Friday, June 24, 2011

Sepultura - Kairos (2011)

Though a 'true' reunion with Max Cavalera has been in demand for many years, Sepultura is one of the few internationally renowned metal bands to have not repealed its new front man. You've got to admire such resolve, because the pressure must have been huge this past decade, with thrash coming back in full swing and lots of fans, old and new shelling out hard currency for new albums with classic lineups, reunion tours, etc. That being said, I've yet to hear a single Derrick Greene fronted Sepultura record which I could place upon the same plateau of quality achieved early on with albums like Chaos A.D., Beneath the Remains, and Schizophrenia.

Sure, they've tried, and individual tracks from albums like Nation and Against have had their moments, but it just doesn't seem to be working out for me. I just can't get into the guy's vocals. Technically, he's got a broader range of styles, yet I've felt as if the band were always missing something without Max's gruff if misguided presence. Kairos, the band's 12th album, is an appeal to the past, the band returning almost wholly to the simplistic thrash riffing that placed them on the map in the footfalls of Slayer, Possessed and other primal giants of the form. It's not so much a mirror into the band's 80s catalog as it is a second attempt at a Chaos A.D., and the decision to include various external influences (primarily industrial) into the social political, tribal and 'feel good' lyrics only reinforces its retread grounds.

Alas, the Brazilian superstars have once again come up short, and Kairos is yet another quizzical full-length that begs the question: how does Sepultura sustain itself off about 15 years of middling and underwhelming composition? Are the classics still such huge hits on tour? Is the fan base in total denial? Did they invest in a successful stock portfolio in the mid 90s? To think, there is practically an entire generation now of fans who have grown up with Green. I guess the band must be doing something right, even if the quality of their output seems so borderline wrong...

Kairos does attempt to be that Sepultura record everyone's been waiting for since 1993 (or in the case of many Chaos A.D. haters, 1991). A few of the early birds ("Spectrum", "Kairos") have relatively hypnotic, basal mute thrash rhythms which build expectations rather high, and then defecate all over them, as they go basically nowhere. Green cycles between his emotionally charged, Phil Anselmo snarls, somber narrative tones, and the straight up caustic style which is his best, and the band just phones in a handful of primitive beats and rhythms which never build up enough fire to resurrect the momentum of yesteryear. There are some creative leads tossed about the track list, and a handful of curious riffs that rekindle the band's 1989-93 personality (like the ringing guitar line in "Born Strong"), but there never seems to be more than one, or possible two little rhythms worth a damn anywhere.

Like Chaos A.D., there are the expectant moments of versatility and experimentation, manifest here through some minor ambient segues ("2011", "5722"), and industrial pieces: the first a cover of Ministry's "Just One Fix", plays rather close to the original version, with some South of Heaven-style leads thrown in at the end. The second, a Sepultura original called "Structure Violence" which blends the tribal, groove and industrial elements into what is at least the most interesting overall song on the entire album. But the remainder of the album is nothing more than the law of averages being spun repeatedly. "Mask" might have a decent riff tucked into its bridge, but in getting there one must survive its tedious grooves. "Dialog" opens with a latent melody to its muted, driving chords, but fails to flower into anything worthwhile. Then you have pieces like "Seethe", the same pedestrian hardcore/groove metal the band have been releasing to no avail for the decade before this.

By this point it must seem like I've a serious hate on for this album, but that's not at all the case. Kairos is not bad. In fact, it's mildly more appealing than the band's hot selling, tribal nu-metal effort Roots, and there are a half dozen riffs I could single out which would have been quite ace in a more potent environment (Max Cavalera vocals optional). The production does the album a measure of justice, being crisp and poignant, and Jean Dolabella attempts to keep the simplicity of the song structures adaptive and interesting with his drumming. But the music and lyrics are in general pretty undeveloped (like "Mask", which almost reads like a cheesy, preemptive backlash against the internet generation who have hounded the band for a decade), and at the most its a pale shadow of something like Chaos A.D., which was for its time felt so original due to the tremendous grooving force, and cultural and local political influence. Kairos is just kind of 'all right', and once again, that's just not enough.

Verdict: Indifference [5.75/10]
(bridge the gap between the gaps)

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