Sound — 9
Sepultura is the Brazilian band originally formed by the Cavalera brothers in 1984 after the death of their father and their discovery of extreme metal. For years the band acted as a creative vehicle of the members, though primarily the Cavalera brothers. After Max left in 1996, and eventually formed Soulfly, this left his brother Igor (drums) and Paulo Jr. (bass guitar) as the only original members. Igor Cavalera left the band in 2007, apparently in response to a failed attempt to reunite Max Cavalera with the band for a reunion concert/tour. Andreas Kisser (lead guitar, backing vocals), while not a founding member, has been with the band since 1987. Derrick Green (lead vocals, rhythm guitar) has been a member since shortly after Max Cavalera left the band, joining in 1997. This makes Eloy Casagrande (drums) the newest member of the band. "The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart" is the first time since the release of the critically acclaimed album, "Roots," to have Ross Robinson acting as producer. The first single from the album was released in late September, "The Age of the Atheist," where it was met with mostly positive responses from fans. The album contains 10 tracks with a runtime of 68 minutes. A solid 25 of those minutes are taken up by the last track, "Da Lama Ao Caos," which is a cover of a track by Chico Science and Nação Zumbi. The last track is actually only 4 1/2 minutes long, followed by almost 13 minutes of silence, then the rest of the track is filled with a drum/percussion solo.
The album opens up with the track "Trauma of War," which at first was kind of disappointed as it starts out with static and lo-fi noise and my first thought was "oh, they're going to try to be artsy," but then the heavy came in. With some very fast riffing and aggressive drumming and vocals the track definitely carries itself forward at a good pace. The next track, "The Vatican," opens up with some bells and a creepy little melody with some chanting laid on top that lasts just long enough to really create the mood for the track to live in. Once the guitar and drums come in, this is easily one of the heaviest tracks I've heard from Sepultura in a while. As a change of pace, "Impending Doom" is heavy right from the get-go and is groove-heavy with some creative use of string noise in the riffing and chugging. "Manipulation of Tragedy" has an aggressive intro with a stop/start feel to it (and even includes a short "bass only" repetition of the riff). Some interesting use of a tremolo effect on the guitars and some tribal sounding percussion in the second half of the song really adds to the overall vibe of the track. "Tsunami" is another track where the band is being creative in the intro, but the riff comes in pretty quickly after that - and honestly one of the best guitar riffs from the album. The lead guitar is once again messing around with a little bit of tremolo in the background which adds some extra texture to the album. "The Bliss of Ignorants" is next up, and this one starts out immediately with some more tribal/native sounding percussion and kind of builds into heaviness from there. This track is a prime example of what makes Derrick Green an excellent metal vocalist - the raw aggression in his voice is well displayed on this track, with just the right processing/effects added for this track. "Grief" is a little unusual for the album, really feeling like a 180 degree turn in sound and not really getting heavy until almost halfway through the track. Instead, "Grief" relies on creating a creepy/sinister soundscape with a relatively clean guitar and minimal drums and vocals. When the song DOES get heavy, it is a much slower tempo than the rest of the album, and much more groove than the other tracks. This is immediately one of my favorite tracks of the album. "The Age of the Atheist," which is also the first single, is probably the band's clearest message on the album - basically saying that government, religion and prophecies are all diversions from living in reality. While I respect bands that have a message, this still ended up being possibly my least favorite track on the album (though it definitely had its high points). "Obsessed" is next up and interestingly enough contains the only guest musician on the album, Dave Lombardo from Slayer, who is involved with a portion of the drumming in the middle part of the song. The guitar parts on the album seem too dependent on chugs and gallops to be interesting, but the drumming is truly intense. "Da Lama Ao Caos" closes the album out, and this is definitely an interesting cover - using a lot of native/tribal percussion mixed in with the heaviness that is Sepultura, as well as the only track on the album that features truly clean vocals (in Portuguese). After a long pause at the end of the track you get to hear a nice long drum/percussion solo which really was a nice ending for the album.
Lyrics — 8
Derrick Green does an excellent job with the vocals, somehow coming across in a heavy-as-sh-t voice that can still be clearly understood. A large portion of the absolute vitality and aggression on this album could be attributed to his stellar vocal performance for most of the album. As always, Sepultura isn't just trying to be as heavy as possible, but they're doing it with groove and with a message. That message is oftentimes very straightforward as on their single, "The Age of the Atheist": "What do you see depends of what you are looking for/ and what are you looking for/ needs to be believed/ It needs to exist in your head, you need to believe to disbelief/ What do you believe depends on the idea planted in your mind/ what type of seeds have been planted? / What do you believe depends on what you see/ Diversions are blocking our vision from the truth, the clear reality/ Diversions turn our world to shit must stop. DENY! / No Gods, no leaders, no prophets telling my future! / No heaven, no hell, not a messiah! / The needle of our medicine injecting poison vaccines/ Our veins no longer carry blood - robotized - I DENY! / No news, no ads, no anchor telling us lies/ No secrets, no war, there's no savior!"
Overall Impression — 8
Honestly, I almost feel like it is a double-cross to Soulfly to like the new Sepultura album, but the ears like what they like. This is probably my favorite album from Sepultura in quite a while. (I was one of the fans who discovered them in the '90s amidst all the grunge music that was floating around. Despite my enjoyment of grunge music, Sepultura always had a special place in my heart.) While I still like Max Cavalera and Soulfly more, in concept, I have to give props to Sepultura here - this is a bad-a-s album. Again, I find myself comparing this album to the recent Soulfly release, "Savages" - the drums and percussion are absolutely brilliant on this album vs. "Savages." The message, while similar, is much clearer and eloquently put on "The Mediator...", in addition to having a better overall vocal performance by Derrick Green. Needless to say at this point, but this is an excellent album.