Like many of the Sepultura fanbase, I sit firmly in the camp that believes their strongest and most impressive work came out of the original band with Max Cavalera, from their inception in 1984 until 1996 when Max left amongst heated personal and legal disputes. His brother Igor Cavalera held in there until 2006, when he also moved on and later made amends with Max to create Cavalera Conspiracy, a band that displayed a lot of the previous Seps magic.
Max’s replacement was Derrick Green, a man with a lot of power, range, and stage presence, but the material that he had to work with was weaker, mostly provided by long-time guitarist Andreas Kisser (who has done as much as he possibly can, but seemingly lacks the necessary Cavalera infusion). The music had lost a lot of its edge and personality, but this looked to change with 2017’s Machine Messiah which was loaded with energy and spirit. Quadra builds formidably on this solid foundation and has a lot to offer in various departments.
The album, as the name implies, has four sections (surrounding the themes of arithmetic, geometry, music, and astronomy) made up of three songs each, each one with its own directive and general sound. The first three tracks (“Isolation,” “Means To An End,” and “Last Time”) are the most exciting and attractive to old-school Sepultura fans – fast, heavy, loaded with riffs and balls-out thrash with a punk vibe, quickly getting the blood pumping with a gutsy Exodus meets Dark Angel vibe. They’re catchy and brutal with a total Arise atmosphere, and it just feels right, like the stars have finally aligned for the fledgling band. “Isolation,” the album opener, is an immediately indisputable classic Sepultura from any era, and puts a wide smile on my dial every damn time.
The next three songs (“Capital Enslavement,” “Ali,” and “Raging Void”) harken back to the group’s tribal roots (excuse the pun) with assorted rhythmic and percussion fireworks and, as a fan of the much-maligned 1996 album, I find a lot of character in there that has genuine passion and heart and not just a tribal-Sepultura-for-the-sake-of-it re-tread. The third part of the record (“Guardians Of Earth,” “The Pentagram,” and “Autem”) is the most interesting section of all, built heavily on the band feeling each other out musically and expanding lyrically, all the while building the tension for the finale to come. Here we can see the group dynamic at work, where the harmony created by the four musicians finds its own sound and deeply moving and progressive peak.
The epilogue (“Quadra,” “Agony Of Defeat,” and “Fear; Pain; Chaos; Suffering”) are oozing with emotion and depth, using choral/orchestral arrangements, female vocals courtesy of Brazilian musician Emmily Barreto on “Fear; Pain; Chaos; Suffering,” symphonic swells, and 47 seconds of acoustic guitar bliss on the title track (something that I’ve always loved about the band). The production is huge, the guitars are fatter than fat, the dynamics swell and retreat with ocean-like dreaminess, and the band (especially young phenom Eloy Casagrande on drums and percussion) feel and sound like a complete unit with something to say and the means to deliver it.
Is it strong enough to be stacked alongside the classic-era albums and, more importantly, is it the rebirth of a band that has struggled to live up to its name for 24 long, tiring years? I’m bold enough to say yes, the Sepultura of 2020 has made something to be truly proud of, something that they can build on to reach impressive heights, and something that fans old and new will find enjoyable and rich enough to necessitate oft-repeated listens. Quadra is the Sepultura album for which we’ve all been waiting, and its strength lies in the meditative alchemy brewed by a band that still has so much to offer. And for a cantankerous, grumpy old-school fan like me to say that speaks volumes.
Quadra Track Listing:
02. Means To An End
03. Last Time
04. Capital Enslavement
06. Raging Void
07. Guardians Of Earth
08. The Pentagram
11. Agony Of Defeat
12. Fear; Pain; Chaos; Suffering
Run Time: 51 minutes Release Date: February 7, 2020 Record Label: Nuclear Blast Records
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