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I don't get all the hatred for this record. 'Refuse/Resist' stomps out the box with a roaring riff that makes me want to throw molotovs at tanks. 'Territory' is possibly the greatest song Sepultura has ever written. Igor's drum work is insane here. 'Slave New World' is ferocious, a neck-snapper balanced on layers of menacing groove. Sure, this isn't the straight death/thrash of old but it isn't the dumbed down monotony of 'Roots' either. This is a hybrid, an experimental push forward that proved the tipping point for a lot of other bands that followed. For Sepultura, incorporating elements of hardcore, punk, and Helmet style start/stop into the thrash equation reinvigorated their music but also provided an unduely fashionable influence that other bands watered down. Maybe that's why this record garners so much hate? Not so much for itself but for what it engendered? I don't know how anyone could care really in the face of such monster songs as 'Clenched Fist' and 'Propaganda.' Those songs blister.
Sure, there are some flaws here as 'The Hunt' is not a particularly good cover and doesn't fit the mood of the album at all. 'We Who Are Not Like Others' falters along simplistic lines once the gang shouts kick-in. As a mantra for the album, it works but the beautifully textured music beneath the vocals deserves more than this redundancy. Lastly, 'Manifest' would've been better served to sound less like an homage to Ministry -- a case of Sepultura letting their influences get the better of them. That said, these flaws are relatively minor in the overall scheme of the album.
What strikes me most about "Chaos A.D." is its vitriol, that an album this angry could remain this relevant is striking. Lyrically, it was this album that thrust Sepultura into the spotlight of political mass consciousness. Their anger was, well, manifest: anger over the mass suicide of the Kaiowas, who refused to be removed from their ancestral Amazonian lands; anger over U.S. biotech companies forcefully raping and pillaging traditional Brazilian organic agriculture, as well as the rainforest itself; anger over Israels treatment of Palestinians, anger over endemic global poverty and the economic inequalities of NAFTA. This was the album that brought me to a global, political perspective and showed me that metal (more than any other form of protest music, including punk) was capable of generating that palpable synergy of energy, awareness, anger, and despair. Even today, it's incendiary stuff.
It's too bad that Sepultura couldn't hang on to this sound. 'Arise' had taken their death/thrash sound as far as it could go. To continue in that vein seemed pointless. Yet 'Roots' fell too far over into simplicity and redundancy. "Chaos A.D." gets it right and sixteen years later remains a vital testament to Sepultura's lasting power.