With the constant bickering between the Kisser and Cavalera camps, and ditto amongst the band's fans, it might be time to consider a rebrand ofSEPULTURA. Not a disband, this unit has proven itself and doesn't have to answer to the negativity hovering over it. There are still plenty of people in support of the Kisser-led SEPULTURA, and their loyalty will be plenty rewarded with the band's 14th album, "Machine Messiah".
Kisser is an art and literature savant as evidenced on the recent SEPULTURA outings "Dante XXI" and "A-lex". The straightforward brutality of "Kairos" served as Kisser's thunderous outline of Paulo, Jr. and his estrangement from the Cavalera brothers. Coming to this album, one automatically thinks of YES's "Machine Messiah" from the album "Drama", and, likewise, Kisser's newest concept does involve the machination of modern society. No doubt the sexy sci-fi film "Ex Machina" played a hand in the fleshing out of this album. However, Kisser states that the art of Camille Dela Rosa compelled him to finish this story, one that had been lingering in his mind for years. Dela Rosa's painting "Deus Ex-Machina" serves as "Machine Messiah"'s cover, and if you're a fan of "Heavy Metal" fantasy magazine, you'll devour her work.
Musically, "Machine Messiah" is adventurous. Andreas Kisser spreads his main styles into a logical order where thrash, power metal, tribal, folk, jazz and even soul (thanks to a gorgeous clean intro sung by Derrick Green) flow systematically, befitting the album's theme. Green is drawing upon two decades fronting SEPULTURA, and his tenure has been valiant. Green remains one of the best growlers out there and he deserves more upbeat press than the general indifference he's weathered. He is (still) unnecessarily held accountable to his predecessor, who is long past this band, "Roots" road revival notwithstanding. Please, people, let this shit rest already. Give Green your support, will you? He's fucking earned it.
A member of the band now for five years, Eloy Casagrande has only grown stronger behind the kit. Like Jean Dolabella and all the interim drummers bearing a last name other than Cavalera, Eloy Casagrande has fallen under a hard microscope. However, like Derrick Green, he's come into his own here. Casagrande was perfectly solid on "The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart", but on "Machine Messiah", he is so snug you don't have to play the comparison game. To do so is boring. His steady rhythm on the title track is as inviting as Green's crooning, both increasing with agitation as the song gets meatier from Kisser and Paulo, Jr. 's hypnotic riffs. It is a terrific setup to "I Am the Enemy", which hurtles through a fierce 2:27 thrash vortex. The up-and-down riff structures and ripping solo from Kisser are vintage SEPULTURA.
The clouting percussion and synthesized cinematic swirls opening "Phantom Self" ring like a bell from a James Bond flick. The song marches forward forcefully with Derrick Green woofing audile terror behind a lyrical cybernetic transformation. It's both a figurative and literal parable spilling into the tumbling tempos of "Alethea", one of Kisser's more exploratory pieces of modern SEPULTURA songwriting. The song deals with corporate exploitation of consumers, triggering a dependency upon electronics. We are a gadget-fixated civilization, and the warnings were first raised nearly a century ago in the 1927 silent film "Metropolis". Not that your average iPod junkie today will have bothered to see it. "Alethea" may not overpower musically, but that's so this message pushes through clearer.
"Iceberg Dances", a terrific instrumental, is when "Machine Messiah" catches fire and becomes a work of art. The progressions are magnificent, conveying a frenzied pass through the motherboard and giving this album life. Listen up for some jazzy organs prior to the tribal clapping and a magnificent flamenco section. It's one of SEPULTURA's most focused statements of art since "Dante XXI", or if you prefer, the band's powerful epic "Kamaitachi", with Japanese taiko drumming ensemble KODO, from "Against".
The exhilarating and sometimes brutal "Sworn Oath" is, for certain, Andreas Kisser's entry into a higher level of songwriting. It deserves two listens on your first journey through "Machine Messiah", just to witness the triumph. The symphonic samples provide all the overture needed to make "Sworn Oath" a huge epic, and Derrick Green pushing veins out of his eye sockets to propel the outrage where it needs to manifest. Eloy Casagrande flails and rumbles this beauty to close.
Paulo, Jr. 's tickling bass gives "Resistant Parasites"'s skulking groove a ticked-off snarl. The heaping guitars and orchestral plants elevate the song higher than anyone could've expected within its first few bars. Eloy Casagrande increases his flurries, and like the preceding few songs, "Resistant Parasites" reaches a tremendous plateau. It makes the switched-up thrash and mosh madness of "Silent Violence" even more powerful, and "Vandals Nest", stuffed with some of the fastest SEPULTURA passages ever, is a full-on cataclysm. We're left at the feet of the slow and contemplative "Cyber God" to ponder the folly of reliance upon machines. Eloy Casagrande's blast shocks are meant to accent the point, both with vigor and sarcasm.
"Machine Messiah" delivers a worthwhile sociopolitical message. Unfortunately, we've reached a point of no return. Drones will be delivering your holiday shopping and groceries in no time, and if you're a parent, you'll attest that the iPod/iPad/iPhone is infuriating kid crack. Endoskeletons bearing laser Uzi's are the stuff from James Cameron's twisted mind, but don't count the group out as future enforcers of a new order. We may or may not live to say Kisser, along with many others before him, warned us they were coming.