Sepultura – ‘A-lex’ Album Review

It seems that there was never a time when Sepultura were given a chance following their acrimonious split with Max despite the fact that they released several stunning albums including the mighty ‘Nation’ and ‘Dante XXI’. Detractors focused on Derek’s voice and ‘lack of charisma’ yet having witnessed both Sepultura and Soulfly during those formative years I found Sepultura to be the better band not least because Max’s confidence had been so dented following his departure that he seemingly roped any and every guest star he could to help lend his project credence (something it never actually needed). Dropped by their record label, slated by hypocritical fans who were too close-minded to even give Derek a chance, Sepultura found themselves perennial outcasts in the world of metal suffering all sorts of overly-hyperbolic criticism (not least from the fickle UK music press) despite producing a body of work that sits proudly alongside anything they did with Max. A-lex, sadly, will do nothing to change those narrow preconceptions but, having read endless misinformed and downright vicious reviews, I feel it is time to balance the sheets because this is an excellent record. 

When Sepultura unleashed Dante XXI in 2006 it was a revelation. Despite ‘Nation’ being an excellent entry in the band’s catalogue and ‘Roorback’ consolidating that success, ‘Dante..’ saw the band develop a thrash concept album (no mean feat) and do so in a style that maximised the impact of Derek’s formidable roar and the songwriting of Andreas Kisser. Sadly by the time of the tour, Igor Cavelera had departed the band but the subsequent live shows (one of which SonicAbuse caught in Poland) were ferociously tight with the band sounding better than they had in years. The follow-up, another concept album based on the final, un-filmed, chapter of ‘A Clockwork Orange’, is equally furious. A slab of pure, malevolent rage channelled into an intelligent story and performed by a band who have been belittled and overlooked for far too long. 

One of the main concerns following Igor’s departure was that the drumming, previously one of the band’s strongest cards, would suffer. This has turned out not to be the case. From the opening, brutal strains of A-lex 1 (an intro that segues straight into the punk-metal clash of ‘Moloko Mesto’) it is clear that the band are on astonishingly good form and while the sound may be a little rawer than we are used to, the overall effect is somewhat like finding oneself standing in the middle of a bloody knife fight. ‘Filthy rot’ continues the aggressive feel of the record, but this is Sepultura and they rarely pummel the listener without introducing an interesting dynamic be it a tribal passage, an acoustic interlude or robust solo and here we find all of the above popping up at various points. With Derek’s voice on peak form (and never has a powerful front-man had to tolerate so much abuse simply for not being his predeccessor) we are treated not only to his monolithic roar but also to various clean vocal sections which highlight his versatility. 

Musically the band vary between extremely fast, short-lived blasts of brutality and the more mid-tempo metal that made up much of ‘Nation’ but there are also interludes and segue passages that bring the story forward (in the form of the A-lex suite) and even a much-castigated classical piece in the form of ‘Ludwig Van’ which is much less of a surprise than many claimed given the classical ending that the band gave to ‘Nation’ (with a suitably bombastic Apocalyptica in tow). 

With the band now signed to Nuclear Blast, let’s hope that Sepultura finally gain the respect that they deserve. They have released a wealth of great material post Max, and while Soulfly’s star may now be burning brightly, let us not forget that Sepultura never sunk to the depths of that band in the first place (try comparing Prophecy’s nu-metal posturing to Nation’s out-and-out aggression) releasing album after album of great material. ‘A-lex’ may not be a masterpiece, but it as an excellent, intelligent and perfectly performed piece of work that the band should be rightly proud of. 

Sepultura are currently undertaking a headline tour of the UK culminating with their appearance at the Hevy Music Festival in Kent on August 8th.

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  1. Don C. July 23, 2010 6:14 pm  Reply

    Finally, someone that actually has listened to “post-Max” Sepultura!!!!!

    Have not heard A-Lex yet so I will not comment about it but…. Nation was an AMAZING release.
    It is the most diverse of all of the Sepultura albums. It covers all of the “old-school” thrash that Sep has always been known for and then touches on so many other facets most bands can’t or won’t get near.
    Dante is another great album, although I lean more towards Nation.

    I have been a huge Sepultura fan since Beneath The Remains. I even named my son Max and credit Igor as my biggest influence on drums. But, Max was NOT Sepultura!!!

    Sepultura- Keep doing “What You Do”!!!!! It is much appreciated by many..

  2. jason July 23, 2010 7:32 pm  Reply

    i totallly agree with don c – yes max was ok but i do actually prefer derrick i seen them last week live and was at the front centre and got to see the performance side well and they are a force to be reckond with – its just the usual mumbo jumbo of being closed minded when they are absolutly amazing now

  3. Kadoogan July 23, 2010 11:37 pm  Reply

    Nice review! As someone that is fed up with people saying that they aren’t Sepultura without Max, and are crap now, it is so nice to see someone redress the balance a bit. I saw them last night in London, and Derrick is every bit as good a frontman as Max ever was, indeed I’d say better. The band as a whole were awesome.

    Max threw his tantrum and left 14 years ago. Time for people to get over it. Derrick has been with the band as long as Max was, and doing a bloody fine job.

    There is the occasional rumour of a reunion but in my view Max needs Sepultura more than Sepultura needs Max. He hasn’t done anything to match Sepultura since leaving. A reunion gig with both Cavalera’s would also be disrespectful to both Derrick and Jean. The current line-up should steer well clear.

    • phil July 24, 2010 10:43 am  Reply

      I certainly feel that Derrek is on of the most underrated frontmen in metal – not only can he work a crowd but he has immense presence and that roar which simply levels buildings when he lets it loose. Thank you for all your comments – it’s good to see that Sepultura still have loyal supporters despite all the idiotic things that have been written about them.

  4. Leomar July 24, 2010 6:51 pm  Reply

    Thanl you Phil for the great and straight review. We’re all tired of the closedminds who doesn’t gave proper respect. SEPULTURA NA VEIA! Cheers from Brazil!!!

  5. Matt July 25, 2010 5:58 pm  Reply

    Well.. i’m really fed up about “Sepultura’s fan’s who’s criticizing “after the max” period.
    I do love both. Doesn’t care of lowmind spirits who’s finding in derreck green an target about what max is doing (or not) in Soulfly or Cavalera’s conspiracy!

    I also like Soulfy, and it’s a good thing to have to international brasilian band instead of one?

    It’s time to grow up kids!
    Let’em do what they want, listen if you love..
    .. and let the others enjoy their music, if you don’t!

    • phil July 25, 2010 6:12 pm  Reply

      A good point well made. Both Soulfly and Sepultura (especially now) are great bands worthy of attention – it’s been great to see the response this review got and the amount of people who’ve come out in support of post-Max Sepultura: for me, metal’s always been about being open-minded and that’s something that true Sepultura fans seem to be.

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