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Infected Voices - 73%

televiper11, May 22nd, 2012

Back in '92, I desperately wanted to go see a Ministry/Helmet/Sepultura concert in New York City but couldn't make it happen. Being 14 at the time, I would've needed a ticket, a ride, and a fake ID because it definitely wasn't an all-ages show. But coming up with the above combo proved difficult and I ultimately had to abandon the idea (I've regretted it ever since). Afterwards a friend of mine who'd gone regaled me with tales about what an awesome show it was, how all three bands killed it, and how Sepultura got fans to rip the seats out of the front of the Paramount in order to get a pit started. Awestruck by how badass that seemed, I immediately went out and bought Arise. I'd had no exposure to Sepultura previously. Death metal at the time was a new and intriguing (not to mention frightening) genre for me but if they were cool enough to open for Ministry and Helmet, that was cred enough for me (though I kept the Arise artwork hidden from those whose prying eyes might mistake me for some kind of Satanist -- older rural minds being entirely closed to the symbolism and imagery of the nascent death metal scene).

At the time however, Arise didn't quite work for me, and it still doesn't entirely. It's a sick record loaded with clusterbomb fragments of sharp-tipped death-thrash but the balance weighs more towards Slayer and less towards those heavier, scarier bands I was discovering. It was fast but I'd heard faster. And it wasn't very heavy. Even to my then untutored ears, it doesn't sound all that good. Whether on my tiny cassette boombox or in my parent's fancy stereo, I always fucked with the EQ, trying to get it to sound thicker, heavier, and more evil. And these adolescent biases linger, in that I still think the Morrisound production job robs this record of much of its vitality. Attempting to sound dry and sharp, the band falls flat, punctured of the heft necessary to convey their darkened atmosphere. Take the heaving aggression of the Chaos A.D. production tone and retroactively place it on here and you'd get a better idea of what I was looking for. Alas, all of Sepultura's thrashterpieces sound less than stellar, a sad reminder that Scott Burns has as many botches as notches under his belt.

The songs themselves are good-to-great but again retroactive bias sets in. Compared to the live versions I have heard, some of these tracks move at half-speed. There is a distinct lack of energy, a passion I feel was vacuumed out of these tunes by Scott Burns, though the band themselves may have consciously slowed down a peg in the studio. I want these tunes to burn incandescent but they radiate more warmth than heat. That said, the band has firm chops and know how to write strong songs. The riffs from 'Arise,' 'Dead Embryonic Cells,' and 'Desperate Cry' are all catchy as fuck and the chorus to 'Dead Embryonic Cells' is embedded in my brain forever. These tracks front-load the album and the overall songwriting quality takes a dive afterward. 'Murder' and 'Subtraction' have always failed to connect. Both 'Altered State' and 'Under Siege' are epic, grandiose even, and a strong signal towards Sepultura's changing intentions: strong mid-paced riffs, chugging grooves, and broad dollops of both tribal and industrial influences that go a long way towards explaining Chaos A.D. Fun songs but I don't often hit repeat on them either. 'Meaningless Movements' is more mid-paced headbanger material, enjoyable but lacking sharper definition. 'Infected Voice' releases the record with a bang however, channeling the deep vibrational energies of the earth's darkest death-tinged thrash.

In the end, Arise maxed out Sepultura's then-current approach. Change was in the wind and as many fans fled as were gained. Depending on where you fall on the divide, Arise is either their last great gasp, a decent holdover before new inroads were made, or a moderately successful rehash of Beneath The Remains. Regardless, it has made a lasting impact and is a record I enjoy frequently despite whatever minor frustrations remain. Being caught between the bruising grooves of Chaos A.D. and the death perfection of Beneath The Remains is a dicey proposition for any record and Arise acquits itself admirably.