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Metal/Prog Metal CD Reviews

Sepultura

Dante XXI

Review by Mike Korn

In the list of world literary giants, Italian poet Dante Aligheiri would have to rank pretty high. The 13th century scribe is generally credited with creating the modern Italian language in his massive work "The Divine Comedy," which detailed Dante's fictional travels through heaven, hell and purgatory. As incredibly imaginative as Dante was, I doubt if he could have ever imagined that his works would inspire an album by a Brazilian thrash metal band in the 21st century.

That's just what we have here. "The Divine Comedy" is a surprising and ambitious choice of inspiration for Sepultura, who have had little respect since the acrimonious departure of their former front man Max Cavalera in the early 1990's. Strangely enough, the unorthodox subject matter has resulted in Sepultura's best album since the mighty "Chaos A.D." many moons ago. "Dante XII" is a lean and mean thrash beast that clocks in at just under 40 minutes, showing admirable restraint for a concept album. With the exception of final track "Still Flame," every song is focused and to the point, hammering the listener with razor-sharp aggression.

Sepultura has never been afraid of adding new touches to their sound and this album sees the addition of classical instrumentation like strings and horns to certain tracks. Once again, they are very judicious in using these instruments, never overwhelming the guitars and drums. The classical touches embellish the record, they don't dominate it. The band does not reinvent themselves completely here, as any fan of their recent work will enjoy Dante XXI, but they do sound much more intense and focused than they have been. I'm not sure what Dante Aligheiri would have made of this, but I'm guessing Joe Metal-head will eat it up with a spoon.

This review is available in book format (hardcover and paperback) in Music Street Journal: 2006 Volume 2 at lulu.com/strangesound.

Track by Track Review
Lost (Intro)
This is basically an ominous, if brief, procession of garbled backwards vocals and monk-like humming.

Dark Wood of Error
After a pounding build-up where drummer Igor Cavalera again shows why he is one of the hardest hitting skins-men in metal, this explodes into a bracing burst of thrash that fairly knocks your head off. Vocalist Derrick Green, always dwelling in the shadow of his predecessor Max Cavalera, here emerges as his own man. His vocals are raspy, angry and crystal clear.

Convicted in Life
This hammering opus is based on a catchy scale-like riff. This is a killer song that will have people murdering each other in the pit. The pace is blistering and guitarist Andreas Kisser unleashes a solo like something from the band's glory days of "Beneath the Remains" and "Arise."

City of Dis
This slows things down a bit and adds an Indian flavor with some sitar work. This is more of the thick, gooey "Roots" style groove the band has specialized in for the last few years, but there are still some fast and thrashy bits on show.
False
The guitar clanging that starts this really brings "Roots" to mind. Then, watch out, as it shifts into high gear. The first half of this track is the most "death metal" the band has sounded in some time. Green's vocal roars of "FALSE!!!!" are ripping. The second half of the track switches gears to a chugging lurch that is accentuated with some creepy classical instrumentation. This is a great track which shows both the thrashy and the slower, groovier side of Sepultura, mixed with some new influences.
Fighting On
Awesome drumming by Igor anchors this medium-paced cruncher. Man, I'd forgotten how good this guy is! The riffing here is unusual and even "happy" at times, but always super low-tuned and heavy. The bass of Paulo Jr. could just about cave your chest cavity in on the last part of this cut.
Limbo (Intro)
This is a nervous sounding little instrumental with some cello and a twangy sounding guitar, which bleeds right into the next number.

Ostia
I like the way this kicks off with mournful sounding horns embellishing heavy, doomy riffs. The main guitar motif is a kind of rubbery, thick thing that almost brings classic Black Sabbath to mind. The sad sounding cello in the middle of the song is a terrific idea that adds a ton of atmosphere to the track.

Buried Words
Crackling static like the sound of a fire gives way to another grooving riff. The chorus on this one is crushing: "Your words are dead/I've buried them/They're dead." The track is compact, catchy and as devoid of frills as a metal track can get without becoming all-out punk.

Nuclear Seven
The simple chugging that forms the bulk of this is not too exciting, but the mid-section features Kisser's best and most destructive guitar soloing of the album, layered over a very thick and heavy rhythm.

Repeating the Horror
Eh, this doesn't do an awful lot for me. It has a jittery nu-metal kind of feel that doesn't gel all that well. This reminds me of lesser Sepultura albums like "Nation" and "Against." It ends with a Latin drum workout from Igor.

Euno...(Intro)
12 seconds is all it takes for this nervous classical string theme.
Church and Miter
Here's a nippy little thrasher that cuts right to the chase. Green's bellowing vocals announce, "There is no way out!" and then, "I had to find salvation/To find my place in the world to live." There's some pretty cool horn work that colors the raging riffing.

Primium Mobile (Intro)
This is a very creepy little bit of ambience with a skittering violin note crawling spider like over drums.

Still Flame
The record ends with this exceedingly odd track. A kind of tribal or Latin chant is repeated at the beginning to the point of annoyance. Just when I was ready to hit the "stop" button, the voices stop and this becomes a low-key, smoldering instrumental work-out with sitar, cello and keyboards. Electric guitar comes in gradually with a solo and at the very end, the cut becomes intense as Green repeats the only lyric: "Still flame, still flame!"
 
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