Album Title: Quadra
Label: Nuclear Blast
Date of Release: 7 February 2020
Hands up those of you who, like me, had pretty much given up on Sepultura? I can see a few hands in the air, so I’m glad I’m not alone. I still hold their earlier material including ‘Arise’, ‘Chaos AD’ and ‘Roots’ in the highest regard but the output since the departure of the Cavalera brothers a number of years ago has not been of a standard or direction to keep me even remotely interested. I did take a step back into the world of the Brazilian metal band a couple of years ago when their last album, 2017’s ‘Machine Messiah’ was released. It was recommended by a trusted source but despite a few decent moments, I remained largely disappointed and unenthused.
The beauty of music, however, is that it has the power to shock and amaze at any given moment. And this is one of those moments. ‘Quadra’ is the title of this latest release from Sepultura, the fifteenth of their long career and, somewhat unexpectedly, the first since 1996 that has properly impressed me.
The band looks a lot different some 24 years on, with only bassist Paulo Jr an ever-present since the birth of Sepultura in 1984. Alongside him are long-term guitarist Andreas Kisser, vocalist and man-mountain Derrick Green, with relative newbie Eloy Casagrande behind the drum kit. And, when you thought that Sepultura were a spent force and an irrelevance in today’s metal world, they deliver ‘Quadra’ to make us all sit up and seriously question everything.
Ironically, or perhaps not, ‘Quadra’ is both the most relevant Sepultura have sounded in the modern world, but it is also the closest body of work stylistically to their early days. There is undeniably a sense of nostalgia at play and there’s an argument to say that this may be subconsciously colouring my thoughts of this record. But equally, and importantly, ‘Quadra’ also represents a band that sounds fresh, revitalised and who are willing to experiment and explore soundscapes that may not have always been within their armoury.
On the one hand, ‘Quadra’ is a heavy and uncompromising thrash metal beast where strong riffs collide with muscular and fast-paced rhythms to create an aggressive backdrop upon which Green snarls, growls and barks with a bite and hunger that feels somehow renewed and entirely believable. Once tracks like the razor-sharp and powerful opener, ‘Isolation’ kick into gear, it’s like we’re transported back to the late 80s. I mean, when was the last time that these guys demonstrated this amount of fire in their collective bellies?
On that point, it is fair to suggest that there isn’t a weak performance from any of the musicians on ‘Quadra’. The drumming from Casagrande is incredible; so much more than a one-trick blast-beat pony, whilst his rhythmic partner, Paulo Jr. lays down some serious grooves and muscular bass lines. Naturally, thrash will often live or die on the strength of the riffs and here, Kisser delivers in spades, dishing out a fair number of vibrant and stylish leads in the process. And finally, Green demonstrates with aplomb just how versatile he can be, sounding anarchic and caustic one minute, and almost mellifluous the next.
The dexterity and ability of the quartet means that the transition between all-out attack and something groovier and more nuanced feels effortless, with several nods backwards in the direction of ‘Roots’. One listen to the chunky, rumbling within ‘Autem’, the thunderous ‘Means To An End’ or the undeniably tribal-influenced ‘Capital Enslavement’ which gets the head nodding forcefully, and we’ve gone from the late 80s to the mid-90s in the blink of an eye.
However, there’s also plenty to pick out of ‘Quadra’ that supports my assertion that Sepultura are still willing to try new things. The intro to the aforementioned opener immediately introduces fans to the idea that perhaps the band can successfully incorporate something a little more sophisticated in the shape of symphonic orchestration. It is an ingredient that pops up occasionally within the twelve tracks but does so sparingly and intelligently to add extra depth and texture when required.
The track ‘Last Time’ is the perfect example of Sepultura managing to successfully and intriguingly blend the orchestration into a composition that is a snarling thrash metal monster at heart, but which incorporates light and shade, and clever dynamics to great effect, keeping the music fresh and current as a result.
There’s even a smidgen of progressive intent to be heard along the way, albeit not over-worked or contrived. There’s the deceptive ‘Raging Void’, the swirling ‘The Pentagram’ where bulldozer riffing is juxtaposed with an almost psychedelic vibe at times, or the wonderfully epic ‘Guardians Of Earth’ that weaves it’s way to a conclusion via a number of different styles, from thrash to symphonic rock, from acoustic to melodic metal, including my favourite lead solo anywhere on the album.
I couldn’t end the review without a word or two about ‘Agony Of Defeat’. It’s a dark, brooding affair with a Middle Eastern flavour to the melodies and the symphonics, not to mention some rich, clean vocals from Green alongside his ‘normal’, more abrasive delivery. My favourite track? It’s certainly up there, yes.
With classic British understatement, ‘Quadra’ is a little bit good. Only, it is actually better than that. Some have suggested it might be a masterpiece and, whilst I’d stop short of describing this record as such, I must admit that it has felt like a lifetime since a Sepultura album has made me feel this engaged and, dare I say it, happy. Uncompromising and heavy, yet with an intelligence at its core, as well as a desire to experiment, this is how I wished Sepultura had sounded over the past decade or two. Better late than never though – welcome back chaps, I didn’t realise until now how much I’d missed you.
The Score of Much Metal: 90%
Check out my reviews from 2020 right here:
Dyscordia – Delete / Rewrite
Godthrymm – Reflections
On Thorns I Lay – Threnos
God Dethroned – Illuminati
Fragment Soul – A Soul Inhabiting Two Bodies
Mariana Semkina – Sleepwalking
Mini Album Reviews: Moloken, The Driftwood Sign & Midnight
Serenity – The Last Knight
Ihsahn – Telemark EP
Temperance – Viridian
Blasphemer – The Sixth Hour
Deathwhite – Grave Image
Marko Hietala – Pyre Of The Black Heart
SWMM – Trail Of The Fallen
Into Pandemonium – Darkest Rise EP
Bonded – Rest In Violence
Serious Black – Suite 226
Darktribe – Voici L’Homme
Brothers Of Metal – Emblas Saga
A Life Divided – Echoes
Thoughts Factory – Elements
You can also check out my other reviews from previous years right here: