Sepultura-The-Mediator-Between-Head-And-Hands-Must-Be-The-HeartThe name Sepultura carries a lot of baggage these days. A decade and a half after the band’s split with frontman Max Cavalera, the word is synonymous with wasted potential, increasingly questionable legitimacy, and diminishing musical returns. Every album is touted as a “comeback” or return-to-form of some kind, but never quite lives up to the hype, leading to renewed calls for the band’s end — or even worse, total indifference.

The latest chapter of this slow decline is called The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart (a reference to the 1927 movie Metropolis). Mediator is the band’s 7th post-Max LP, and the 3rd since his brother Igor vacated the drum throne. And this time, the sales pitch is that it re-teams Sepultura with Ross Robinson, producer of the bloated, trend-jumping Roots album back in 1996.

Opener “Trauma of War” shows promise, bursting out of the gate with a vicious Andreas Kisser thrash riff and spastic drumming from new member Eloy Casagrande. Even Derrick Green, one of the most generic vocalists in metal, manages to sound legitimately furious. Follow-up “The Vatican” follows suit, and after a choral intro, delivers an even more rapid-fire ass-kicking. So far, this is shaping up to be the most furious Sepultura record of recent memory, and I wonder: can these guys keep up the pace?

sepultura_2013Sadly, that crunchy outer shell is swiftly undone by the soft, chewy center of faceless midtempo tracks. Some songs, like “Impending Doom” and “Bliss of Ignorants,” go absolutely nowhere, redeemed only by Andreas Kisser’s increasingly angular soloing. 7th track “Grief” finally breaks up the monotony with some clean guitars and (gasp!) some melodic vocals from Green. “Age Of The Atheist” incorporates hardcore beats with sections of washed-out, somewhat Killing Joke-ish guitar.

New drummer Casagrande strays pretty far from the Igor template — his performance here is full of technical flair, double-kick bursts, and even the occasional blast-beat. There’s no doubt that the dude can play, but his style is so drastically different that he distances the band even further from their own identity. Oh, and speaking of people who are good at drums, Mr. Dave fucking Lombardo stops by for a drum duet on “Obsessed,” which is probably the highlight of Casagrande’s entire life. The album ends with a cover of Chico Science‘s “Da Lama Ao Caos,” a funk-and-rap-infused embarrassment of a magnitude that’s usually reserved for Soulfly [Oh, that was cold, man.  —  Steel Druhm].

On the positive side, Mediator bears little resemblance to Roots, either in production or execution. The mix is crisp and clear (two things Robinson is not exactly famous for), and the music is fairly complex by Sepultura standards. If anything, it’s a close cousin to 2007’s Dante XXI, another latter-day Sep record that marginally succeeded by combining pseudo-thrash heaviness and heady subject matter. But Dante at least had some damn good songs, something which the band apparently forgot at home this time.

sepultura_2013aThe bottom line is that modern-day Sepultura kinda sucks at writing interesting tunes and keeping listener attention throughout a full record. This is a fatal flaw that no amount of tribal drumming, experimental interludes, or guest appearances can remedy. Mediator contains a mere nine original songs, yet it still feels long and dragged-out. And all this hype about reuniting with Robinson, as though it’s somehow a good thing, is another symptom of the band’s misguided state of mind. Yes, Sepultura, your fans want you to reunite with a certain someone, but it ain’t the guy who produced Limp Bizkit. Figure it out already, or give it up.

One final thought: Between hearing Mediator and the latest Soulfly record, I can’t help but wonder where the patented Sepultura sound went. The current lineup doesn’t have it, and Soulfly sure as shit doesn’t have it. Even Max and Igor couldn’t recapture it on the Cavalera Conspiracy albums. Who or what made those old records sound like that, and what the hell happened to it?


Rating: 2.0/5.0
Labels: Nuclear Blast Records [EU] [NA]
Websites: sepultura.uol.com.br  |  facebook.com/sepultura
Release Dates: EU: 2013.10.25  |  NA: 10.29.2013

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  • Pascual Villaseca

    Still, the live performance are pretty good.
    They got plenty of the old material to pull it off.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      True. However, I could easily find 4 dudes in my hometown who could play old-school Sepultura songs just as well, if not better, than the current lineup (or Soulfly).

  • Игорь Чернов

    sad, but true, BUT by the nine hells! – the Mediator Between The Head And The Hands Must Be The Heart – this more then epic magic words, for those guys who watched the metropolis – movie, cool name for the album.

  • Matus Dust

    Sepultura has this awkward spot in the scene. They can’t just release ‘ok’ stuff, they always have to live up to something in eyes of many. Truth be told though, Max’s era wasn’t anything spectacular either. I didn’t really particulary enjoy anything after Beneath the Remains (and well, maybe Arise). On the other hand, Againts is probably my favorite Derrick Green album. Speaking of, I know I’ll never really like Derrick Green’s vocals, but I can say the same thing about countless of other bands and their vocalists, to which I listen to despite. This album isn’t perfect, but I’d give it a 3 atleast.

  • Daniel Figueiredo

    You guys don’t know how it feels to be a brazilian metal fan. Sepultura botches in every fucking festival in our country some way or another, and is foreign bands’ favorite topic in an attempt to please us. They played twice in the same Rock in Rio and showed up twice during the same night in Monsters of Rock when they weren’t even playing. Don’t get me wrong, I do enjoy a lot of their stuff up to Roots, but it gets annoying when you attend their concert and the oldest songs played are “Territory” and “Bloody Roots”. Soulfly/CC live are much better for me because Max is just hilarious in portuguese and the Sepultura songs sound more legitimate when he’s playing them. Even when he’s drunk.

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Weird. If I was trying to make small talk with Brazilian metal fans, I’d definitely bring up Sarcofago.

      • That made my day.

      • Daniel Figueiredo

        Sarcófago were awesome! But even here in Brazil they’re still largely unknown by younger people.

        • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

          That’s a damn shame. The Brazilian government should have some sort of cultural education program that teaches the youth about Sarcofago.

          • Markus Ihmor

            Don’t forget Ratos de Porao!!!

  • pedromau

    2/5?
    You must be drunk dude!
    This is one of the best metal albums I’ve heard in a lot of years!
    Chaos AD, Roots, and then this one! No doubt.
    Oh… and Eloy? The guy is 1000x better than Igor! And his style fits just perfect in the band!

    • Fisting_Andrew_Golota

      Eloy is not better than Igor…and I’m not drunk.

  • Markus Ihmor

    I think 2/5 is a little harsh. I find the record really entertaining and it feels that Kisser lost a lot of pressure that made the predecessors sound awkward.