Monday, 20 October 2014

Cavalera Conspiracy - Pandemonium (Album Review)

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 03/11/2014
Label: Napalm Records

‘Pandemonium’ CD/DD/LP track listing:

01. Babylonian Pandemonium
02. Banzai Kamakazi
03. Scum
04. I, Barbarian
05. Carmunhao
06. Apex Predator
07. Insurrection
08. Not Losing The Edge
09. Father Of Hate
10. The Crucible
11. Deus Ex Machina
12. Porra


The Cavalera brothers Max and Iggor delude nobody when it comes to determination and stubbornness. In the 1990s the Brazilians brought up some of the most uncompromising Metal records of music history with SEPULTURA and show with CAVALERA CONSPIRACY that fatigue is a foreign word for them. Their latest record Pandemonium is no exception: Frontman Max Cavalera rushes with bellow of rage into the fray, lets his brother drum coarsest grooves and puts his finger into the open wound. Does anyone want to know how timeless Death / Thrash Metal sounds? There are a dozen prime examples on Pandemonium! It is always sheer boldness that determines CAVALERA CONSPIRACY, whether rigorous as the opener 'Babylonian' Pandemonium, brutal as in 'Bonzai Kamikazee`, merciless as in 'Barbarian' or aggressive as in’ Father Of Hate’!

The Band:

Max Cavalera | Vocals, Guitars
Iggor Cavalera | Drums, Percussion
Marc Rizzo | Lead Guitar
Nate Newton | Bass


I suspect that most of you reading this are likely well aware of the story and the history behind Cavalera Conspiracy. There's the often-expressed discontent with Soulfly’s direction after Max Cavalera’s exit from Sepultura. Then, there's Sepultura’s output without Max, and since 2006, without either Cavalera brother. Those circumstances are what they are. You have your opinion on the matter, I have mine, and those parties actually involved have their views too. With only a handful of songs here and there and the Nailbomb project as the exception, anything the Cavalera brothers have been involved with since ‘Chaos A.D.’ has been met with a lukewarm response from me at best; the same goes for Sepultura in its current state.

2007’s ‘Inflikted’ and 2011’s ‘Blunt Force Trauma’ both elicited that same marginal response from me for being only partially committed to the return to form that many have so often clamoured for. ‘Pandemonium’ isn’t an exact return to form either. Instead it creates an interesting blend of some of the better elements they’ve been working with over the last 20 years. If the only possibility you are willing to entertain is ‘Beneath the Remains’ or ‘Arise’: The Sequel; you’re not going to get it with this album.

Sure, there’s plenty of deathly thrash to go around and its presented here in it’s most convincing form since 1991. The riffs are more varied and imaginative than on any of the recent Soulfly/Sepultura/Cavalera albums, and people in that nostalgic state of mind should find this to be the Cavalera album that has gotten closest to what they’re after. What’s really happening is that they’ve found a way to have their cake and eat it too. ‘Pandemonium’ filters the past through a number of different textures into something that doesn’t sound completely stuck in 1987-1993.

Let’s take the first two songs ‘Babylonian Pandemonium’ and ‘Bonzai Kamikazee’ for an example. They’re both very thrash-beat-centric, With ‘Babylonian Pandemonium’ being borderline death metal in particular. Max Cavalera’s vocals are nearly unrecognizable due to either pitch-shifting, being heavily processed or some combination thereof. While that sounds like a knock against them; I don’t intend it to be. It’s actually really effective, and it gives the performance something of a demonic feel to it. It sounds inhuman by design and it works really well. It’s a song that rages the moment it kicks in.

‘Bonzai Kamikazee’, on the other hand, scratches that ‘Arise’ itch in a very satisfying way, even echoing certain riffs from that album’s title track along with ‘Dead Embryonic Cells’. Despite a brief breakdown that might send some dread racing through the nervous system of “golden era” die-hards; it’s over quickly, and it’s followed up with the sort of mid-paced riff that should render an internal sigh of relief before you succumb to the urge to give up on yet another Cavalera-related album.

I’m having a bit of fun with some of the more staunch and serious amongst old Sepultura fans because I’m usually one of them. I like ‘Chaos A.D.’ a bit more than some, but generally-speaking that’s as far as I go. For much of the last fifteen-plus years, the pressure fans and critics have placed on the Cavalera brothers to revisit old ground and reclaim old glory has been intense to say the least. I don’t think they’ll ever come to a point where they give in and put out a purely classic sounding ‘87 to ‘91 style album again, and maybe they shouldn’t. They’re not who they were back in those days. It would likely sound as phoned-in as ‘World Painted Blood’ did for Slayer. I don’t think anyone wants that. Instead, we have a band with a lot of energy and quality ideas, putting out something that references the past while keeping their boots on the ground here, in the present, playing with new elements that work to the album's benefit. That’s a damn good place for a thirty year career to end up.

Words by: Daniel Jackson

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