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I liked this a lot when I first got my hands on it, even though I always knew it was no match for anything they’d done before. Time was when the whole groove thing was not such a huge commonality, so this album would doubtless have sounded better on its release than today. Not personally overloaded with it, I took quite a liking to this grooved up Sepultura who still retained plenty of the thrash temperament to keep me happy. This squarely marks a transition from their “Arise” period to the sound found on the “Roots” album. It’s a decent midpoint that lacks the former greatness, but also thankfully lacks the dull aching music of their next development.
The formula peaks at certain points and dips into a sludgy tedium near the end. Even though the music never sounds especially sludgy, that’s the tired and muddy feel it gives off. Max is gruff as ever, and the rest of the band is enthusiastically charged up with a mix clearly emphasising the vocals and guitars. There’s lots of promise as “Refuse/Resist” opens neatly and departs before it wears out its welcome in predictably strong opener fashion displaying qualities typical of the album as a whole, and “Territory” just crushes everything in its wake with a mid paced crunch overload.
“Slave New World” is a reasonable, if numbly reconstituted continuation of the last track and things pick up again on “Amen”. This song makes an admirable attempt to make a flowing atmosphere of questioning and rejection, throwing in a complementing Middle Eastern flavour during the middle. It sounds pleasingly like a Chaos A.D. variant of “Under Siege”. “Kiaowas” moulds a welcome new face for the album as acoustic guitars and tribal percussion recorded within castle walls build up an instrumental full of stirring passions. It’s nice to see them further some of the hints in this direction that thinly surfaced on “Arise”.
Things then go back to basics as “Propaganda” is the most “thrash” song on the slate so far. Deliciously brutal and angry, and “Biotech is Godzilla” is a shorter and much quicker burst, though a sizeably more passable variant of this. A wilderness of savage sound is what dominates the rest of the album, taking its cue from “Nomad”. Like an animal lying in wait stalking its prey, the rest of the album takes its sweet time in prowling through each song. It does sound interesting and workable, but could potentially swing either way and goes both. As more tribal overtones and harmony guitars flurry around the mostly instrumental “We Who Are Not As Others” the album could just come to a satisfactory close and wouldn’t have lost a thing.
They decide they want to pad out the running time with a bit of filler however, and a break into more upbeat tone with a New Model Army cover is still tiresome. They try to go all experimental in doing a narrative passage to the music in “Manifest”, but it ends up dry and without any creative fuel in its engine; plodding and directionless. They also do some really silly shit at the end after (same old story) “Clenched Fist”, doing inane laughs and noises for a couple of minutes (ones for the end of the instrumental earlier) that I really don’t want to hear. Apart from this, while it’s not “Arise” by any means it’s still quite enjoyable and is to me their last good release before they hit rock bottom.