Since Max Cavalera left Sepultura way back when, the argument that the Seps have never been the same has held a lot of weight. Their first couple Max-less albums were pretty good considering how big the shoes were Derrick Green was brought in to fill. Following a trio of lackluster efforts, Sepultura dealt a hard blow with Kairos in 2011, earning this writer’s “Comeback Album of the Year” honors. Thusly, expectations for new album The Mediator Between the Head and Hands Must Be the Heart were reasonably high. No need to worry.
Green, guitarist Andreas Kisser, bassist Paulo Jr. and new drummer Eloy Casagrande explode out of the gate with “Trauma of War” and “The Vatican”. Both tracks carry an urgency and velocity that immediately takes one back to the late 80s/early 90s. Thrash and death metal are all over those tracks at speeds where they are almost tripping over themselves in their haste. It’ll have long time fans screaming “Yes! Yes!” for sure.
Much of the rest of the album brings the heat but not to the same degree as the first two. Kisser displays plenty of intense riffing however, using a mix of Sepultura’s more modern sound as well as tons of work that sounds like it would fit right in anywhere from Arise to Roots. Green has a little more bite to his vocals on this album too, especially on “Impending Doom” and the end of “Obsessed.” The vocals also sit well in the mix enhancing the full band feel.
The rhythm section has things locked down. Paulo Jr. has always been a solid source of low end sonics without overcomplicating things, although one can never hear enough bass in that ever important mix. The 22 year old Casagrande kicks the veteran group into the next gear.
Jean Dolabella filled in admirably for the departed Igor Cavalera, but Casagrande more than fills the throne of Igor’s legacy. His furious and hard hitting style spurs on this beastly affair. It’s not all double-kicks and snare destruction though. This is Sepultura after all, and Casagrande is Brazilian, so Mediator is riddled with well integrated tribal beats.
Speaking of Brazil, the closing track is a cover of “Da Lama Ao Coas” by Chico Science and Nacao Zumbi. Kisser actually takes the mic for the track sung all in Portuguese. That track and the unexpectedly doomy “Grief” stand out among the much edgier tracks around them.
The absence of the Cavaleras will always be felt. That lineup is an all time classic. But with The Mediator Between the Head and Hands Must Be the Heart, this latest lineup gives fans reasons to forget about anything but the present.
Mediator is arguably Sepultura’s best album this millennium and I’m sure some will even say since Chaos A.D. It’s a mix of the old and the new, encapsulating all that has gone into Sepultura over the years. It’s loud, it’s fast, it’s dynamic, and makes Sepultura a force yet again.
(released October 29, 2013 on Nuclear Blast Records)