Review by Rick Ossian
Belo Horizonte’s Sepultura are back with their 14th studio album, Machine Messiah, and it is every bit as good as I was expecting to be, if not more. I need to stop worrying about some of these Thrash vocalists, however. It seems no matter how much I wonder whether or not they are trashing their vocal chords, they always seem to be able to lay open their lungs with the best of them, even when it sounds like they are singing blood. Derrick Green (vocalist extraordinaire) is a case in point. You can almost feel him peeling back the layers when he is in full on meltdown mode. Lord knows you can definitely hear him. If something’s not splitting in two then we are talking about a modern musical miracle of sorts!
Vocal histrionics aside, Sepultura do themselves proud with this, their latest efforts in the worldwide monster that is Thrash Metal. To catch up anyone who isn’t up to speed on their current personnel, joining Derrick on their respective axes are Andreas Kisser on guitars, Eloy Casagrande on drums and general percussive madness and Paulo Jr. on bass. Together they form a very tightly knit unit, evidenced by the incredible stop-on-a-dime arrangements included herein. Those of you who are still missing brothers Max and Igor Cavalera will just have to bite the bullet.
The title track starts things off with aplomb. There is a beautiful guitar intro to begin with, followed shortly by doom and gloom, creepy vocals. About three minutes in we get full-blown growling and screaming by Derrick, accompanied by some heavy riffing. Four minutes in finds us with wailing guitar leads and vocal FX. Derrick informs us at the close that we are to “bow down to the Machine Messiah!” Mechanics of the metal mavens, to be sure.
I Am the Enemy is a short, sharp, shocking slam to the system. Ramones-style in length (2:27), it nonetheless contains no less then two blistering step-on-the-wah solos. This is some seriously floor-board metal thrash we are hearing here, folks! No wanna be’s allowed. Only the REAL deal. And shit just got VERY real.
Phantom Self rolls out some nice percussive slam on the intro, which I’m told is indicative of a real Sepulturian ass-kicker! There are some stop-start dynamics here that may remind the casual listener of some prog they might have heard down the road back a ways. It also might stop your heart if you’re not careful, and maybe even tear your head off! These sorts of complex arrangements, the kind when they stop on a dime and turn almost completely around – are not unheard of in the Thrash world. They are more common in, say, perhaps a Metallica or an Anthrax tune, but then we are in good company, aren’t we? About three-and-a-half minutes in we get a good, long melodic shred, which gives way to what sounds like violin strings. No matter – the two duel it out soon enough, and we all love a good duel now don’t we? Doom and gloom drums and guitars save the day in the end. We had fun getting there, right? I know I did!
Alethea begins life as a quasi-instrumental, and only at 1:15 do we hear a vocal. It is wrapped in very fast, tight guitar work, and accompanied by a near perfect melodic shred at the 3:35 mark. This is not necessarily a dud, just a bit shy of where we were before. No matter – keep listening if you want to hear the really good stuff!
Iceberg Dances IS a complete instrumental. Not only that, it is a complete jam! Twenty seconds in, and we’re already hearing some incendiary soloing from the boys. There are loads and loads of guitars on board here, riffing as well as flights of fancy shredding. There are also some keyboard noises here, even a short keys solo, if you will – but don’t let it slow you down or fool you. This is uptempo for most of its entirety. It is also very percussive, again a very Sepulturian thing for them to do! There is also some lovely acoustic guitar work in the mix. One big finish later and we rack up one of the best metal instrumentals I’ve heard in quite some time.
Sworn Oath is absolutely scary. The main riff is excellent, and aside from the fact that there is a fucking chilling vibe to the whole tune, they still manage to lay down a pretty convincing jam! There is some really melodic, ripping shredding going on here as well. Notable points are at 2:44 and 4:30. There are some super-creepy vocal FX about five minutes in, which gives way to some lovely musical madness shortly afterward. There is a big finish, almost grandiose. Still, a lovely jam!
Resistant Parasites may also scare the crap out of you (“infecting to survive, disastrous…suffering”– just a sample of the lyrical content). There are all sorts of big noise on this track – BIG bass, big vocals, big violin/keyboard sounds on top loads and loads of guitars. There is another nice instrumental breakdown, right next to a brief vocal interlude, and tons of riffing. At three minutes in we get another blistering shred-filled solo. Even what I like to refer to as super sonic shred there for a bit…Great stuff!
Silent Violence is another very intense jam. It jams from beginning to end, and it sounds as if we’re on our way to Riff City via Heavy as Fuck Avenue! We get a whammy-bar heavy solo at about a minute in (WOW), then some real weirdness (1:50) that I really can’t explain, butted up next to another instrumental breakdown of sorts…nice but weird, like I said – kind of different. There are lots of vocal acrobatics here, so naturally I’m wondering if Derrick shredded his vocal chords (again) while the boys were shredding away on their axes.
Vandals Nest is another short, sharp slam, in keeping with the possible Ramones attitude mentioned earlier. Hit them hard, hit them fast, leave only the strong standing. You had better hold on to something if you’re going to listen to this number. That’s right, folks, it’s a breakneck speed alert! And with good reason, too. Very fast and very tight. A heavy melodic slam with a bit of shred (erm, well sort of) at 1:25. Otherwise, super sonic thrash again!
Cyber God is a very fitting piece for the end. It is almost a master work, if you want to know the truth. Is there such a thing in thrash metal? This one is slower, bigger, louder, then faster and meaner with plenty of stomping, marching vocal FX and guitar smashing melodies with speed. There are two noteworthy ‘atmospheric’ shreddings in here to hear; one comes at only thirty seconds in, and the second is at about 2:30. Both may bear repeated listening. You, dear reader, shall be the judge there. Oh, and just as a side note – there are some clean vocals on board here – but they sound kind of robotic! Hence the title, I surmise. Check these blokes out now before you can’t touch them!