31 January 2017

Sepultura - Machine Messiah

The best thing to come out of Brazil since Edson Arantes do Nascimento - Pele to you and I - are back with a new album, the fourteenth in their career. And once again, it seems opinion is divided. Some reviews are praising the album and others are deriding it. And don't even get me started on the chumps who reckon the band should change their name because there are no more Cavalera's involved. Let it go, people! Fact is, Sepultura are still a good band. Sure, the early 90's glory days may be behind them, but the Derrick Green-era Sepultura still has some excellent stuff. Each release manages to bring something new to the table whilst still retaining the thrash and groove that made them famous. And while I'm off on one, "Roots" is an extremely overrated record which shamelessly tried to latch onto the then-emerging Nu Metal scene like an over-excited puppy humping it's master's leg.

Machine Messiah deals with the idea regarding the "robotization of our society", which, and I'll be honest, put me on guard for a bit. The subject of Man vs Machine is as old as Adam with countless films, TV shows and music dedicated to that subject over the years. Fear Factory made a career out of it. Then there was the cover, it looked like it belonged on a 70's prog album, the type of ones where the songs are longer than the Hundred Years War. So all of this wasn't really filling me with confidence and a couple of the song previews I heard did give me some hope. Well, we've got the album right here so I'll get down to it and review this bad boy for you all.

1) Machine Messiah. Well, this is a turn-up, a slow song with a clean opening! Usually, the first track of an album is the most catchiest song, it's purpose is to pull you in and hook you. And our man Derrick even SINGS on this! As mentioned, this is a slow song but once it goes electric, it's a nice atmosphere builder. Things get even louder towards the end with Derrick roaring the vocals and a fine solo from Andreas Kisser, a most underrated guitrist.

2) I Am The Enemy - Aww YEAH!!!  Excellent thrasher number which brings to mind some hardcore elements as well. Nice breakdown midway through the song too before it all kicks off again. This is the type of thing Sepultura excel at, their hardcore influences coming to the fore on this.

3) Phantom Self - Percussion intro, which sounds nice. Then some keyboard effects come into it whilst a snappy riff carries the vocals towards a bouncy chorus! This should go down a treat live. The whole song is really good and definitely worthy of a place on here.

4) Alethea - Another percussion intro which gives way to a song with an unusual time and rhythm. It's another corker. Main riffs are tight and sound like they're strangling someone, although it's the chorus riffs which stick with me more.

5) Iceberg Dances - Instrumental with some fine guitarwork. Fast, technical riffs. Organ solo is a bit out of the blue. Nice flamenco and percussion section too. Sounds natural instead of shoehorned.

6) Sworn Oath - Doomy, atmospheric intro with melodic guitars. However, within a minute it kicks into the kind of keyboard-guitar-drums rhythm that would put most Symphonic Black Metal bands to shame. Slow, brooding verses soon blend into choruses which are comprised of the Symphonic Black Metal rhythm. Keyboards have been a bit of a feature on this album, I guess it's one of the reasons why a couple of the reviews mentioned a Prog influence. They may have a point as aside from the keyboards, there has been a great deal of thought put into the song structures and rhythms too.

7) Resistant Parasites - Unfortunately, this song isn't half as good. It's adequate, don't get me wrong but it has a bit of an "after the lord mayor's show" vibe to it when compared to the last song. It's still thrashes like fuck and has a wicked solo, but there are better on this album.

8) Silent Violence - This one has a slow, lumbering beat to it which sounds good. Nice twin guitar harmonies in the middle as well as some more clean singing. Whilst we're here, I'd like to comment that the production has been top notch on this album.

9) Vandals Nest - A fast thrasher with some almost 80's-esque guitar melodies. Not as hardcore influenced as the other fast songs on here, it seems to hark back the the pure thrash metal days. More clean singing (or is it shouting?) which rounds things off nicely towards a furious finish.

10) Cyber God - Spoken word vocals in the intro which compliment the heavy electrics going on. More singing before going into something which sounds eerily similar to Machine Head once Robb Flynn stopped trend-hopping. For the most part, this is a slow song which ups the pace towards the end. Not fast enough to scorch the speakers but still good.

11) Chosen Skin - Bonus track which is a competent slice of thrash. It's not too bad. In fact, it's very good. Tight, technical rhythms.

12) Ultraseven No Uta - Another bonus track, which is apparently a cover. It's a bit throwaway, to be honest. Sounds like Portuguese lyrics and slightly punk-like sounds...

Make no mistake, this is a top album. As I mentioned earlier, the band have had this knack of bringing something new to the table for each release without losing the core elements of their sound which made them popular in the first place. Whilst it'll keep (the majority of) old fans happy, it should hopefully influence any new fans to check out their earlier stuff. The only bad points are a couple of tracks which don't hit the heights of the other material on here, but they're still quite good. Expect to see this album in a couple of AOTY lists in December 2017...

9/10. Almost perfect, almost.

Chris J.

Top Track: Sworn Oath.

This album is available on iTunes.


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