Album review: SEPULTURA – The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart

Nuclear Blast – Out Now.

It’s been seventeen whole years since Max Cavalera, singer and rhythm guitarist of the Brazilian Thrash Metal combo Sepultura, decided to end his working relationship with the band he helped form in Belo Horizonte back in 1984.

Even though many people believed, especially back in early 1997, that there was not much future left in this musical ensemble sans Max, the remaining members decided to prove them wrong by soldiering on and, with the assistance of their towering new front man Derrick Green, continued their long and arduous musical quest.

“The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Head”, album number thirteen for the Brazilians, proves without a doubt that the quartet has not only lost its thirst for high velocity Metal but that it is still aiming towards pushing the limits of their creativity even further.

The decision to move to the US and work again with Ross Robinson, the man who gave voice to 1996’s “Roots”, Sepultura’s best-selling effort to date, was a clever move on the part of the band as what they have created here is an album that blends the ‘old’ with the ‘new’ quite cleverly.

Tribal drums, narrative style vocals and low chorded guitars are, of course, part of the equation but, rather than aiming towards creating a “Roots” clone, the quartet have thoroughly squeezed all their creative juices and created in the process a body of work which will impress with its energy and surprise, with both its musical dexterity and its numerous intelligent arrangements.

Elements of Thrash and Punk operate in harmony and are given equal opportunities throughout the album and the newly-acquired skinsman Eloy Casagrande has fulfilled his obligation towards the band by infusing the album with both energy and a technical and rhythmical flair.

“Trauma Of War”, the opening track of the album, is a straight forward and fairly aggressive Thrasher that doesn’t represent the album’s real potential and worth – something which the follow-up “The Vatican” achieves with unnerving ease.

Enhanced with clever atmospheric orchestrations and filled with crunchy, groovy riffs this monster of a song finds the band in rude form and thirsty for success. Experimentation is the word that truly characterises compositions such as “Impending Doom”, “Tsunami” and “The Bliss Of Ignorants”, but sandwiched between them, the tribal sounding “Manipulation Of Tragedy”, brings back memories from the band’s mid 90s golden era.

The one song that truly stands out, not only as the best song of the album but also as one of the most important compositions ever recorded with Derrick Green on vocals, is “Grief”. With mournful guitar harmonies and Green’s angry screams appearing at strategic points, this hair-raising composition presents Sepultura as a band that can harness and utilise its raw emotions to maximum effect.

The duet “The Age Of The Atheist” / “Obsessed” present a combination of interesting ideas and themes, while the closing cover “Da Lama Ao Caos” (Chico Science & Nacao Zumbi) wraps things up in a flamboyant and highly energetic fashion.

Not many top tier bands manage to survive the loss of their talismanic front man and still survive to tell the tale, but Sepultura are no ordinary band! Even though my relationship with Sepultura was forged back in the late 80s, and this period will always be the one closest to my heart, I cannot fail but recognise how much the Seps have grown and evolved this past decade.

“The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Head” is the product of a mature band which respects its past but is not afraid to expand and evolve – an album whose quality and essence will not just look for your attention but will demand it.

Now, if you’re open-minded enough, there’s no reason why you should refuse…. or resist!

John Stefanis

Rating: **** (4.0/5.0)

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Power Plays w/c 10 January (Mon-Fri)
SMOKING MARTHA Wild & Free (Xelon Entertainment)
TRUE NORTH Fix (Out Of Line Music)
COLLECTED Say When (indie)
ABOUT KINGS Heaven On Down The Highway (indie)
WHALEDOG Leave Me Alone (indie)
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