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Sepultura > Roots > Reviews > hells_unicorn
Sepultura - Roots

The Royal Seal of Gayness. (Valedictorian) - 0%

hells_unicorn, October 11th, 2008
Written based on this version: 1996, CD, Roadrunner Records

There is a certain class of albums that are, by their very nature, utterly repulsive to anyone who loves heavy metal, particularly the brand that existed before 1992. It isn’t so much a matter of the music contained within not being aggressive enough, technically proficient enough, or that the lyrics aren’t conducive to the multifaceted nature of the style per say. If those were the standard, this band’s classic debut “Morbid Visions” wouldn’t be lauded as a grand pioneering effort by many fans of thrash, death, and black metal respectively. The ultimate issue is what the culture it represents holds in opposition to metal culture, and consequently the manner in which the music is presented in the sum of all its various parts.

Sepultura’s “Roots” doesn’t really qualify as groove metal or industrial metal in the general sense as its predecessor did, nor is it fully in the realm of avant-garde music or nu-metal. It’s sort of stuck in between all of those, and basically functioned as a template that greatly influenced all of those various off-shoots in certain respects after its release. It was itself heavily influenced by newer sounds such as Korn’s mallcore creation, Faith No More’s experimental material, as well as the slowly emerging rap/rock scene known today as nu-metal, underscored by the fact that central figures in all 3 scenes provided guest work on here. To a zombie-like adherent of pop culture, this is the perfect stew of every dumb assed form of pop/rock that was burning up the top 200 at the time with a hodgepodge of artsy nonsense which had slightly less of a following, but to someone who expects metal in their speakers, it's nothing more than a random mess of decrepit mainstream drivel. If there were an actual school where one learned to trade in their metal credentials for a diploma/stamp of approval in the fine art of crappy rock music (which I have dubbed The Royal Seal of Gayness), this release would be its valedictorian.

The complete departure from anything resembling a recognizable form of metal covers every second of sonic diarrhea splashed upon this piece of toilet paper that happens to be shaped like a CD and playable in a CD player. Evil sounding death barks are nowhere to be found, as good old Max Cavalera has decided that imitating Jonathan Davis’ whinny yells and incoherent mumbles is the way to go here. Fast and fun drum beats have been traded in for hypnotic drum beats and random tribal percussive interludes, both of which clash with each other completely and sound as if someone is playing two different songs simultaneously through the same stereo system. The guitars are as muddy as a swamp of coccidian infested elephant excrement that listen about as sour as the actual condition would smell in reality, and the riffs consist mostly of 2 note/chord drudgery that is repetitive enough to make “Chaos A.D.” sound like “Beneath The Remains”. Throw in a few really comical sounding effects such as record scratches; overly present vocal distortion, dissonant 2 note tremolo leads with effects that make them sound even more out of tune, and a whole bunch of other crap that should never be mixed in together.

Although differentiating each individual song is not extremely difficult due to the wide variety of elements at play, nothing on here can really be enjoyed if you liked any of this band’s past work, particularly their 80s albums. Anyone suggesting as such is not doing so because they listen to music on the merits, but because they are subject to the indoctrination of mainstream music via the radio. “Roots Bloody Roots” introduces us to the 2 note goodness of modern mallcore riffing, borrowing heavily from Korn’s debut both musically and vocally. There are probably 4 actual riffs to this whole song, but if you cancel out distinctions between riffs consisting of single notes versus ones that follow the same pattern and rhythm but use power chords, there are only 2. This form of non-variation is bolstered a little by annoying high end guitar screeches loaded with processed flanger effects and a slight change in beat to give the illusion of variation, but really what you get is 3 and ½ minutes of Cavalera crying like a bitch in heat overtop of an extremely annoying, one-dimensional, droning background.

From here on in, we get various regurgitations of this simpleton approach to song creation, making one wonder if this entire album was written over a weekend with Patton and Davis coaching the band on what will get them radio play. “Attitude” and “Cut” have a little more variation to them; the latter actually has a little guitar solo that would be good if it wasn’t drowned in maxed out flanger effects, but the vocals are so high in the mix you can hardly make out what’s going on beneath them, not that you’d actually want to. “Ramatahatta” takes the same 2 or 3 note droning, mud stomping, guitar groove style and loads it up with weird percussive tribal lingo out of some guest vocalist and Cavalera in a question and response style that sounds more like someone beating on a plastic bucket than an actual person talking. “Breed Apart” ratchets up the lameness further still with a complete imitation of both Davis’ bitchy yells and his disturbingly erotic whisper/speak. Parts of this have riffs consisting of one note, so of course we need to mask it with more Brazilian percussion and studio gimmicks, like pouring a gallon jug of perfume on a mud drenched warthog.

