Sepultura – Sepulnation – The Studio Albums 1998 – 2009 (BMG)
Nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes and the fact that for some metalheads, Sepultura will never be Sepultura without Max Cavalera, who exited in 1996.
And for those fans, drummer Igor Cavalera’s departure ten years later only added fuel to the fire.
The reunification of Max and Igor in Cavalera Conspiracy, and their Return Beneath Arise tour – which saw the Brazilian brothers power through a host of Seps classics – fanned the flames even higher.
But the diehards who refused to countenance a post-Roots Sepultura have missed out on a huge body of work: a voyage from 1998’s Against – which saw the introduction of powerhouse frontman Derrick Green – to last year’s outstanding Quadra.
A staggering nine studio albums have emerged since Max’s final show at Brixton Academy.
And BMG have seen fit to capture a good stint of that era on Sepulnation – The Studio Albums 1998 – 2009, a five-album boxset across eight slabs of vinyl or five CDs.
Against, Nation, Roorback, Dante XXI and A-Lex, have been remastered and are available on 180g vinyl.
Plus, you’ll find the rare Revolusongs covers EP – tagged on to Roorback – which is available digitally for the first time.
So what does Sepulnation bring to the party?
Well, it helps us take a step back and re-visit a period of profound change, both for Sepultura and the worldwide metal scene.
And it shows the quartet’s growth as a unit, as they strove to build on the legacy created by the likes of Beneath The Remains, Arise, Chaos A.D. and of course, Roots – a record which played a major role in energising the nu-metal movement… for better or for worse.
Against is a gnarly, angry, stripped back and stripped-down record.
The title track is a raging torrent of razor sharp hardcore, drawing on Green’s punk rock energy.
Choke builds on Roots’ tribal grooves – and features a typically imaginative performance from Igor behind the kit. It’s only bettered by the explosive Boycott.
Elsewhere though, the Seps first post-Max album feels disjointed – and lacks the anthemic material that poured out of Chaos A.D. and Roots.
You probably can’t get any more anthemic, however, than Nation’s opener – the rabble-rousing Sepulnation. It’s defiant, proud and confident. And it’s probably the song Against desperately needed.
2001’s Nation boasts a far superior production than its predecessor, thanks to Steve Evetts, as well as fistfuls of prime Sepulcore in Revolt and Human Cause.
And in the titanic Border Wars and One Man Army, Igor, plus guitarist Andreas Kisser and bassist Paulo Jr showed they were rediscovering their songwriting nous.
Green’s use of melodic vocals on songs such as Vox Populi and Water also gave the band the chance to spread their wings.
Even Dead Kennedys frontman Jello Biafra pops up on Politricks, although the song itself is a forgettable dirge…
Two years later, Sepultura returned with Roorback, and raced put of the tracks with the urgent, razor sharp Come Back Alive.
There’s an urban unease to much of this lengthy album, an element of tension that brings to mind the atmosphere of Arise and Chaos A.D., if not the stratospheric songcraft.
Sepultura’s ninth album is marred by some unfocused meanderings: Urge and Bottomed Out – are prime examples.
But on Godless, Apes Of God and the Helmet-esque Mind War, the band play to their strengths… and the NYHC meets noise rock meets D-Beat pummelling of Leech is a bit of a crusty gem.
Roorback also has the added bonus of Revolusongs.
The covers EP is bold and ambitious, while still playing homage to Sepultura’s roots.
So U2’s Bullet The Blue Sky rubs shoulders with Hellhammer’s Messiah, and Massive Attack’s atmospheric Angel vies for attention with Jane’s Addiction’s Mountain Song.
They’re brilliantly executed.
The leftfield highlight is undoubtedly Sepultura’s version of Public Enemy’s prison break tale, Black Steel In The Hour Of Chaos, which features an outstanding performance from the late São Paulo rapper Sabotage.
It’s a show of force from an act unafraid to take risks.
And for the thrashers, the eviscerating take on Piranha by Exodus is manna from Bay Area heaven.
By 2006, it had been ten years since Max Cavalera’s last fronted Sepultura.
And with Dante XXI, the band marked that anniversary with an assured, bludgeoning opus that threatened to boil over, thanks to the intensity of Dark Wood Of Error and Convicted In Life.
Based on Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy, the album is a real feast for Seps fans.
The infectious, incredible Ostia could have easily made it on to Chaos A.D., City Of Dis boasts an almost inhuman performance from Igor and Nuclear Seven takes aim at the atomic threat, backed by an intelligent, dexterous arrangement.
Looking back, Dante XXI, was a fine sign-off for Igor, who left the band he co-founded shortly after the album’s release.
Jean Dolabella joins the Sepulnation…
Brazilian drummer Jean Dolabella stepped into Igor’s shoes for A-Lex, a lengthy concept album inspired by A Clockwork Orange.
It’s a denser record than its predecessor… and harder to digest.
But there are some fine moments amongst its 18 tracks.
Moloko Mesto and Enough Said bring the ultraviolence, Dolabella more than holds his own on The Treatment and on Strike, Kisser reminds us of his sublime talents.
As for Ludwig Van, a multi-instrumental feast based on Beethoven’s Symphony No. 9? Well, the Droogs would no doubt approve…
The final verdict on Sepulnation
Sepulnation – The Studio Albums 1998 – 2009 gives casual Seps fans a new gateway into an often maligned era for Sepultura, and long-time loyalists the chance to dive back in.
But perhaps more importantly, this package takes metal fans on a journey with one of the genre’s most important and enduring acts.