Tuesday 21 January 2020

ALBUM REVIEW: Sepultura, "Quadra"

By: Richard Maw

Album Type: Full Length
Date Released: 07/02/2020
Label: Nuclear Blast

“Quadra” CD//DD//LP track listing:

1. Isolation
2. Means To An End
3. Last Time
4. Capital Enslavement
5. Ali
6. Raging Void
7. Guardians Of Earth
8. The Pentagram
9. Autem
10. Quadra
11. Agony Of Defeat
12. Fear; Pain; Chaos; Suffering

The Review:

Fifteen albums in and Sepultura are still very much a creative force. Sepultura have been in a purple patch for some time now, certainly since the “Mediator...” album and arguably for a lot longer than that (“Kairos” and “A-Lex” were both excellent). If we attribute the fire to Eloy Casagrande behind the kit then, well, that is as solid argument as any. He is the best extreme metal drummer around today, in my view. Power, speed and technique without end. He's brought young fresh blood into a band which is now 35 years old.

If you are a Cavalera purest, I have no idea if “Quadra” will make you see the error of your ways or not. Suffice it to say that this is an album of four parts- hence the title. There are twelve tracks, so each side of vinyl (or trio of songs) follows a pattern to an extent.

First up is all out thrash metal. “Isolation” is ferocious as an opener and is catchy and frighteningly powerful. Casagrande puts in overtime on the kit. The music and vocals are fantastic. “Means To An End” follows with a groove thrash approach. Superb guitar work from Kisser as per and Derrick Green runs through a couple of vocal stylings; more on that later. As an opening pairing, they are akin to “Trauma of War” and “The Vatican from the “Mediator...” record and thus there are not many better pairings of tracks in the band's career.

Jens Bogren is at the production helm again and he brings a fat and live sound, heavy on the low end with powerful but not machine like drums and very clear mixing through all instruments. The last of the thrash trio is “Last Time”, which opens with a very cool Kisser motif and then bullies its way into your ears. It has multiple time shifts, multiple riff sections and is an exercise in heaviness. The first quarter of the album is thus a roaring success and emphatically states that Sepultura are still amongst the best heavy bands on the planet.

The next three tracks are described in the press release as bringing back some of the groove and percussion of the “Roots” era. Fortunately, it's successful. “Capital Enslavement” has the rhythms but also the RIFFS and is guaranteed to get your head banging. With its stabs of strings and time changes, this is a banger for sure. The solo section is not short on adrenaline either.

The theme continues with “Ali”; a heavy-as-lead riff workout in which yet again Derrick Green excels. It's slower but grooves very effectively. “Raging Void” has more of a rolling groove feel, but again with proper riffs as well as chugging guitars. Green makes a compelling case for being man of the match for the album; his vocals are seemingly only getting better with age. They are precise and furious and over the album he offers up an impressive range of styles.

With that, we are into the second half of the album and the experimental sections of songs (as Andreas Kisser describes them). “Guardians of Earth” duly opens with a passage of acoustic guitar, expertly played and then the Latin percussion comes in. This is like Sepultura turning the clock back to 1993 again, but the choral voices and lush production are elements that would not have been considered back then. Just when you think its “Kaiowas “part 2, Green's roar jumps out of the speakers and then the time shifts as Kisser recreates the acoustic motif via electric amplification. It's adventurous and it works.

Next up is an instrumental- electric, not acoustic- in the shape (ha!) of “The Pentagram”. It's fleet of foot and is a great piece of music. All musicians operating at the top of their game. For me, it doesn't quite match “Iceberg Dances” from “Machine Messiah”, but that was an incredible track and remains a highlight of that record for me- I'm really splitting hairs. “The Pentagram” certainly has all out thrashing guitars, dynamic shifts and very clever changes and is thus an aural delight. “Autem” finishes the third quarter of this varied album in some style. It opts for a quiet loud dynamic, with Green once again using his voice in different styles. It's a blistering vocal performance and catchy in the choruses. “Autem” would actually fit in within the first part of the record- were it not for Green's excellent singing drifting away from the thrash template. It's a late album highlight and a stand out because of the experimentation the band has opted for.

The title track is up next up and is actually a rather pretty acoustic piece that runs under two minutes and bridges the record into the final two tracks. Via the acoustic melodies of the title track, the band allows the listener to prepare for a melodic ending to the album. If it starts ferociously, which it does, and carries on as a very heavy album, which it also does, then the final quarter is like a cool down workout to finish. “Agony of Defeat” is still pretty weighty with yet more stellar vocal work from Green and some choral additions that are not overused and it is a melodic yet heavy and varied track.

The record closes with “Fear; Pain; Chaos; Suffering”- four states of mind/being that are mirrored within the composition and structure of the track. There is a female voice to start which adds variety and colour to the song, with Green backing her and then coming in full pelt. As a track it's really a great piece of work. It would fit in on a  trip hop album by, say, Tricky, if it did not have the metal backing. Although experimentation is a term that has come up a lot in this review- or at least been referenced- then to think that the whole album is defined by this is not accurate. To be clear, this is a very metal and very heavy record. There is speed and weight across the whole thing and fans of any of the band's eras and line ups will find much to enjoy here.

It's an ambitious and successful record that continues Sepultura's winning streak and once again places them in the running as metal album of the year contenders. It's one of the best Green-era albums; hell, it's better than most Sepultura albums of any era. It's meticulously detailed, focused, ambitious and successful. An incredible record.

“Quadra” is available HERE

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