Brazil’s thrash legend Sepultura bring the band’s fourteenth album Machine Messiah.
The resurgence of legendary thrash metal bands last year came as a rewarding breath of fresh air as many new albums from long running bands were able to win listeners over. And now at the beginning of 2017 Sepultura has decided to give their newest entry in Machine Messiah; the fourteenth full album under the band’s name and it also is the first new album from Sepultura since 2013. Brazil’s Sepultura is a unique entity however in that it is one of the few long running bands that has no original founding members in the lineup. With the Cavalera brothers long gone from the group the name Sepultura continues on and in theory could keep going for many years. For long time fans of the name and lovers of thrash this is a good thing, but according to Max Cavalera it’s not exactly what people should be happy about. At the very end of last year, Max fired a shot at his former band and talked about how he hadn’t heard anything from them in years. He then added the statement: “tell me one great song they have written since I left? Name one great album they have put out after that? I haven’t seen anything. I don’t know one name of one song as popular as “Roots Bloody Roots”.
While there still appears to be bad blood from the former Sepultura founders, it should be said that the name has still carried on for many years even without any of its founding members. In fact the band name has been going out without the Cavaleras since 2009’s A-Lex. So it’s not like the current members have been sitting around collecting royalty checks. With brief history and opinions out of the way, Machine Messiah is the new album in this legendary thrash metal band’s history. There is definitely enough talent to create something brutal and fast and along with so many strong entries from other thrash legends last year, it’s understandable to get your hopes up. It’s in the albums’ highlighted single “I Am The Enemy” that we got a glimpse at what Sepultura has to offer on their fourteenth LP.
“I Am The Enemy” starts off ferocious. The opening few seconds with Derrick Green’s growl and a prominent drum pound by Eloy Casagrande set a great pace for the track. There are some quick burst solos that help add some higher pitch to a fast single that clocks in under two and a half minutes., also marking the shortest track on Machine Messiah. There definitely feels like a passion and intensity was given in this song, but after listening several times you start to realize that this feels like it is heading in a different direction than the Sepultura from the 80’s and 90’s. That is not a negative statement about the song “I Am The Enemy”, but it is definitely hard to not notice as you listen to this song and album that the style is changing from the past. As you go down the track list and hear varied elements like flamenco guitar in “Iceberg Dances” and string sections in “Phantom Self” you can hear how the thrash sound is slowly being placed in the backseat while other styles in metal and overall music take the wheel.
When I listened to Machine Messiah from the beginning it was when I got to “Sworn Oath” that it really hit how Sepultura is not only different from what it was decades ago, but that it will continue to change. This song like the others are not bad or poor in quality, but there isn’t much to really get involved with. It’s a very status quo style of thrash that has a hard time keeping your attention. For every sequence in a song that feels like the intensity is going to pick up or the breakdown is coming and we’ll get something strong, it’s either stifled or just continues at the same pace to the point where nothing feels like it progresses. And then before you know if the songs just fly by and the album is over. There isn’t anything jarring or awful, but there also isn’t anything fantastic.
When people now hear the name Sepultura it will come with phrases like “which version” or “original or the current one”. That stretches past member lineups now. Machine Messiah proves that Sepultura, while still a strong band, is not the same group and dynamic that it was. And while I reiterate that the songs and this album are not bad, there isn’t much to connect with outside of a strong drum rhythm or the occasional guitar sequence. Overall, Machine Messiah will appease most diehard Sepultura fans who have stuck with the band through thick and thin. And while the majority of thrash and metal fans who were hoping for the next strong album from a great band like Sepultura will find several tracks worth replaying, they will for the most part be looking for a return to their roots.