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Sepultura's fifth full-length is unique in terms of weirdness: "What does Chaos A.D. sound like?" is a rhetorical question even for those who are very familiar with the album. The amount of genres mixed into it is bizarre, and each song is so different from the other that if it were not for Max Cavalera’s vocals it would sound like a groove metal compilation. The situation is aggravated by its unique ability to generate commotion and polemics, and someone who has not heard the album before will still be unable to tell how it sounds like no matter how many reviews he/she reads. By writing this review, I will try to clarify things a bit, and succeed where others have failed. Do I sound preposterous? Surely I do. This is a doomed task, but as far as I know, trying does not hurt.
First, I don’t consider Beneath the Remains to be the masterpiece it is supposed to be. Surely enough it is creative, and it does have many interesting riffs, but Sepultura was little more than Slayer with lower vocals back then. Chaos A.D. was, if not their magnum opus, the first full-length that was truly theirs. Within the album, you will find some of the catchiest riffs ever, and the desire to mosh is present in every song but the bonus tracks. The drums – that mix Brazilian influences with groove metal ones – are undeniably creative and Cavalera’s pissed off vocals are amusing enough to keep you going.
The album has two main strengths. The first of them is the drumming - an extremely competent and creative Igor Cavalera pretty much carries the album for half of its length, and the mosh-friendly aspects of the full-length are empowered with a series of influences from Brazilian genres that at first do not have anything to do with metal. The drum patterns are so varied that one would guess that the band hired several different drummers instead of sticking to Igor. The second is Refuse/Resist, a track that might be not only the best Sepultura has ever written, but also one of the best songs in terms of mosh that human beings were able to come up with, despite its slow nature and simplicity. Everything in that song – with the possible exception of the lyrics – gets emotional response from the audience when played live, and I have yet to see a cover of this song being played without individuals thrusting each other.
However, once you start to think about the album as a whole you realize that it does not have a lot to offer: as I mentioned before, this album offers a different formula, one that was coined by Sepultura itself and that is based on immediate gratification rather than on technicality or skilled songwriting. It is a real mosh gem, but when listening to it alone for more than twenty minutes you realize that the recording is as superficial as it gets: the lyrics vary from weak to dumb and some songs are repetitive to the point of being annoying. Superficiality, however, does not explain the horde of outraged Sepultura fans that spit in the face of this album. What turned fans off was the fact that with Chaos A.D. Sepultura left the world of thrash completely, choosing to replace their Slayer heritage with hardcore-influenced groove riffs that laugh in the face of speed and are as complex as a hydrogen atom. It is true that those riffs did not exactly suck, but to give their fans something that was purely based on creativity and that could not be compared musically to anything they had previously recorded was the same thing as asking for bad reception.
Of course, when such a thing happens it is interesting not to have terrible tracks. “Biotech is Godzilla”, “We Who Are Not as Others” are two lame songs, being the first one extremely short and predictable (the same drum pattern for two minutes… ugh) and the other an instrumental track that simply doesn’t go anywhere and has a single sentence that barely manages to be an excuse for not being able to come up with lyrics at all. Those two songs wouldn’t make it to a list of the worst songs ever, but they make a statement about everything that is wrong with this album: when creativity falls short, the lack of depth makes itself clear and the listener is left with absolutely nothing but a lot of annoying filler passages.
Summarizing, this is not as good or as bad as it is supposed to be, it is simply a somewhat radio-friendly album with tracks that differ from each other not only in terms of riffs but also in terms of influences. The album does have flaws, which become visible when creativity falls short, but listening to it is an ultimately amusing experience as long as you do not try to sit through the whole album at once. I would give it a score of 70, but seriously, Refuse/Resist and the drum pattern that opens territory easily earns 10 extra points.