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Contrary to popular belief, the majority of thrash bands in the 1990's did not fall into mediocrity immediately. There was always a "gateway" album, an album that was decent enough yet showed troubling signs of some degree which foreshadowed the musical horrors that would follow. The most obvious one of these was Metallica's self-titled album, which was lackluster but solid despite the change of sound. MegaDeth had this in "Countdown to Extinction" and "Youthanasia," both of which were very good for what they were. Slayer had "Divine Intervention," and our Brazilian friends in Sepultura had "Chaos A.D." It was by far not the worst thing they would do in their career, but it was a definite step backwards from the thrash excellence of previous material.
When I first began buying music CD's many years ago I got into Sepultura based on a recommendation from a friend. This was the only album available at the time (which makes sense, its their most famous and the only one retailers seem to have most of the time) so I picked it up. At that particular point in time, I immensely enjoyed what I heard and assumed the band's best moments were cemented around what I heard here. Naturally, after getting the band's back catalog, particularly "Beneath the Remains" a couple of years later, my opinions were completely changed. Suddenly, "Chaos A.D." was no longer the shining star I had mistaken it for previously. In fact, I dare say "Chaos A.D." was the gateway to disaster for this band, an opinion a good number of folks here on the Archives seem to agree with.
So where does this album go wrong? For one, the weight shift of modernity in the early 1990's was not a pretty one by any stretch of the imagination. Though some bands like Overkill countered this some degree of intelligence and retention of quality, most others, including Sepultura, did not. What "Chaos A.D." offers more than anything is a dumbing down of their incredible thrash legacy set in the four albums before this one. Considering the legacy includes albums like "Schizophrenia" and "Beneath the Remains," which were both ass-kicking whirlwinds of massive riffs, its hard to understand why "Chaos A.D." was ever concieved. Maybe it was the appeal of commericialism that struck the band like a virus, or maybe it was the desire to expand sounds and prevent musical stagnation. If it was the former, shame on the band and if it is the latter, they did a terrible job of expanding anything other than boring groove metal.
Contrary to most of the negative reviews here, I actually liked the song "Refuse / Resist." Yes, it is massively overrated, often considered by the media to be the band's best song. I can firmly say, after stacking it up against "From the Past Comes the Storm," "Beneath the Remains," among others, that it is not, nor is it close to being the band's best. Still, its kept to an ideal length for groove metal, to the point I can't truly complain. "Territory" is a different matter, as it becomes too stagnated and long winded for its own good. Other tracks like "Amen" and "Nomad" are both similiar stories, with the former going into some poorly placed religious chants, foreshadowing the ill-fitted avant-garde ideas that would consume "Roots" like a boa constrictor does its prey. This also plays into "Kaiowas," which I will admit was a decent enough idea considering it was fairly new at the time just not carried out very well. Again, more nods to the abominable mess heard on "Roots."
Yet not all is lost in the world of half-assed Brazilian groove metal. "Propaganda" hammers out some decent moments when it gets going, though still nothing compared to albums of years past. "Biotech is Godzilla" is silly as hell but a competent hardcore inspired song. I like the political message of the song, which Sepultura is usually known for, but the lyrics and Max's voice just do not work. Neither sounds like they were given much effort, and since Jello Biafra was involved in some sectors of this album, that explains the hit and miss nature of the lyrics all too well. At least Max doesn't end up singing the ultra-happy nonsense the Dead Kennedys often got into. Evan Sienfeld's name is also attached to the credits, though he appears as a musician only on "Slave New World." Nothing to get excited about there anyway, you can't really tell its him aside from the credits and I'm not someone who gets overly happy to see anyone from Biohazard appear on a record.
As much as I'd like to stomp this album flat at times, I really can't. It isn't as abominable as some might have you think, I come to this conclusion because I didn't judge this as a thrash album which it is not. Yet even based on groove metal standards, its a mostly pedestrian release with a few good songs surrounded by lame groove and bad ideas that only foreshadows what would transpire three years later on the tribal misfire of "Roots." I can say that while it is an accessible album for the band, I wouldn't really want anyone to discover Sepultura this way. Discovering them with this album might lead one to think "Roots" and post-Cavalera Sepultura are acceptable, which is as far from the truth as possible and I'm lucky to have found their thrash albums and to know what acceptable Sepultura sounds like. If you're already an established fan of the group and wouldn't mind a trip into a world where Sepultura tried to be the Brazilian Pantera, then you might find something worthwhile here. If such a desire should occur, seek out "Chaos A.D." from the discount aisle and leave it at that.