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The popular opinion among extreme metal fans is that with the release of "Chaos A.D.", Sepultura were hopping on the musical bandwagon for heavy metal in the '90s, abandoning their magnificent and decidedly non-trendy speed metal riffing in favor of a more commercially acceptable groove oriented style, made quite popular by bands like Pantera. The majority seem to speculate that the boys from Brazil changed their style so they could keep selling albums in the new musical climate, and that their output suffered because of it. I don't agree with that.
While the stylistic change may have come during a time when slower, groovier music was becoming popular in the metal scene, in no way is this album toned down as far as extremity. "Chaos A.D." contains by far the heaviest and arguably the most aggressive material Sepultura had yet written. What Sepultura choose to hold back as far as musical complexity, they make up for with sheer ferocity. The simpler guitar riffs bludgeon the listener in the same way Celtic Frost did a decade before and the slower beats allow some space and breathing room; they have time to build strength before crashing down. In a way I would compare the music on this album to classic Discharge or Cro-Mags. An odd comparison perhaps but the approach is similar: aggressive, yet simple, repetitive guitar riffs over steady, pummeling beats with angry, gruff, screaming vocals and minimalist, politically charged lyrics - total fucking hardcore.
While "Morbid Visions", "Schizophrenia", "Beneath the Remains" and "Arise", were all unique and highly influential albums, ultimately putting Brazil on the map for extreme metal, they were still of a style that was mostly rooted in the music pioneered by bands from the United States, England and Europe. I believe that Sepultura added the groove element to their sound, not to make their music more accessible, but because the rhythmic, tribal element was better representative of where they were from. It gave the band a sound and style they could really call their own, and at the same time pulled them out of the stagnant overgrown swamp that was the death/thrash metal scene at the time. Many die hard, "old-school" headbangers cry about this album being one of those that helped jump-start the whole "nu-metal" movement, and they're probably right, but "Chaos A.D." is far more abrasive than the melodic, pop-garbage that MTV, mainstream "hard rock" radio, and glossy magazines like Hit Parader were trying to pawn off as "heavy" music to angsty mallrats.
I once held the opinion that "Arise" was the last 'good' Sepultura album. It was only after discovering the aforementioned Celtic Frost and Discharge and masochistically loving every moment having my skull battered by them, that I've been able to draw the comparisons between "Chaos A.D." and the classic works of those two bands and it changed my opinion. I hope this review can change some others' opinions that they might come to enjoy this classic album as well.