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Album Reviews : Sepultura – The Mediator Between the Head and Hands Must Be the Heart

By on August 3, 2014

“My vision, smoke Roots– it can be done” proclaimed producer Ross Robinson prior to the recording of Sepultura’s 13th studio album: The Mediator Between Head and Hand Must be the Heart.  The statement, whether intended or not, suggests that Sepultura are forever answerable to past glories as attained with Igor and Max Cavalera at the helm, as well as past shortcomings following their departure.  If only subsequent releases were given free reign to speak for themselves without petty debate over whether or not Sepultura is Sepultura sans its erstwhile founding members…  The Mediator may indeed be the Sepultura album that finally and forever silences the monotonous drone of the band’s naysayers.

Sepultura’s vision for The Mediator, however, continues the band’s trending predilection toward drawing inspiration from film and literature.  In this case, the 1928 silent film classic Metropolis provides a loose thematic backdrop to the lyrics of some songs, but not all.  For the most part, The Mediator is a devastatingly ferocious record that is, at times, emotionally charged.

Ex-Gloria and Andre Matos drummer Eloy Casagrande makes his presence known immediately from the get go with the intro to the album’s opening number: “Trauma of War.”  He does so by way of a percussion section that sounds reminiscent of a train with unknown, most likely lethal, cargo making its way along rickety tracks.  What follows is a downright dirty, full-throttle thrash piece that sets the scene for the remainder of the record.

Immediately apparent is the low-tuning and scathingly dry texture of Andreas Kisser’s guitar; while it still holds the warm characteristics as heard on previous Sepultura albums, it is all the more coarse.  Paulo Jr.’s bass rumbles like distant Amizonican thunder, as is to be expected, meanwhile Derek Green has delivered his most poignant vocal performance to date.  With tonality that complements and matches that of the music, Green’s growls and screams often soar into the stratosphere, thereby creating a sense of rage that is typical to Sepultura’s core sound, but is all the while entirely unique amongst the remainder of the band’s catalogue.  In fact, Derek Green provides a real highlight with a pleadingly mournful and agonised showing on “Grief.”

The tolling of church bells, unsettling cantata and a pleasingly plateauing and distantly ominous section give way to the death roll thrash that dominates “The Vatican.”   Such dynamics must surely show the younger thrash upstarts of today how it’s done.  “Impending Doom” follows, bringing with it a decrease in tempo but no respite from the frenetic intensity.  The intro and the short interludes that succeed each chorus may remind some fans of “Cut-Throat,” a classic cut from Roots.  In fact, of any track from The Mediator truly harkens back to Roots and the mid-late 90s era of metal, it is this one.  Beneath Casagrande’s drumming, which at times takes on a similar feel to Slipknot’s “Psychosocial,” slithers a truly venomous snake of a groove metal track; Andreas Kisser’s solo hissing and writhing with predatory intent.

“Tsunami” and “The Bliss of Ignorants” stake their claims for heaviest moments during The Mediator, and neither are short on rolling tribal percussion.  “The Bliss of Ignorants’” slamming choruses may require a visit to the chiropractor; this is some serious, neck-snappingly heavy stuff.  This is vintage Sepultura.  This pair of songs ensures that The Mediator not only stands up to repeated plays, but also provides a contrast between the old and the new.  The aforementioned “Grief” immediately follows, providing a moment of sombre reflection amid the chaos.

Tribal percussion is among its most prevalent in “Age of the Atheist,” another number that seamlessly blends vintage thrash with new-world groove.  There is no question as to what the message behind this number is as Derek Green roars “there’s no saviour” with the ferocity and fervour of a man possessed.

For differing reasons, the closing pair of numbers: “Obsessed” and “Da Lama Ao Caos” sign off proceedings in slightly anti-climactic fashion.  “Obsessed,” features a guest appearance from the legend that is ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo and, predictably, it is a right royal stampede.   However, it may leave some in want, for its structure lends itself to a perceived abruptness in its conclusion (the track is a relatively average four minutes in duration).  “Da Lama Ao Caos,” on the other hand, is a solid tune that injects a little bit of fun into The Mediator, but its placement seems a trifle unusual .  Barring Derek Green’s psychopathic laughter at its conclusion, and Eloy Casagrande’s solid drum solo (appearing as a secret track several minutes later), this tune has no err of finality about it whatsoever.  This begs the question as to where it could be placed in an album that is otherwise as dark and stormy as first monsoonal rainfall.

With the authority of the French Foreign Legion, The Mediator Between Head and Hand Must be the Heart commands rather than politely asks that fans judge it on its merits and nothing else.  Moreover, to say that this is classic Sepultura would only be accurate if one added “classic in the making,” for the quartet have recaptured the essence of what set it apart while forging ahead in a brave new direction.  Green, it seems, is finally coming into his own as Sepultura frontman, while the band as a whole retain Roots’ relevance as Max Cavalera and Soulfly continue distancing themselves from any tribal precedent.  Roots’ legacy remains once the smoke clears; it is now the doubters who disappear completely from view.

Band: Sepultura
Album: The Mediator Between the Head and Hands Must Be the Heart
Year: 2013
Genre: Thrash/groove
Label: Nuclear Blast
Origin: Brazil

1. Trauma of War
2. The Vatican
3. Impending Doom
4. Manipulation of Tragedy
5. Tsunami
6. The Bliss of Ignorants
7. Grief
8. The Age of the Atheist
9. Obsessed
10. Da Lama ao Caos