Thursday, 28 November 2013

Review; Sepultura - The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart

Track Listing:

1. Trauma Of War
2. The Vatican
3. Impending Doom
4. Manipulation Of Tragedy
5. Tsunami
6. The Bliss Of Ignorants
7. Grief
8. The Age Of The Atheist
9. Obsessed
10. Da Lama Ao Caos

Sepultura need little introduction to most people in the Metal community, at least that's true when you speak of classic records like 'Arise', 'Chaos A.D.', or 'Roots'. The band's efforts post-Cavalera brothers have garnered a great deal less euphoria for the Brazilian band. Something of a criminal shame considering that the Derrick Green fronted incarnation of the band has seen the release of solid records like 'A-Lex' and 'Dante XXI'. Not to mention the simplistic pleasure of the 2011 album 'Kairos'. Recently though, it's come to my attention that this year's release 'The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart' has seen a spike in interest for the Seps. It's coincidental that Soulfly have recently released the brilliant 'Savages'. Now, lets see which wins between them.

After a droning, intense beginning, music comes in with ferocity that I haven't heard from Sepultura in some time now. Anyone looking for an album like 'Kairos' should look elsewhere. Lyrics like "I saw the worst in the human nature, My hands are stained with blood of death" have real impact, or at least they do after you can get your ears past the music under which the vocals are almost hidden in the mix. This issue with the production, which was surprising considering that the band are working with 'Roots' album producer Ross Robinson, prevented me from instantly taking the album on, if I'm honest. However; after a few listens, it's not so much of a bother.

Musically, the album starts about as solid as it gets. Andreas Kisser delivers some riffs that could cut diamonds on 'The Vatican'. New drummer Eloy Casagrande is out to wow us all with incredible dexterity and power at the kit. The human mountain that is Derrick Green is on great vocal form. Combine that with guitar solos that show that Andreas is a massively underrated lead guitarist and you have all the elements of a great album. 'Impending Doom' shows off the band's knack for a slow, pounding number that tells the nearly over-told tale of how mankind is pushing itself over the proverbial precipice.

Things move back into faster territory for 'Manipulation Of Tragedy', whilst showing on two distinct occasions that Paolo Jr. is more than proficient on the bass guitar. The overall sound of the album does borrow from Sepultura's entire back-catalogue, and while the tribal beats that made them truly stand out from their contemporaries are present, the focus seems to be leaning more towards the murkier pseudo-Death Metal sounds of earlier Sepultura works such as 'Morbid Visions', walking the fine line between Death and Thrash. 'Tsunami' sees the frontman coming out with some high quality vocal hooks, and while the vocals do remain obscured in some way in the mix, the larynx shredding screeches of Kisser that back up Green's throaty roars ring through for added impact.

'The Bliss Of Ignorants' is weaved with the aforementioned tribal percussion that keeps Sepultura's identity open for all to see. Unfortunately the riffs in this tune pale next to many Sepultura riffs and the solo is more Slayer than Sepultura in places, but whether that's good or bad is up for debate. The percussion elements on show, which includes a solo section towards the end of the song do keep the song from being labelled as bad, but it's arguably a lacklustre song musically for this album, which is a shame considering the demanding screams of "Our freedom now!" that would've otherwise been the final selling point on the song. The beginning of 'Grief' is altogether strange, with a mournful vocalisation and plodding sound that is out of place on what has generally been a high-energy record. As the band comes in, it's fair to say that the full song does achieve the mood that it's name suggests, but it's simply not what I look for in a Sepultura song. Something of a misfire, in my opinion.

Luckily things go back on the upward trajectory during 'The Age Of The Athiest', which sees the energy return as Derrick Green launches into another verbal assault upon religion, politics and the current sheep mentality of many. Of all the tracks so far, this one would be the best addition to Sepultura's live show. On 'Obsessed', things start with a slow build that leads into a rather muddy sounding song that has its moments but never really reaches the heights that it threatens to through the bulk of the song.

'Da Lama Ao Caos' is a Chico Science & Nação Zumbi cover that has a lot of that tribal percussion courtesy of Derrick Green, some catchy guitar riffs and a very strange vocal performance that sounds very out of place on a Thrash/Death Metal album. There's a long bout of silence as the main album itself is obviously over, then at 17:34 into the track, there's a seven and a half minute long percussive solo that is more infectious than the song that took up the first four and a half minutes of the track. A disappointing end to what had the early promise of being a great addition to the Sepultura canon.

I won't deny that the album was generally concise and solid with a few truly standout songs, but at this point in the game, Sepultura needed to do more than what they have done. There are enough people that have pretty much abandoned the band post-Cavalera brothers (a MASSIVE injustice!), and what once was a global giant of a metal band has been relegated to a smaller league than they should be in, and I can't help but feel that part of the problem may be inconsistency. Sepultura is a band capable of much more yet, which makes this album somewhat frustrating. Solid effort, but only time will tell if it is counted among the classic albums that this band has released.

Rating: 6.5/10

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