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In 1993, Sepultura released the groove metal masterpiece “Chaos A.D.”, an album that would influence thousands and thousands of modern metal bands since then: actually, at the time, the famous Brazilian band was hugely influenced by the newer “alternative” rock/metal subgenres of those years, and all this material had without doubt its impact on the album’s songwriting, which became apparently less complex in comparison to the band’s thrashing days, but actually very varied and stratified. One of Sepultura’s biggest influences, in that period, were surely the groove/sludge/noise masters Fudge Tunnel: their masterpiece “Creep Diets” seemed to have a certain impact on the four Brazilian thrashers, particularly audible on songs like “Nomad” and “Territory”, and the guitarist/vocalist Alex Newport contributed even to the engineering of “Chaos A.D.”. I think it’s no surprise if, in the same period, Max Cavalera was working on a side-project with Alex: this is how Nailbomb’s first and only album, “Point Blank”, was born - with the purpose of being “the fucking heaviest album ever”.
During the early 90s, many famous metal and punk musicians were jumping on the “industrial” bandwagon, following the likes of Godflesh, Ministry and Fear Factory. Bands like Napalm Death, Obituary and Brutal Truth were among the most active ones in this field, and well, Nailbomb can be easily put in this category of “all-star industrial side-projects” (considering also the contribution of many famous figures of the early-90’s metal scene in the only live gig ever made by the band, documented on the “Proud to Commit Commercial Suicide” live album). However, what distinguishes Nailbomb from many other industrial metal bands of that epoch is their compositional variety and their intensely pissed off attitude that you won’t find in the average Godflesh/Ministry-worship band. Alex Newport is undoubtedly a huge industrial/noise fan, and this component plays a huge role in Nailbomb’s style - but the driving element of “Point Blank” is, first of all, the hardcore punk attitude that Max Cavalera was cultivating at the time, which was already very clear on “Chaos A.D.”. Yeah, “Point Blank” borrows a lot from Sepultura’s style of that time, but intensifies its formula and expands it with other ulterior contaminations. The result is an even more genial and mind-blowing crossover.
Right from the beginning, you can hear the unusual, stunning dualism between the “modern/cybernetic” component and the genuine anger of the involved musicians. After some abstract, almost “tribal” samples, the album starts with the absurdly intense, fast, roaring hardcore assault of “Wasting Away”: the riffs, in all their simplicity, manage to rape the listener’s face with pure, unadulterated violence, and the sudden “stop-and-go” break followed by a mind-blowing solo just coronates this masterful track. Imagine the faster hardcore parts of “Chaos A.D.” (such as the middle section of “Refuse/Resist”) with a multiplied level of intensity, urgency and attitude: this is how songs like “Blind and Lost”, “24 Hour Bullshit” and the cover of Doom’s “Exploitation” sound like. Even the production, though quite similar, is much heavier in comparison to Sepultura’s contemporary album, featuring a much heavier and fatter guitar tone that seems expressly designed to rape your ears without mercy with tons of greasy heaviness (though muffling a bit the vocals, which are quite messy and confused in the typical Fudge Tunnel fashion).
It almost seems like, on this album, Max Cavalera was giving vent to his anger in a way that, perhaps, was a bit “too much” for Sepultura at that time; this would explain why, stylistically, “Point Blank” sounds so similar to “Chaos A.D.”, yet so different in terms of attitude: in fact, on this record, along with the typical ”ACAB/fuck the system” spirit of the aforementioned album, you can constantly feel a dark, bleak, tense, negative, uncomfortable, almost “self-destructive” atmosphere that Sepultura would partially adopt only two years later on “Roots” (and still expressing it in a radically different way than how Nailbomb did). Even Fudge Tunnel, in the same period, weren’t as pessimistic, being slightly more focused on the “joking side” of things. Everything on “Point Blank” sounds either extremely pissed off (in the 80’s fashion) or extremely depressed and resigned (in the 90’s fashion), and both moods work complementarily to each other, creating a thorough cocktail of absolute nihilism.
The band’s negativeness is particularly audible during the more “metallic” moments: in fact, another prominent influence from “Chaos A.D.” lays in the Helmet/Biohazard-styled groovy riffs that you can find on many tracks. The eloquently titled “Vai Toma no Cú” (guess what it means in Portuguese...) is the best example, thanks to its simple yet incisive riffing and its powerful stop-and-go grooves which remind a bit of “In the Meantime” if you ask me. There’s also a slight thrashy component that Sepultura, in 1993, already seemed to have left behind for the most part: in fact, “Guerrillas” features some mid-paced riffs that almost sound like a simplified version of what we found on “Arise” (still with a bit of groove injected in some parts); and, truth be told, even the aforementioned hardcore episode of “24 Hour Bullshit” features some groovy/thrashy intrusions here and there!
