SEPULTURA - Machine Messiah
January 13, 2017, a year ago
In the 20 (!) years that's passed since Max Cavalera left Sepultura, one thing has stayed completely, and steadfastly, clear: Andreas, Paulo and Derrick have stuck to their guns in all circumstances that the post-Max world has shown them. And, through all that's materialized in the last two decades, Sepultura has admirably never faltered from its vision for itself, for better (maybe) or for worse (probably). Look, the post-Max records have been difficult and un-linear ("angular" is the word I hear in my head while listening to them), and while there's definitely merit to that sort of art, for the most part so many Sepultura fans probably just wish the band would do something with the kind of inspiration and fire of anything between Morbid Visions and Chaos A.D. While 2013’s The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart (a too long, but insightful, title) was a strong record that seemed like Sepultura might turn the ship around, the album unfortunately didn’t gain enough traction to change the perception that Sepultura exists in two eras: the glory days, and whatever the present is.
Latest Sepultura record Machine Messiah probably won’t change that perception either. Though it might be the strongest Sepultura album since Roots, when you think about it, what does that even mean given what we’ve heard since then? Machine Messiah once again takes the angular path but, to its credit, incorporates interesting influences that elevate it from the rest of the post-1996 Sepultura discography, including symphonic elements on “Resistant Parasites” and “Sworn Oath” as well as the jazzy, cinematic introduction of “Phantom Self”. Where Machine Messiah has the listener truly engaged is late in the album, as “Vandals Nest” is what Sepultura fans have been waiting twenty years for, the track a potent cross of Arise-era Sepultura and Slayer (though the smooth edges towards the song’s conclusion do minimize its impact), and a real indication of what the band is still capable of. Along with similar minded songs “Chosen Skin” and “I Am The Enemy”, Machine Messiah at times feels like the great return we’ve waited for, but like so many Megadeth albums of the last 15 years, these momentary respites are but detours that would make a killer EP. Which is sort of the story within the story here: Machine Messiah, while certainly a strong record, isn’t enough to enter into the top tier of a metal world that sees well over 100 releases per month.
When I spoke to Sepultura guitar player Andreas Kisser in December 2008 while the group was promoting A-Lex, Kisser told me that Sepultura had to “win back the trust of the people.” Almost a decade later, we’d have to agree with Kisser, still. If one could be so bold as to offer a piece of unsolicited advice to Sepultura, it would be this: record an album as audacious and revitalizing as Machine Head’s The Blackening. Machine Head got pretty lost for a while there, and while Through The Ashes of Empires signaled the change, it was The Blackening - immediately and fervently - that won back the trust of the people. It’s a monumental record that completely altered Machine Head’s career trajectory and brought the group back to acclaim in a significant way: it’s not an exaggeration to say it probably gave Machine Head a second life. This is what a record like The Blackening can do for bands.
Sepultura: find your The Blackening somewhere in there. We all want to hear it.