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Thursday, May 19, 2011

Album Review: Sepultura - Kairos

Sepultura - Kairos
2011 Nuclear Blast Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.

Sepultura has always been a strange cosmos unto itself. When in their zone, this is one of the most volatile and bombastic bands mankind has ever seen. Creatively-speaking, however, Sepultura has been both graced and cursed with a host of talented musicians who all have had varying visions for the band's direction. Whether you're talking pure speed metal on Arise, anthropological excavations on Roots, a plethora of styles and vibes on Against or musical interpretations of literature on Dante XXI and A-Lex, Sepultura has never been afraid to explore their potentials, regardless of the cost.

Personally-speaking, I've always found Sepultura to be one of the bravest metal bands the genre hosts. I'm honored to have sat down with Max Cavalera three times in my career, Andreas Kisser twice and even once with Derrick Green. Each gentleman has been candid, friendly and insightful in their own ways. Sepultura is blessed by each of their former and current inputs. Sadly, the focus in the eyes of most metal fans has been the roster shakeups in Sepultura, in particular the (now pointless) debate over Derrick Green's value in place of Max Cavalera as frontman of this crown jewel band. Their loss, because even though Sepultura took a couple albums with Green to find their stride, their most recent efforts have been stellar. Many metal and punk bands have dabbled with the concepts of Dante's Inferno and A Clockwork Orange, but few have expressively put a start-to-finish representation with as much artistry as Sepultura has achieved.

Even though Sepultura today is only represented by two founding members, i.e. Kisser and Paulo Jr., there's been no slouching in the heaviness department. Yes, there's a cadence lost by the departure of Iggor Cavalera and assuredly Jean Dolabella has felt the pressure to succeed in such a demanding position. Each man has his own style and while the insane tom-snare rolling imprints Cavalera leaves behind presents a challenge, Dolabella has been up to the task in creating the verve Kisser (as primary songwriter) is seeking at this point for Sepultura.

Kairos is the band's 12th album and the core concept is based upon "Kairos," a Greek word for time and transcendentalism. Sepultura's latest album is even segmented by farflung years in the track listing: 2011, 1433, 5772 and concluded with a question mark disippation date of 4648.

While loosely adhering to this quasi-concept, the bigger picture to Kairos is its back-to-basics crunch 'n munch feel. Recorded by legendary producer and guitarist Roy Z, Kairos isn't a glossy overhaul of Sepultura's past and present motifs. Instead, Roy Z was summoned down to Brazil to work with the band and the key operative was to record Sepultura live for much of the ride.

Thus Kairos has an intentionally stripped aura about it. Riffs, singular drum strikes and bulldog woofing with occasional percussion supplements is what drives this album. Kisser and Sepultura allow themselves to get into the spirit of their Cavalera-free alliance and just rip. Kisser himself notes that recording Dante XXI and A-Lex presented more structure than he wanted to contend with this time around, those albums being based upon literary bodies of work.

A somewhat shorter album than Sepultura has wielded of late, the intent of Kairos is to paint a picture of what has been and what can be. When they hail back to Chaos A.D. on "Spectrum" and "No One Will Stand," they do so simply to nod back to one of the band's most successful eras, yet it's handled with dignity instead of flagrancy. The riff-o-matic chugs of "Spectrum" draws the listener straight into Sepultura 2011's web of crunk, while "No One Will Stand" (one of Kairos' most elaborately-penned tunes) is damned near breathtaking.

Mixing up the schemes between mid-tempo stamps and blunt thrash, Kairos is going to have many of the old guard smirk and nod along. Kisser is a madman of shred on "Structure Violence (Azzes)," "Seethe," "Born Strong" and the appropriately-titled "Relentless." As always, his solos are like blistering magma. If metal still has any macho left to it in a subversive culture far more gender-diverse today than it was 25 years ago, "Born Strong" is the flexive man-jam filled with speed and struts. Even Derrick Green's growl-raps on "Seethe" have a manly puncture to them you could even see UFC fighters come skulking to the ring with this booming tirade of a tune overhead.

Not to say Kairos is chauvenistic, let's not get too carried away here. Yet the album carries a heavy chip on its shoulder and it largely sacrifices flair for outright aggression. Paulo Jr. and Jean Dolabella enjoy a unique, rhythmic bond as the entire band adapts to Dolabella's less-is-more pounding strategm. The live capturing of Kairos does keep Dolabella honest, more so than everyone else, but damn if it doesn't give this album a natural air to breathe in accordingly.

While Sepultura needlessly covers Ministry's "Just One Fix" and if you pick up the deluxe edition, you'll get their hike on The Prodigy's "Firestarter," Kairos is still a beast that flourishes on its unyielding hostility. You can tell the difference between Kairos and A-Lex.

While A-Lex was largely brilliant, Kairos is well-unchained and you know who comes out a hero on this album aside from Andreas Kisser? Derrick Green. For the crosses this cat has had to bear in his long stead as Sepultura's vocalist, Kairos is tailored to showcase his prowess as much as the rest of the band and he seizes the moment, even when letting the instrumentation take headier sections. Green's discipline on this album proves why his bandmates have believed in him all these years and Kairos is as much his victory. Take that, naysayers...

Rating: ****


pablodelarocha said...

just heard the record
agree in every point with your review.

its really sad that most people dont even try to listen to what sepultura been doing since max left. A-lex, Dante and even against are great albums, and kairos is so far the best of them all (with derek)

thanks - its a joy when i find someone over the internet that shares the same opinion about this great band

Anonymous said...

album kick's ass

Rodrigo said...

Best album with Derrick Green and one of the best albums of the entire Sepultura discography.

Actually, these are my top 5 Sepultura albums:

1 - Chaos A.D.
2 - Roots
3 - Arise
4 - Kairos
5 - Dante XXI

Ah, and the review is very nice, detailed, and honest.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Thanks, all of you. I always appreciate everyone who still supports this band. Sometimes bands experiencing such devastating shakeups crumble or sell out, but Sepultura has remained honest to their sound and continue to explore their capabilities. Obviously, the directions Sep has gone has unfortunately sent some members off to new ventures, but I really feel the Derrick Green era has been quite honorable and at least the past few albums should be given more serious consideration.

:[marz]: said...

Hello there pal. I'm a 42 yo metalhead from Brazil and have been into Sepultura since the very beginning. I also think their "new" line-up deserves more credit than it gets, and the Green Era has produced some really good work, like the last two albums. Haven't heard Kairos yet but will buy a copy soon. Keep rockin!

Anonymous said...

Finally a Kairos review I agree wth, and from a welcome source, one of my favorite Metal Maniac scribes. Glad I found your home on the web, keep up the good work.

Ray Van Horn, Jr. said...

Hi, Marz, being in Brazil, I'd consider you a direct source for approval, so hopefully you're digging the new album.

Anon, I'm humbled, thank you very much for those very nice words. Truly, remarks like yours and readers who follow from place-to-place keep me involved in this stuff. Cheers...

Anonymous said...

good review. Just listened to the album and it is strong. One of their best.

friz said...

Absolute wonderful album... New lineup or not, it's just solid as hell. I can't stop listening to it, which is how I know if an album is good or not!

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