On the contrary, the moment where the influences from Alex Newport’s main band become absolutely more evident is undoubtedly the brilliant masterpiece called “Cockroaches”. I could easily mistake it for a Fudge Tunnel song, more specifically the best Fudge Tunnel song of all times, since it contains the greatest fucking riff that Fudge Tunnel never wrote: groovy, sludgy, threatening, absurdly bleak and “ironically dismal” in the band’s trademark style, yet still extremely vigorous and catchy; even their well-known hit “Grey” and Sepultura’s stylistic tribute called “Territory” cannot compete with this. The lyrics are perfectly combined with the music and polished toward this particular direction, showing Nailbomb’s rude and incorruptible attitude in the best way possible:
”Don’t need sympathy:
smile, it's nothing but teeth!
I’ll keep my integrity,
even if I have to sleep on the street!”
However, don’t forget this is an industrial metal album. Although, on the most “traditional” tracks, drums are played by Igor Cavalera (still with a curiously mechanical and insensitive sound), these songs are largely dominated by electronic/noisy/experimental elements. As I said before, the album begins with an eerie drum-machine intro, and this tendency is repeated more than once throughout the following tracks, with absolutely successful results: for example, “For Fuck’s Sake” is a spectacular song that relies very much on the contrast between calm, “subtle” drum-machine interludes (even with some spoken vocals) and monstrously intense, face-melting thrash/hardcore assaults enriched by extremely frustrated lyrics, building an awesome climax.
Weird electronic effects are added everywhere, often creating a very stratified and rich sonic mosaic: the subtle atmospheric insertions of “Vai Toma no Cú” add more than what you may think, the drum-machine rhythms of “Guerrillas” are incredibly original and brilliant, and even the Doom cover (yeah, we’re talking about a stripped down crust song) features filtered vocals! Moreover, there’s an absurd amount of sampling on here, in a way that would almost make Ministry jealous: between the chaotic battlefield noises of “Guerrillas”, the ”Hate is reality - don’t you know God hates?” of “World of Shit”, the fitting ”I’d like to annihilate them” of “Shit Piñata”, the incredibly chilling and upsetting ”I’d like to kill somebody...” of “Cockroaches” and the ironic and hilarious ”punk loser” digression at the end of the Doom cover, there are too many fucking details on here that often get noticed only after several listens. Right now, while I’m writing this review, I’m sure that I’m probably forgetting some awesome passages where some kind of “ambiguous/sick/fucked up” sample buried in the mix creates a perfect feeling with the rest of the music.
However, the album’s proper “experimental” episodes are even more astonishing: each one possesses a different, distinct personality and digs into a different side of early-90’s metal or alternative/obscure music in general. The pounding, dissonant industrial of “Sum of Your Achievements” and the short, bassy, utterly noisy “Shit Piñata”, although awesome on their own, are just little hints of what Nailbomb is capable of, since there are other two masterful tracks that epitomize the band’s ability in the industrial/experimental field: “Religious Cancer” is the perfect example of how to create awesome chuggy metal, thanks to the constant shift of the guitar sound between the two channels (try to listen with headphones) and the use of an excellent pace driven by an addictive hip-hop beat on which you could easily play beatbox (and the ”Throw it away!” refrain does the rest); “World of Shit”, on the other hand, could easily be a brilliant outtake from Godflesh’s “Pure”: it contains everything which made that album a masterpiece, from the heavy, granitic mid-paced riffing to the subtle electronic insertions (and the “Max/Alex vocal duo” makes a discrete imitation of Broadrick’s typical metrics).
The unbelievable mishmash of different stuff that this album is will transmit you an incredible feeling of social/existential alienation, both in the more active “hardcore punk” sense and in the more contemplative “post-punk” sense of the term - but the final strike is given by the last track “Sick Life”, which applies the “Helmet/Fudge Tunnel” component in the most uncomfortable and disturbing manner: a highly percussive groove riff carries forward a dark, claustrophobic and hopeless vibe, empowered by the dismal sludgy riff of the refrain, while Max and Alex give their last words before the conclusion:
”A dark room is my world,
life no longer turns me on...
forget my friends,
that already forgot me!
is a bullet in my head!
The needle in,
the brain out,
don't know what I'm doing...
love me, hate me...
‘cos I hate myself!”
After all the power, the anger and the aggression you experienced during the album, this song leaves you with a deep-buried feeling of emptiness, depression and impotence, which is the best way to close this legendary record (although there is also a ghost track where you can hear the band jamming on some songs, among which you can recognize a quite sloppy rendition of Sepultura’s timeless hit “Dead Embryonic Cells”).
