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
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’.
by: Adam G