Nuclear Blast Records/Universal Music Australia
Reviewed By Chris Gibbs
I must admit, Roots was my very first exposure to Sepultura, and I loved it. I still do in fact. While I did delve into their past classics with Chaos A.D, Arise, and Beneath the Remains, I honestly did not spend a lot of time with those records or anything prior. With the departure of co-founding vocalist/guitarist Max Cavalera in late December 1996 and their rather swift return with then new and now long-time vocalist Derrick Green in 1998 with Against, I essentially departed the Sepultura train just as quickly as I climbed on board.
I made a brief effort or two here or there to give Sepultura a fair go with some of their succeeding records over the years, but alas, there was not much to get excited about. Fast forward to December 2016 and I discover in my inbox that I am in possession of the promo of their 14th studio album, Machine Messiah. Produced and engineered by the ever popular Swede, Jens Bogren, who has produced a plethora of excellent bands and excellent records in recent years, curiosity got the better of me. Quite frankly, I am rather glad it did.
I’m not going to sit here and say Sepultura should change their name like many who still cry this from the top of their pulpits, because why on earth would they? Sepultura still consists of borderline original bassist Paulo Jr. since 1985 and guitarist Andreas Kisser since 1987. Hell, Derrick Green has been fronting Sepultura longer than Max. The only variable here is the drummer’s throne, vacated in 2006 by cofounding drummer and Max’s brother, Igor Cavalera. But since 2011, the Seps have found a suitable replacement and a sustainable line-up rounded out by youngster Eloy Casagrande.
Machine Messiah opens with the slow burning, almost Candlemass-esque melodic doom title track which to my ears was rather unexpected. However, considering how long it has been since I listened to a Sepultura record, specifically the post-Max era, I honestly can’t say what it is that I did expect, if anything. As the track fades out, “I am the Enemy” comes thrashing out of the gate, knocking you for six in a storm of riffs and ferocious aggression from Derrick’s exponentially improved vocal delivery, which is actually best displayed on closer “Cyber God”.
From the use of violins and percussion on “Phantom Self”, to the killer instrumental “Iceberg Dances”, and the huge, crushing Eastern sounding synth choruses of “Sworn Oath”, there is an impressive range of instruments and musicianship on display that is well written and well placed. The guitar work of Andreas is seriously on point as the man reaffirms his metal stance with solos and riffs that are unmistakeably his own, yet also Sepultura as the familiar thrashing of “Silent Violence” and “Vandals Nest” lays waste to any doubts.
I won’t compare this to past classics, I won’t compare this to any other post-Max and Igor records, and I won’t even compare this to what those other two metal stalwarts have put out with Soulfly and Cavalera Conspiracy. Sepultura’s Machine Messiah proudly stands on its own merits, as the band clearly has for the last 20 years and this is one pretty solid, straight up metal record to kick off 2017.