Written by: RUB on 06/02/2020 12:00:12

By now it seems redundant to compare the present carnation of Sepultura to the era of the Cavalera brothers, or at least so it should be. Sepultura anno 2020 is a band much different from that which started out back in 1984 — for better or for worse — so even though they still hold the iconic moniker, the music has changed a lot since then. Don’t get me wrong: I still find some of Sepultura’s earliest work to be among the finest and most aggressive thrash metal ever created, but it seems pointless to keep comparing those records to the Derrick Green-fronted version of Sepultura, who have been enjoying something of a renaissance in recent years. Just like albums such as “Beneath the Remains”, “Arise”, “Chaos A.D.”, and of course the iconic “Roots” had their own agenda, so does the present version of Sepultura, too. For years, Green has left his mark on the Brazilian quartet, and with albums like “Dante XXI”, “A-Lex”, “Machine Messiah” and now “Quadra”, the band have slowly but surely become experts in writing their own, unique songs with their own meanings and inspirations.

As the title of the album suggests, this concept album is about the number “4”, and the main source of inspiration stems from the book “Quadrivium” by John North. In the same way that a year consists of four seasons, “Quadra” is divided equally, with side one showcasing Sepultura’s thrashy aspect, side two focusing more on the rhythmic elements, side three bringing out the more experimental touches, and side four delivering melodic en masse. Therefore, the first three tracks look back at the first era of Sepultura, and as such they contain some absolute ragers of thrash metal. In these tracks, the aggression manifests itself via blistering drum patterns with plenty of fast-paced percussion as one would expect, but t is the off-beat pattern in the first track “Isolation” that makes the greatest impression. The riffing, courtesy of Andreas Kisser is melodic, but it also betrays that this is the same man who wrote some of those riffs that were immortalised on Sepultura’s early works. Revisiting their origins early on helps the album off to a potent start and manages to exact a firm grip on the listener as the record shifts into its second ‘season’.

Inspiration from thrash is still present on the fourth track “Capital Enslavement”, but now the rhythms rise to a more prominent role. With horror movie-style violin and tribal percussion in the beginning of the track, your attention is quickly frozen, and this technique is utilized to a high degree throughout the entire song, making it sound quite eerie and nightmarish. Needless to say, it is elements like this that keep the attention of the listener firmly in the hands of Sepultura. The rhythm section, as referred to in the introduction, is prominently on display in the sixth track “Raging Void”, which slowly builds up to this massive chorus, where the rhythms and melodies are ever-present along with semi-clean singing by Green, and even though it is a far cry from the aggressive nature that the seasoned fan of Sepultura is used to, I still find tracks like this a pleasant change of pace.

Although “The Pentagram” falls into the experimental category, it’s still very much a signature Sepultura track. The reason for this is that the track is instrumental, and the lack of vocals only leaves more room for the instruments to fill. This track serves as yet another pace shifter, albeit not without also coming across as insanely angry, fast, thrashy. My favourite track on the album, however, could easily be “Autem”, which combines everything I love about this band in the chorus alone. It is angry and melodic, has a very nice build-up, and contains more semi-clean vocals by Green, and even some nice tribal elements in the drumming. Just like the second last track, “Agony of Defeat”, this additional element of melody gives the tracks an extra edge and mixes them up nicely ensuring the album does not merely become one long, fast-paced thrash metal record. Just like Sepultura have always been known to do, the melodies and tribal elements in the songs, not to mention the near-operatic and symphonic nature of a song like “Guardians of Earth”, helps make the listening experience of the entire record a very enjoyable one. Indeed, because of the way the album is structured and written, no track on it sounds the same as another. Whether it is an instrumental track in the latter part of the album, an interesting drum pattern, some angry riffing, choir-sections, tribal instruments or all of the above, it’s clear that the album as a whole tells a story.

After the short intro “Quadra”, which builds up to the grand fniale of the album, “Agony of Defeat” brings the redemption with a big, melodic and sort of melancholic chorus going ”Search for a reason!”, and apart from the last, rather neutral track “Fear; Pain; Chaos; Suffering”, it ensures that the album comes to a natural and potent conclusion. This part, which almost sounds like something Devin Townsend could have written, has me screaming along every time, and I do feel, even though the album lasts more than 50 minutes, that the natural progression, as well as the idea behind the album feel sufficient rather than artificially prolonged, as some albums of this magnitude sometimes tend to be. “Quadra” has firmly grabbed my attention throughout its 51-minute span, which is a pretty competent feat.

With “Quadra”, I am certain Sepultura have written their best album in several decades. Although I am one of those contrarians who also appreciates the Green-era, I’m confident that this is, so far, their magnum opus of the ‘new’ era. The record as a whole has so much consistency and feels like a combination of every album from the long legacy of this band. Every track is composed in such a way that you barely recognise how the ‘seasons’ change, because this is just how Sepultura sounds: angry, profusely rhythmic and sometimes even quite beautiful. Every great aspect of the band’s legendary tribal percussion feats, and the rhythmic section in general is present on the record — just in a new and fresh way. But with that said, I am nonetheless certain that many people will dislike this because “it’s just not Sepultura anymore”. As mentioned in the beginning though, people should stop comparing the two distinctive eras, because it really has grown pointless now. Instead, one should appreciate the fact that the same band has managed to come out on top after losing two of its founding members, writing an album this different from their legendary works, and still managing to put out a potential candidate for album of the year.


Download: Autem, Isolation, Raging Void, Agony of Defeat, The Pentagram, Capital Enslavement
For the fans of: Exhorder, Kreator, Slayer, Sodom, Soulfly, Cavalera Conspiracy
Listen: Facebook

Release date 07.02.2020
Nuclear Blast

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