On and on this thing plods through the sewage drenched seas of groovy sludge, occasionally morphing into something tribal sounding, while at others just loading up on the rap and ambient guitar nonsense and being even more unlistenable. “Straighthate” starts off with this really annoying one note bass drone loaded with feedback drenched guitar harmonics that sound like a tiger mauling a chalk board with its front claws. At about the 1:15 mark we get about 10 seconds of pure groove metal where we have a unified arrangement and an actual guitar riff to speak of, but what little enjoyment might be gotten from it is utterly destroyed by the mess that follows it. That’s basically how the album functions, every now and then, they’ll revisit their groove/thrash past here and there as if to remind the listener that this used to be a metal band and torture him further. “Spit” annoys the listener further still by actually taking out a lot of the studio gimmicks and putting in 3 or 4 half-decent groove riffs, but compensates for this obvious positive by making Cavalera’s distortion steeped voice so ridiculously loud in the mix that you can’t hear it half of the time.

If one were to ignore the 13 minute jam session at the end of this and focus on the 15 actual songs (I use this term loosely of course), at this point we come to the center and the trough of this seemingly endless valley of garbage in “Lookaway”. If you ignore the 3 way vocal gimp festival going on and just focus on the guitars, what you have are verse sections that literally sound like an extended fart sample. The lyrics on this literally sound like they are referring to a vagina being violated, although superimposing the vocalists themselves into the picture, 3 vaginas would be the actuality of it. Hearing Cavalera and Davis at the same time, it is definitely clear that the former is a little manlier in sound, but that’s not saying much. Patton is basically just blurting out gibberish at random, serving only to throw off any sense of rhythmic cohesion that this fudge dragon of a song actually possesses. As a whole, this monstrosity is the worst thing ever to be put to music; the world’s largest brontosaurus enema couldn’t clean this thing up.

In keeping with the capricious nature of mainstream taste, some acoustic stuff highlighting some false sense of versatility becomes obligatory, so let us proceed to the twin odes to the primitive in “Iasco” and “Itsari”. I’m not fully opposed to the idea of meshing Brazilian tribal chant and percussion with metal music, as Angra actually did a decent job of it on “Holy Land”, but this is just utterly boring. “Itsari” is basically a near carbon copy of “Kaiowos” with sampled chants in the background, while “Iasco” is similar sounding to the same “Chaos A.D.” song but is about half as long yet meanders twice as much. If you put both of these songs on a continued loop and subjected every environmental activist on the planet to it for 30 minutes, you’d likely see the world singing in unison for the final solution to the rainforest question and could then make a killing in the chainsaw and torch business once slash and burn policies began to commence.

If you’ve managed to suffer through the entire duration of the first 14 songs, we are greeted with one song that actually passes for metal, albeit something along the lines of thrash/crossover with pretty poor vocals. For all of its lyrical stupidity and horribly over-distorted vocals, “Dictatorshit” has a good riff or two buried in the arrangement and a guitar solo that would be good if it wasn’t buried under too many effects. Unfortunately, being just over a minute in time length, the song presents itself not so much as a breath of fresh air after nearly an hour of torturous suffocation, but as an insult to the listener by reminding them that this band is capable of rocking out, but utterly refuses to do so. Why the fuck would you put one decent little ditty right at the end of a mountain of dog shit? It makes zero sense logically, although given the influences at work here; it actually makes perfect sense nonetheless.

It’s one thing to be a pioneer of something as terrible as mallcore like Korn was, it is quite another to be a well established thrash act from the 80s who pioneered the death metal style, and then jumped on board the latest fad like a whore onto her next customer. The fact that this new customer (genre) is ugly as hell only further adds insult to injury. You can get a level of enjoyment out of Pantera’s and Machine Head’s music from this time period, regardless how inferior the music is, but this just has nothing redeeming to speak of. It has rightfully earned not only the honor of being stamped with The Royal Seal of Gayness, but the top status as valedictorian of the class for its helping spread the mallcore virus through the classrooms of crappy core high school, where all metal ceases to be.

Originally submitted to ( on October 11, 2008.