Key renegades in the second wave of late eighties thrash metal, the mighty Sepultura debuted in 1986 and along with such greats as Pantera, Testament and Machine Head became one of the most influential bands to emerge from that swampy, Slayer-inspired morass of infernal ingenuity. From a starting point of down and dirty thrash-infused death, Sepultura have over the decades been on a slightly unhinged, delirium-inducing journey through various musical territories, taking in hard-core punk, nu metal, industrial and most unusually, a diverse range of world music. While suffering an almost fatal blow when original founders, brothers Max and Igor Cavalera departed the group, Sepultura bounced back with surprising tenacity to produce more albums and remain perennially popular, grizzled veterans of the hair-whipped scene.
Latest magnum opus, 'Quadra', proves the Brazilian thrashers are still a force of nature to be reckoned with. Highly technical, innovative and brimming with ferocious energy, this is modern thrash at its finest, laced with lashings of deep-diving melody and echoing with cavernous atmospherics and waves of killer riffs. While nothing can fill the beefy Cavalera-shaped hole, the band have made an attempt to resurrect the spirit of that heady golden age. “On Quadra, we felt the urge to revisit that old thrash feeling of Beneath the Remains or Arise, only seen through the eyes of today,” guitarist Andreas Kisser explains, to the delight of thrash aficionados everywhere. Mindful of their latter-day heritage, 'Quadra' also channels their ground-breaking sound’s more unconventional streams of influence. “Add to that the tribal percussion, the orchestral elements, the choirs, the melodies and the clean vocals and you get a thorough run-through of our entire career, backed by a very contemporary approach.”
Opening with an eerie, synthesised intro, with crashing dusky chords that add a kind of base majesty to the overall ominous mood, first track 'Isolation' soon speeds up and launches into the instantly recognisable, storm-shattering Sepultura sound, lighting the fuse for the explosive, yet skilfully precise, heights of chaos to come. 'Means to an End', 'Last Time' and 'Ali' continue in the same vein, splicing shredded riffs and hails of blast beats with underscored, oozy layers of groove. 'Raging Void' is perhaps the angriest song of the album, punctuated by furious, blustery vocals that seem wrenched up from the fathomless depths at the back of the throat, while the instrumentals of 'The Pentagram' and 'Autem' gallop along at a pace that is nothing less than superhuman, adding a crazed, madhouse excess to the whole. Title-track 'Quadra', 'Capital Enslavement' and 'Guardians of the Earth' feature the kind of wild experimentation that sets Sepultura apart from other acts; utilising the rhythms of tribal drums and chants to craft something rich, heavy and as dark as the most dense, murky and uncharted regions of the band’s native Amazon.
Like one of the most divisive yeast-based spreads, you either love it or hate it, but the originality and dynamism of seminal masterpiece 'Roots' is clearly apparent here. Catchy 'Agony of Defeat' has a hard-rock feel, making use of complex, soaring guitar sequences and thudding drum-work to really pound home the heavy metal, while final track 'Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering' brings in some clean-cut choral vocals to add to the usual gut-wrenching rasps, amps up the groove once more and makes an extreme sport out of intense riffing.
Although an accomplished addition to their discography, this one is never going to achieve the influence and sheer power of Sepultura’s earlier ouvre - yet these seasoned pros are still capable of hitting the high notes. When you’re itching for some satisfying thrash with a touch of unbridled experimental anarchy, Quadra more than hits the spot.
'Quadra' is out now on Nuclear Blast