society in "Alethea" ("Do you believe in justice for all / Or choose to be callous and cruel?"), and rampant greed ("Raise profits / Shares rising / Look what they've got / Resistant parasites infecting to survive / Disastrous consequences"). It may be well-worn territory for Sepultura, but it's as timely as can be given recent events in their own country of Brazil and plenty other places in the world.
Overall Impression — 8
As metal veterans that are still kicking, Sepultura's recent strategy of keeping their expanding catalog interesting has focused more on the lyrical themes they can weave into their tried and true sound, rather than trying to reinvent their metal style. This time around, the concept of "Machine Messiah" may not be as solid as "Kairos" or "A-Lex," but their metal output is a palpable improvement from their past two albums, both in its variety and in its ferocity.