It’s been 20 years since Max Cavalera’s acrimonious departure from Sepultura… and it’s fair to say that the band have never hit the heights of Arise, Chaos AD or Roots since then. Yet the Brazilians have endured, even after Igor Cavalera quit in 2006: they remain a formidable live unit and in guitarist Andreas Kisser, still have a über-talented driving force in their ranks.
Plus, 21st century Sepultura have always tried to push themselves artistically, even if the results have been mixed. Machine Messiah certainly has its eccentricities: a Hammond organ solo merges into tribal percussion and classical guitars during Iceberg Dances, for instance, while Alethea jolts along to a strange, almost jarring beat. There are some very dull moments too, such as the underwhelming title track, perplexingly chosen as the album’s opener.
Yet when the Seps go for the jugular, when Derrick Green’s roar comes flying at you, riding a wave of Kisser’s lethal , infectious riffs, you can’t help raising a big smile: Phantom Self grabs you by the throat with its incendiary chorus, Silent Voices is stripped down, hungry and malevolent, Vandals Nest is a warp speed thrasher with fistfuls of hardcore aggression.
However, Machine Messiah is unlikely to silence the calls for a (very unlikely) reunion with the Cavalera brothers any time soon; it lacks the focus, the imperious songwriting which would put the past to rest once and for all… however brave and imaginative the album is.