Sepultura – Quadra Review

Boy, are you all in for a treat today. Our resident Sepultura reviewer, Dr. Fisting, has gone into hiding, conveniently around the time the Quadra promo became available. With nobody else raising their hand, and me having some time on mine, I said “If you want some Canadian idiot to take a stab at it, here I am.” There’s a caveat, though: the number of minutes I’ve spent listening to Sepultura over the past thirty-four years can be counted on one finger. So you’re not getting a review today from some lifelong fan who hates the fact that certain people aren’t in the band anymore. I could care less. What you’re getting is a review of Quadra as it stands on its own merits, regardless of the band’s baggage. So read on if you like, or scroll down to the score and then tell me I’m an idiot.

Here’s what I think I knew about Sepultura before last week: they are an old thrash band from Brazil, and there were brothers in the band but now they are not there. One of their album covers has a doll or something on it. I’ve heard about 60 seconds of one of their songs and thought the music sounded good and the guy was a lousy singer. Here’s what I know now: Quadra is one hell of a record, and apparently encompasses the majority of their career in compelling fashion. The album is broken up into four musically thematic sections: thrash, Brazilian, experimental, and melodic (relatively speaking), each of which would be one side of a 2LP vinyl offering. Throughout it all, there are several constants: massive sound, courtesy one Jens Bogren, unrelenting top-tier drumming from Eloy Casagrande, and a monstrous vocal performance from the equally physically monstrous Derrick Green. Oh, and some excellent songwriting as well.

Quadra opens with speed and aggression, as songs such as “Isolation” and “Last Time” rage through the speakers. The songs are laser-precise and taut, and hold up against any other contemporary thrash offerings. The occasional use of choir and synth adds subtle depth to otherwise brutal songs, contrasting Green’s inhuman howls. Andreas Kisser and Paulo Jr. are in lockstep throughout, creating thick and jagged riffs atop Casagrande’s rolling, complex beats and fills. “Capital Enslavement” opens with Brazilian percussion, bringing to mind (at least briefly) one of my few Brazilian frames of reference: Paul Simon’s The Rhythm of the Saints. Well, at least for thirty seconds before the song takes off. Instrumental “The Pentagram” is mystical and heavy at the same time, but Sepultura save their best for last. “Agony of Defeat” is quite simply epic perfection, a soundtrack for the aftermath of a battle as it opens, with Green turning in a clean, subdued performance before the band winds itself into a ponderously furious climax. With the choirs and synths it borders on overdone, but stays on the right side of effectiveness, and has quickly taken a place atop my favorite songs this year.

The attempt to touch on all aspect of the band’s career is noble, and Sepultura more or less pull it off. The flow of the album works well when the songs are grouped in this manner. The album does sag under its own weight in the middle, as “Ali” and “Guardians of Earth,” don’t have the same impact as most of the other tracks, showing that it is indeed hard to write twelve excellent songs at once. Even these weaker tracks sound amazing, though, as Bogren has dragged every ounce of passion from the band throughout and transferred the performances to disk with equal fervor. The choral and synth embellishments are never overdone, and serve to add just enough depth to the songs to be more menacing than cheesy. And through it all, Green’s massive vocals and Casagrande’s tour-de-force performance remain highlights.

So there you go, a review of an album by an apparently legendary band I’ve never listened to. Consider me duly impressed. Make what you want of it, say what you will of the band past and present, but the bits and bytes don’t lie: Quadra is bold, aggressive, varied, and entertaining throughout. Will it make me dig into Sepultura’s back catalog at all, or maybe even the band’s offshoots?1 Well, I’m certainly not against the idea…

Rating: 3.5/5.0
DR: 7 | Format Reviewed: 272 kbps mp3 (VBR)2
Label: Nuclear Blast
Websites: |
Releases Worldwide: February 7th, 2020

Show 2 footnotes

  1. Which I’ve also never listened to.
  2. Variable Bit Rate. In other words, a stupid way to make smaller MP3 files, because you know nobody really has disk space in this day and age (read: sarcasm). The 272 is the average of the songs.
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