Many bands are cited as the progenitors of death metal, but few are more inspirational than Brazil’s Sepultura. Sepultura are well known for introducing extreme metal to South America and the countries within it; along with Sarcofago they helped to found thrash metal, and eventually moved towards death metal and tied this in with cultural ties to the country they call home. Choosing Arise for an album to review was tough seeing as the albums that are most often recognized are the two that surround it – the preceding record Beneath The Remains, and Chaos A.D., which comes after. Much like Carcass’ Symphonies of Sickness, Anthrax’s Spreading The Disease and Judas Priest’s Hell Bent For Leather, it was caught in between great albums, yet it doesn’t diminish its overall value. There are plenty of reasons why this 1991 classic is worth the name it carries, 9 in fact!
The title track leads things off; the war drums sound and the dissonant noise takes effect, before the insane thrashery takes place. The classic quartet of the band Max Cavalera (vocals, rhythm), Andreas Kisser (leads), Paulo Jr. (Bass) and Igor Cavalera (drums) were the force behind this band from 1987 up until 1996, when Max left to form Soulfly. The band’s musical interplay – especially Kisser’s leads – are particularly evil and add that extra element to the band. The most recognizable song on the album is the second track “Dead Embryonic Cells”, which had a music video (above) done for it and garnered some airplay on MTV’s famous Headbanger’s Ball. Lyrically, the band condemns scientific experiments as a government aided attack on humanity. Igor’s drums pop as Kisser gets ready to unleash an excellent solo, which is always just what the doctor ordered from an album with thrash metal held so close to the chest.
Pounding along the way is “Desperate Cry”, which sees Igor’s drums backing up the guitar section. The riffs speed up and Max’s vocal delivery is delivered with gravel-throated aplomb: “Death the coldest wind // seeps into your pores // a nation born of hate // forgotten distant time” is pushed through the door as the hatred of war becomes more and more evident. “Murder”‘s lyrical imagery is also quite the sight to behold from a group of Brazilians that had barely learned English until a few years before: “Chaotic violence in my eyes // This whole world moves backwards peace // another sign that lies life today is not worth the pain.” All of this is in contrast to the backdrop of thrash metal, which tends to more often than not have a positive message at the end of the day. The riffs chug along as the message continues: “Same hand that builds, destroys; same hand that relieves, betrays.” Few bands could weave such words together in such a cohesive and aggressively excellent way.
“Subtraction” is a showcase of a great blend of thrash metal and death metal, as the riffs are heavy and also distorted. Combine that with Max’s growled vocals and you will start to see the band’s crossfader stuck in the middle, as it becomes an amalgamation of the two genres. Kisser delivers yet another great guitar solo and Igor’s drum fills are nothing short of excellent; same with Paulo Jr.’s bass. “Altered State” is a perfect name for what the band would attempt in the form of a full fledged album on Chaos A.D., with the distortion and the pinch harmonics – most notably on “Territory”. The thrash riffs are there but this song is a total showcase for different drumming sections; Igor changes the pace from simple to complex in a near instant, and just when you think you have learned the pattern it changes yet again, giving the song a ton of replay value; just enough for aspiring air drummers to get it down right.
“Under Siege (Regnum Irae)” is a mostly slow-moving track (by Sepultura’s standards) which attacks organized religion and the wars that seem to arise from said conflicts as they are said to “Persecute the human race”. As usual the drums and guitars are excellent; especially Kisser’s solo, which here and on the following track are face-meltingly sublime. “Meaningless Movements” crushes all in its wake, and has many different sections of driving riffs – as well as perhaps Kisser’s greatest solo on the entire album, which demands neck-snapping satisfaction. “Infected Voice” closes out the album with fat hooks that pull you in and eventually the pace spits you out to the tune of “Guilt and frustration // no time to turn around.” Reflection on this album was more than enough for turning around and I’d hope you would all agree.
Sepultura would hold together for the next five years, before Max left the band to form the aforementioned Soulfly. Eventually he was reunited with his brother Igor with Cavalera Conspiracy. The band is still together albeit with Kisser and Paulo Jr. as the sole remaining of the core four, and the band is now being helmed by Derrick Green. While I am most certainly a Max guy, Green does a good enough job with that band that more people need to give he and his iteration of the band the time of day as their last release Kairos was very solid. At the end of the day it was the four Brazilians that took the band to unprecedented heights that are responsible for cementing a legacy that has been going on for nearly thirty years.
Feel free to drop me a comment about a band you’d like to see covered, or just leave one as a sign of good faith. For what I’m currently listening to you can always check out my Last.fm page. For now we stay with the country of topic, Brazil. See you next week.