Artist: Sepultura 
   Title: A-Lex
   Label: SPV Records

This, the second concept album in a row from Sepultura is a bold move considering that many people are currently questioning the relevance of the band in light of the successful ‘Cavalera Conspiracy’ album and festival tour last summer.  Now that Igor has jumped ship, leaving guitarist Andreas Kisser the last and only original member left, many people are beginning to see the vultures circling over Sepultura and wondering whether or not the band still matter.

While I wouldn’t put it in such quite apocalyptic terms myself, there’s little doubt now that the Seps are not going to recapture the glory days of yore and break out of the club circuit they currently find themselves in unless a reunion with the Cavalera brothers occurs.  There is also little doubt that the figurative ghost of Max Cavalera still looms large over this band, more than ten years after his departure and if that can’t be shaken off in the space of a decade, then it is unlikely to be shaken off at all.  The interesting thing about the Max Cavalera issue however, is that he himself (with the exception of last year’s Cavalera Conspiracy album) has not made a good album since Soulfly’s ‘Primitive’ in 2000, it’s just that it’s been even longer since the last good Sepultura album – ‘Roots’ in 1996.

Onto the album itself however, and the fact remains that neither heavy metal, nor Sepultura, have ever been known for the ability to make a good concept album and after 2007’s ‘Dante XXI’ (based on the book ‘The Divine Comedy’), the band have followed it up with ‘A-LEX’, based on the lead character of the book ‘A Clockwork Orange’ by Anthony Burgess. The main point of this exercise, it seems, is to convey that although many people are familiar with Stanley Kubrick’s classic film adaptation of the story, he failed to include the last chapter of the book, in which Alex exercises his own free will and goes off to start a family and live a normal life: “That’s what, in my opinion, is extremely important for the message that Anthony Burgess wanted to convey” explains Kisser.

That would be all well and good if, by the time the album gets to that crucial final chapter, most people would still actually be paying attention (which is pretty doubtful) and Derrick Green’s vocals were distinguishable so as to convey what is needing to be said (also pretty doubtful). It’s not that this a bad album per se, or that Green is a bad vocalist, it’s just that both are very average (Green’s vocal delivery can be very one-dimensional at times, often making the band sound more hardcore than thrash) and fail to hold attention the way that they should on a concept album, something that obviously requires the full listening experience to absorb.

When people see the name Sepultura on a record, they expect a certain quality and ‘A-LEX’ simply doesn’t deliver – many people would be hard pushed to name even a few stand-out songs from the last five Sepultura albums put together and while I’m not suggesting that the reason for that has the initials M.C. all over it, I’m simply pointing out the lack of overall quality in Sepultura’s albums since 1996.  And while Sepultura may have made good albums since then, namely ‘Against’ in 1998 and ‘Roorback’ in 2003, something has definitely been missing to make them great albums.

Unfortunately, ‘A-LEX’ doesn’t even measure up to those two, let alone anything from the bands heyday and for a band that at one time were known for pushing the boundaries in metal to sound this average is a bit disappointing. There are some plus points however, and opening track ‘Moloko Mesto’ and obvious single ‘What I Do!’ retain the groove that gladly Sepultura have never really lost and there’s no doubt that Kisser’s solos, particularly on the track ‘Forceful Behavior’, are as shredding as they’ve ever been.

It does take the band 15 songs though, before the album actually becomes interesting and the song ‘Ludwig Van’ is clearly the album’s centerpiece, putting Beethoven’s 9th Symphony into a heavy metal context with the aide of Brazilian classical musicians which although doesn’t sound on paper like it should work, it actually does and is definitely worth a listen.  ‘A-LEX’ also marks the recording debut of drummer Jean Dolabella whose excellent talent can be heard throughout the record, particularly on the track ‘Sadistic Values’ and he is more than a worthy successor to Igor.  However, he will no doubt face the same obstacle that vocalist Derrick Green has had to face for the last decade and one that has a wider resonance for the band as a whole – that his last name is not Cavalera.

Best Tracks – ‘What I Do!’, ‘Ludwig Van’.

Review by: Adam G

Tracklisting:

1. A-Lex I
2. Moloko Mesto
3. Filthy Rot
4. We've Lost You!
5. What I Do!
6. A-Lex II 
7. The Treatment 
8. Metamorphosis
9. Sadistic Values
10. Forceful Behavior
11. Conform
12. A-Lex III
13. The Experiment
14. Strike
15. Enough Said
16. Ludwig Van
17. A-Lex IV
18. Paradox 
                  

 

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