Machine Messiah by SepulturaRelease date: January 13, 2017
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
I’ll admit it. I’m one of those guys. The ones who checked out after the major line-up change of the late 90s. I checked out of Sepultura‘s career. I think I own a couple of the early Derrick Green-led albums, but couldn’t hum you a single riff. So it’s with a clean pallet (and, thankfully, a long forgotten bias) that I approach the band’s latest effort Machine Messiah.
Things are definitely interesting from the outset with the title (and opening) track featuring vocals from Green that would be more at home on a Type O Negative album than I would expect on a Seps album. Never fear the guttural screams arrive with conviction and force. But it’s a slow chug of a song and, I must say, completely unexpected. I’m really enjoying this so far. ‘I Am The Enemy’ finds us on my familiar ground with its machine gun rhythm and speed, Greene sounds like he coughing up a lung. ‘Phantom Self’ begins with a percussion/guitar/string section that is a great precursor for a slippery riff that morphs into a heavy groove which I defy you NOT to move your head to. The strings reappear throughout the song adding a texture and subtlety I thought was (to be perfectly honest) outside of the scope of the this band. Seems my opinion has been wrong on a number of fronts.
‘Alethea’ appears over the horizon dragging its shifting drum pattern with it; twisting and turning away from you just when you think you’ve got a handle on it. On previous Sepultura albums, (the ones I’ve heard…) instrumentals have normally involved acoustic guitars and either buckets or an indigenous tribe. And whilst ‘Iceberg Dances’ feature some acoustic guitar, it’s far heavier and progressive. It manages to do the thing most instrumentals can do: be interesting and not outstay its welcome. It’s heavy and technical with some deft demonstration of light and shade. A technique used again to great effect in ‘Sworn Oath’ with its machine gun riff complimented by the use of strings and switching between riff and chords that hang.
Onwards to the back half of the album with ‘Resistant Parasites’ that introduces a sitar into the proceedings. Trust me, it’s not as crazy as it may sound. ‘Silent Violence’ is what happens when you combine a thrash song with a syncopated drum pattern: weird, tricksy to get hold of, but amazing. At a point where most bands slow down a bit, to build up to the album closer, Sepultura unleash ‘Vandals Nest’ a frenetic, face pounder of a song. Not that there isn’t breathing room, a section where Green can sing a soaring melody is one of the album’s strongest moment. The last track rolls around in the form of ‘Cyber God’. In a smart move, the band slow things down to allow the portent rumble of riff wash over you like a dark ocean. Green once again demonstrating his impressive voice and note choice, alternatively screaming out a chunk of his larynx and crooning with a sweet soul tone.
So. Here we are at the end of the album. And I must say this is impressive stuff. I don’t really want to dwell on the past or their history too much, but it’s impossible not to, to be able to say what i want to say. So bear with me. I checked out after Roots, for a couple of reasons actually. I was in the thrall of my Metallica obsession and there were also a number of other bands that were taking prominence on my hi-fi. So when the line up change happened there was a mixture of other music and the STUPID preconception that the parts of a band were more important than the whole. A foolish stance to take, but I was young. So coming back to the band now, in 2017, and hearing this album, the word I was going to use was “surprisingly”. But that’s not correct. You see, the prejudice was mine. I never gave the band a shot. And this has clearly been a bloody huge mistake based on the quality of this record.
I’m sure a number of you held/hold a similar view; of recalling the past as the standard for the future. But take it from me: stop thinking about what Sepultura was and realise what they are. A band who can create an album of stunning breadth, depth, groove and heaviness that you’d be insane to ignore it. This is a vital, alive, beast of a record; aggressive and progressive and absolutely worthy of being in your collection. Guitarist Andreas Kisser said “I think this is one of our best albums, because it’s a real band effort.” And it very much shows. Cohesive, brutal, progressive and satisfying.
I was blind, but now I see Sepultura in 2017 have released a stormer of an album so leave your preconceptions at the door and dig into this superb offering.