Quibbling over who is carrying on the true legacy of Sepultura isn’t anything new. But the members of the classic lineup – in one corner, Andreas Kisser and Paulo Jr., who currently carry on the band’s name, and in the other, Max and Iggor Cavalera, currently in Soulfly – tend to take things from a natural simmer to a rolling boil whenever both factions are actively engaging projects at the same time. Now’s one of those times, with Sepultura releasing Machine Messiah (with a storyline based on the robotization of society) and the Cavaleras carrying on their Return to Roots tour (covering the albums that started it all). But for the sake of this review, the spotlight is being shined away from the media back-and-forth to focus fully on the aforementioned Machine Messiah.
This marks the quartet’s first studio release since The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart four years ago, and while there is some wild experimentation injected into their good old Brazilian thrash, the results are uneven, occasionally awkward, akin to a midlife crisis for these aging metallers. This is apparent from the opening title track which finds frontman Derrick Green serving as balladeer over the collectives’ acoustic interplay before stoking the composition toward eagerly anticipated (and welcomed) aggression. “Phantom Self” steps into the weirdness again with a serpentine string arrangement that complements the riffing until the bridge where it clashes with a much-needed guitar solo. That said, Sepultura‘s adventurous spirit does work on other compositions, like the multi-segmented instrumental “Iceberg Dances” and the pummeling “Silent Violence” are true highlights of Machine Messiah.
It’s time to let bygones be bygones in the world of Brazilian metal, and Metal Messiah is proof that the current incarnation of Sepultura can still churn out a solid metal album. Is it Roots-era good? No, but those early albums – like that lineup – were anomalies, and truth be told, that kind of lightning will never strike again.
Machine Messiah is out now on Nuclear Blast Records. Buy it here!