So SEPULTURA returns after the disaster that was their last record with Machine Messiah…a concept album out January 13 via Nuclear Blast Records. And in the words of guitarist Andreas Kisser: “The main inspiration around Machine Messiah is the robotisation of our society nowadays. The concept of a God Machine who created humanity and now it seems that this cycle is closing itself, returning to the starting point. We came from machines and we are going back to where we came from. The messiah, when he returns, will be a robot, or a humanoid, our bio-mechanical savior.” OK, got that? Good. Now that we know the story, let’s look at the music and vocals. Oh, and the stellar production by Jens Bogren (as usual!!)
When I was asked to review 2013’s The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart, that record left a very bad taste in my mouth. The only thing I took away from that one was a real love and appreciation for the drumming of Eloy Casagrande, who five years into his tenure with the band is still playing lights out, both in his ferocity and his intricacy. Plus, this time the drums don’t sound like they were recorded in a tin room. And thankfully Derrick Green’s vocals don’t sound like the tin can mess they were last time around. That’s the good news. The bad news is that this record suffers in a couple of spots. There are some moments of greatness and others that kind of drag.
As far as the songs that really pack a punch there’s the 2:28 of kick-you-in-the-teeth that makes up “I Am the Enemy”, and the FEAR FACTORY-like sound and feel of “Resistant Parasites” for starters. The latter has some terrific percussion work from Casagrande, by the way, as does “Phantom Self”. This is one of the disc’s best offerings because there is so much going on that you can’t help but get caught up in it. Green attacks this fucker with the snarl of a junkyard dog who hasn’t been fed in days. And right after this comes the crazy off-times and mean, dark, dirty riffs of “Alethea.” You might need a map to follow this one, but the journey is worth it.
My immediate favorite though was instrumental “Iceberg Dances” from the very first listen. The way everything flows and the overall aesthetic absolutely begs for abuse of the REPEAT button. “Sworn Oath” is heavy as all get-out without sacrificing the melody while “Silent Violence” and “Vandals Nest” are absolutely brutalizing. And these are all tunes I really got into. The problem is the ones that bookend this album. The title track and closer “Cyber God” are just okay, and nothing memorable. But everything in between is pretty goddamn good, and Machine Messiah is a BIG step up from their last effort. SEPULTURA is set to do some heavy touring in support of the album, and with what they’ve done here they’ll get people up and moving.
STANDOUT TRACKS: “I Am the Enemy”, “Phantom Self”, “Iceberg Dances”, “Vandals Nest”