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Peak Performance - 98%

psychoticnicholai, January 2nd, 2017
Written based on this version: 1991, CD, Roadrunner Records

Sepultura had grabbed international attention with Beneath the Remains and they had gone faster than ever when doing so. What happens when you hit peak speed? You find the need to focus that speed. With Arise, these Brazilians had started to slow just a bit to allow for a more focused, riff-centric performance that turns the blinding speed of earlier releases into songs that could rip the skin off a mastodon in 2 minutes flat and have several riffs and a solo worth discerning throughout that time. Many of Sepultura's most notable songs are on this album and it could easily be seen as Sepultura's equivalent of Slayer's Seasons in the Abyss another album where blistering speed and slow, deliberate focus compromised to build something much more memorable, devious, and riff-filled.

Arise is a blisteringly fast album that banks on its riffs and songwriting more than anything else. You can tell from the very first notes of the song "Arise" that this is a savage album that basks in destruction and hellfire to bring forth a warped, dying vision of our world where the pulse of the drums and the shredding guitars are the only rhythm to the chaos. The lyrics are still focused around death and terror, but political subtexts come in where authority and nationhood have their disgusting undersides examined through the terrifying lenses of Sepultura's eyes. Cavalera and Kisser's riffing is blinding, but also discernible and unique to every song. The guitars have a perfect tone for this, as it all sounds so menacing and evil, which is accented by Max Cavalera's spine-chilling barks which are still very easy to understand, exposing the full power of their lyrics. "Arise", "Desperate Cry", "Dead Embryonic Cells", and "Altered State" have some of the most insidious thrash riffing and ear-shredding solos ever produced to give them all an iconic, imposing presence. These songs make you know their identities loud and clear simply from their rhythm. It's catchy and full of virtuoso at the same time. When the rhythm is somewhere between a march and a charge like it often is on Arise, it transitions smoothly enough to feel innate, but it changes enough in tempo and rhythm to never become monotonous, despite their almost constant barrage. The few softer moments are still evil and oppressively dark like being stranded in a smoke-filled jungle with no idea what's coming out to get you. Every song makes great use of iconic riffing and evil melodies with a bit of catchiness a la Metallica tossed in. Sepultura's barrages leave us an album without even a shred of filler and solid rhythms upon solid rhythms. This is the perfect blend of catchy songwriting and downright vile riffs. This is Sepultura at the strongest balance of all of their abilities overall.

Arise is the definitive Sepultura album, and arguably one of the best thrash albums of the 1990's. It cuts deep and focuses hard on what makes a fast song truly powerful. It takes the speed, the riffs, the grooves, the evil, the catchiness, and the rage, to weld together a sound so memorable and so deathly that it outmatched all others. Every song on here is worth a listen and hits harder than the arsenal of hell itself. I recommend this wholeheartedly, this is a classic that's not worth missing.