Machine Messiah- The opening track begins with an ominous clean guitar that brings in the rest of the band with a slow foreboding feeling, kinda like a heavy Pink Floyd. Andreas provides a melodic spacey solo. This track lulls the listener into wondering where Sepultura is going until about halfway through Derrick howls with such aggression so as to remind us that Sepultura have not gone soft despite the restrained qualities of this richly layered album opener. Andreas doesn't forget to shred, albeit briefly, before we head into the final breaths of Machine Messiah.
I Am The Enemy- I was very curious to see where Sepultura were going to go after .Machine Messiah’s relatively mellow pace. I Am The Enemy opens at full clip with an almost hardcore punk urgency that really gets the blood flowing! Andreas uses his wah pedal in the way only he can to pepper the attack with his speedy picked guitar licks. The middle session brings in an awesome machine gun attack that is tight and focused that is perfect for the mosh pit at their always intense live shows. I do hope this track gets played live when I see them next as it's a great quick head banging slab of metal!
Phantom Self - Here we see the world music flavor which has become something of a trademark for Sepultura in the way of the rhythmic percussive intro. Harmonized guitars come in accompanied by strings that lend an almost Middle-Eastern feel before the heaviness comes crashing down with a monstrous riff as derrick growls “What happened to me? Felt like I had everything/Such a big catastrophe” following the guitars and drums. The Middle-Eastern strings come back in and weave in and out of the metallic riffing and never seem out of place, making this a very unique track that still delivers that Sepultura heaviness while showing that they are still willing to layer in new sonic textures. Definitely a stand out track and the music video is thought provokingly interesting.
Alethea- Wikipedia describes this as is an English language female first name derived from the ancient and modern Greek meaning “truth.” This track brings that signature tribal drum sound making nimble use of the toms to drive the band toward for a little over a minute before the rest of the band jumps in with thick and heavily attacked riffing. Lyrically, this song attacks mass media, politicians, and even education as failed bearers of truth and ultimately declares that it’s all a “rigged game from the start/ don’t play me for a fool.” The rhythms have a slight Meshuggah feel while maintaining a gripping urgency all the way through. The guitar rhythm work stands to me as Andreas varies his attack, tightly muting some sections while openly banging out others, which adds great tonal variety. And of course Andreas’ evocative lead work shines throughout as he effortlessly jumps between emotionally melodic to aggressively intense, and before you know it the song ends abruptly, as if you’ve just been choked out and you lose consciousness. This track has a great uneasiness that begs for repeated listen.
Iceberg Dances- This is an instrumental track that only clocks in a 4:41, but is so jam-packed with layers and textures that it feels a little overwhelming, in a great way of course! Guitars, Bass and Drums shift effortlessly from different riffs and sections while being accompanied by different instruments. Just before the three minute mark some tribal drums and harmonized guitarst segue into some beautiful classical guitar work that showcase Andreas’ mastery of his instrument. This is followed by an almost Joe Satriani-esque lead before the whole band pummels you into submission leaving you ready to hit replay.
Sworn Oath- A dark and eerie build up to a symphonic section that screams epicness before being stripped away to a bare bones Guitar riff and stomping drum beat. Anger pours out in the vocal attack with lyrics like “ Constrained by corruption/Bleeding hearts were lead astray/Swore an oath to lead the way/But the greed transformed to shame”. The band is again able to show their versatility by switching gears from this in your face aggression to a sweeping symphonic sound. The Dynamics continue to shift halfway through as a distorted, but lightly attacked guitar arpeggio line guides us into a rollercoaster ride of a guitar solo that again helps cement Andreas’ status as a true guitar virtuoso. This is a song I wouldn’t have expected to come from Sepultura, but they handle it with ease and an authenticity which shows their growth and comfort with implementing new and refreshing styles and approaches to their music.
Resistant Parasites- If at this point in the album a question has arisen about the classic and established Sepultura sound and where it’s gone, Resistant Parasite’s instant assault both musically and vocally assure us that Sepultura have not forgotten their roots. This song seems like it could have been recorded during the Roots era.
Silent Violence- There's nothing silent about this attack! Sepultura comes at you with a ferocious intensity highlighted by fast chromatically descending riffs and unabashedly thrashing drums! Opening lines:”I've taken all I can take/I feel the need to destroy.” I often wonder if a certain track would serve as an intro to a UFC match, this adrenaline fueled thrasher would certainly fit! If the first half of the song is the hot roses thrash machine barreling down the road than the middle section is the off-road monster truck pummeling everything in its path with the drum work crushing you as the track drags your lifeless body across the finish line!
Vandals Nest- As if the last track didn't leave you as a bloody pile, sepultura decide that it’s round two and unleash a machine gun like attack of tremolo picked guitars and bass alongside the explosive double bass to form a devastating rhythmic blitzkrieg. The track clocks in at just under 3 minutes, it’s in and out and yet still provides some dynamic variety.
Cyber God- Starts off brooding and haunting with massive guitar chords stomping along while the spoken word section draws you in. In no time the dissonant guitar lines come slithering with more snake like melodies. Green’s vocals are equal parts darkly soothing and strained rage. The song shifts between the two extremes smoothly and ends with yet more amazing lead work from Kisser.
Chosen Skin-the closing track explodes out of the speakers with fast drums and trem picked guitar riffing akin to early death metal. The first quick guitar solo also has an Obituary feel with its strong bends and wah pedal. Speaking of guitar solos, it's clear to see that Andreas has guitar licks to days and peppers them all over this song (and album as a whole) with just as much fire, bite and energy as he did way back on Schizophrenia. A great closer to a very varied, heavy and in your face record.
After that sonic assault, there is no doubt in my mind that Sepultura are still as potent a force in the current metal landscape. I have seen this band live several times. I’ve never seen the original line up with Max, however, I am completely floored by their performances and as of this writing am making plans to see them once again this April. I highly recommend you catch them out on tour and support the metal and live music scene as well. Since they are going to be playing many songs off this album, I can honestly say that I am stoked to see and hear them performed live along with all the classic tunes that Sepultura can rip through like no one else can.