The only thing I could say with certainty about “Point Blank” is that it’s one of the greatest and richest crossover/industrial metal albums ever created. As much as I love Fudge Tunnel and Sepultura’s “Chaos A.D.”, this album results to be even better, taking the best of both worlds and empowering/enriching it; it’s pretty much the perfect, logical evolution and culmination of what both bands were doing in that period, and it’s surely the best thing ever done by any Sepultura member (since even Igor and Andreas are featured on here as guests) after 1991. I often say that this album takes the raw rage of the 80s and filters it through the sickness, the discomfort and the alienation of the early 90s - or is it the opposite? I don’t know. I just know that “Point Blank” is an indescribable nihilistic masterpiece, sometimes overlooked by Max Cavalera’s average fanbase. If you consider yourself to be a fan of this awesome and passionate Brazilian musician, yet you never heard of Nailbomb, your knowledge is severely incomplete and you should remedy as soon as you can, instead of wasting your time on the latest Cavalera Conspiracy record.
Industrial Metal is a much maligned avenue of metal. Metalheads may see it as average musicians using keyboards and mixers to produce uninspiring, one dimensional songs with repetitive riffs, void of any guitar solos and all churned out in the name of making them look like they're futuristic hate machines that are a dab hand at technology....this album from Cavalera and Fudge Tunnel's Alex Newport proves otherwise.
This album caught me by surprise not only by being inspiring but also being good considering its point in time in Max's career..it being made after just releasing Chaos AD!!!
That might be one of the repellants to metalheads and why this album is pretty underrated. You probably think that this albums chocked full of the lame, half ass groove/proto mallcorisms and riffs from Chaos AD but there's SCANT proof of those shenanigans on here. This THRASHES and it Thrashes fucking hard!! Riffs and aggression straight out of the Beneath The Remains-Arise drawer.
Cavalera does carry over the political themes to this side project from Chaos AD which some might find hard to stomach and too hardcore inspired but for me its a small price to pay for the thrash mayhem that ensues.
The best asset the album has which casts them away from other industrial metal like Skrew or Ministrys Psalm 69, is the riff variety. Each song has a different flavour and mould but still maintains the "Thrash Til' Death" Ethic!!
The album, song by song generally has the same level of high quality but my favourites and ones that stick out to me would be "Cockroaches", "Guerillas" and "For Fucks Sake".
This is pretty much the last stop on Max's road of metal supremacy. After this release the path that Mallcore pioneers KoRn and Deftones was too tempting and he fell by the wayside, as best displayed on the Korn Fellating, '96 Sepultura release "Roots" and then onto the disgraceful outfit "Soulfly".
Max "Metal God" Cavalera was killed and replaced with the baggy panted scum bag "Mallcore Max" and followed by hordes of metalhead mournings..:(
However...if you're out to find some "Jump Da Fuck Up" moments on here you'll be looking for a long time cos the aggression and riffs will kick seven shades of shit out of you.
Side projects can be a dodgy proposition. Look at the likes of Brujeria, Six Feet Under, Meathook Seed, Superjoint Ritual, Viking Crown or any number of other projects. All contain members of better known bands who want to try a different musical style to their normal gig, but fail to deliver a satisfying performance. They're often indulgent record company favours to keep artists interested.
Of course, there are exceptions; SOD, Mr Bungle, and Down immediately spring to mind as projects enjoyable to fans of the original artists as well as a wider audience. So does Nailbomb.
Former Sepultura main man Max Cavalera and Alex Newport, of Fudge Tunnel fame, combined their collective forces and produced a master work of massive proportions in Nailbomb, in the process creating one of the best albums of the year for 1994.
The basis for Nailbomb was a guitar sound of titanic proportions melded with a number of rhythms– hardcore, electronic, metallic, synthetic and organic. Over top of it all, Alex and Max trade vitriolic hardcore shouts, keeping it simple and angry in their lyrical targets. Further messing up the mix are some excellent samples, including an absolute classic from "Henry: Portrait Of A Serial Killer". The pair was helped out by a veritable metallic supergroup; including Igor and Andreas from Sepultura, and Dino Cazares of Fear Factory.
And what was the final result? An album of hardcore inspired tracks, combining anger filled political and social commentaries with one of the most crushing guitar sounds ever heard. While most comment on this album has concentrated on Max's involvement, it sounds more like a spiced up Fudge Tunnel album than it does a Sepultura side product. The vocals are often held back in the mix, as Newport was fond of doing in his full time band. There are more Fudge Tunnelisms in the basic hardcore riffing and some of the song structures.
The rhythm guitar on this album is part sonic boom, part jet engine roar. It really needs to be heard to be believed. Pick any song at random, except the mainly electronic "Shit Piñata", and you will hear it crushing all before it. Whether it's the unstoppable juggernaut in "Sick Life", or the hidden ambush attack of "For Fuck's Sake", the sound is just staggering. This may sound like hyperbole and over emphasis, but take a listen for yourself. Anyone who is not impressed is either deaf or being deliberately obstinate.
This album far outstrips anything either man has been involved with since. Many thought it would be the direction Sepultura would follow. If they had, perhaps they would still be champions of the underground, rather than the split entities of tribalist Soulfly and the reinvented Seps we have now. This is a metal classic, in every sense.