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Underrated? Yeah, just a bit. - 89%

duncang, February 4th, 2009

Originally written for www.ultimate-guitar.com
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Quite a lot has happened in the last few years regarding Sepultura and their related acts. First of all, in 2006 they released ‘Dante XXI’, their best album in 15 years. Shortly afterwards legendary drummer Igor Cavalera left the band; those who believe Sepultura ‘died’ after original frontman Max Cavalera stormed off certainly lost any remainder of hope. They, however, were given Cavalera Conspiracy, the reunion of the two Cavalera brothers and their none-too-shabby debut, ‘Inflikted’. Thing is though, the Sepultura name lives on and in case you hadn’t noticed they’ve come out with a new album called ‘A-Lex’. It is based on a similar premise to ‘Dante XXI’ – a groove filled hardcore/thrash album intertwined with a concept and some artistic flair; this time it is based on Anthony Burgess’ ‘A Clockwork Orange’. There are some differences but there is one other important parallel to be drawn: it is the work of a tight unit, one that truly knows what it is doing.

The song title ‘Filthy Rot’ does, in many ways, sum up the aesthetic and feel of this album; it’s very dark, very dirty and quite a grotesque beast to get your head around. However, that’s the way Sepultura has always been, so any fan will probably be used to it. The performance of new drummer Jean Dolabella is absolutely crucial to holding the album together, but thankfully he, as Igor did before him, lets the band become so powerful in their chemistry that it doesn’t even matter that we’ve heard most of these riffs many times before. It is so typical of Sepultura for a collection of simplistic, groovy riffs to come together so well on the coattails of a stellar collective performance and, it should be noted, a fantastic production job that brings out the crunchy low-end of Paulo Junior in exquisite fashion. In typical concept album fashion, a lot of songs do not seem completed within themselves; instead segments of this rotten, clockwork fruit are joined together as if they’re the results of a very refined jam, beginning and ending with the transitional ‘A-Lex’ tracks.

As you may have noticed if you’ve ever owned a good set of ears, Derrick Green is a damn good vocalist. His domineering presence on a Sepultura record is only beaten by his absolute destruction of a live venue. Just as well, then, that he is only clutching your neck proverbially through a set of computer speakers. He is certainly far beyond the point of having anything to prove over his predecessor (though for the record, he is infinitely better than Mr. Cavalera), and it shows on his fifth album for the band. Lyrically though, this one’s a bit of an oddball. A set of lyrics based on ‘A Clockwork Orange’ isn’t too far removed from the agitated ‘Rebel Yell’ politics that often come attached to a Sepultura album. Maybe experts on the novel and Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation will be able to comment on accuracy and loyalty to the concept, but for the less well-read of us I will simply say that these lyrics are an interesting read.

‘A-Lex’ does bog down a little towards it's middle, but as always with an album like this there’s that conveniently placed track that absolutely rips your gonads off right when you were thinking that the best (or worst, depending on how you look at it) was over; in this case that track is ‘Conform’. Even though the aforementioned grouping of tracks is important to the flow of the album, there are definitely some songs that stand out, namely ‘Strike’, ‘We’ve Lost You’ and, as I said, ‘Conform’. The body of work as a whole though is solid provided you can excuse the peculiar ‘Ludwig Van’, and learn to realise that these four guys play music just as well as anyone who may have preceded them in this band.