Album Review: Sepultura - Quadra
Review by Jake Patton
When thinking about any band that has experienced a long and prosperous career, you can typically trace an underlying trajectory of innovation and growth over the course of that career. Sepultura are no different and from the very beginning the Brazilian quartet have been no strangers to innovation, spending the better part of the past 35 years exploring new avenues to deliver their sound in a way that is true to their roots, and reflective of the growth they have undergone. The band has embraced this cycle for many years now, with their upcoming 15th album Quadra being no exception. Espousing the bands well established foundations with their previously touched on primitive and tribal elements, Quadra brings forth 35 years of learnings, combining them into a package which showcases a band at the very peak of their game.
Album opener Isolation sets the tone nice and early on that — like Machine Messiah previously — Quadra is different. With an extended opening orchestral arrangement that slowly builds for just over a minute before the band engages with their chunky groove/thrash riffs, Isolation really does set the band off on good footing for the album. It’s an intriguing ‘calm before the storm’ type move that highlights how diverse Sepultura can take their sound while still staying true to their core, and it works brilliantly. This orchestral work that appears throughout Quadra never feels overdone or out of place, and even the opening crowd chants on Capital Enslavement serve to engage the listener in new and unique ways.
Quadra is comprised of many of these unique musical decisions which all culminate in it being a great listen. Whether it be the dissonant rhythm and charismatic chorus of Raging Void, the acoustic intermission of the title track, the mystical sounding Guardians of Earth, or the uncompromising aural onslaught of Ali, Sepultura really has left nothing untouched in pursuing the best sounds for this album.
Instrumental track The Pentagram was perhaps the most surprising track on the album. A beautifully moving piece that subverts listener expectation by throwing multiple sections where any listener would expect Green’s vocals to come crashing in, yet remaining stoic in its purely instrumental delivery. It’s an impressive track that highlights the strength in the bands musicianship, and is certain to garner a lot of positive reception from listeners. Equally as stunning are the previously mentioned acoustic title track, and the slower paced Agony of Defeat which would have quite as easily been at home on Machine Messiah as it is on Quadra.
As to be expected, after creating album after album every three years for the past three decades, Sepultura has become very consistent in their musical delivery, with that consistency culminating in some of their best performances ever on Quadra. Andreas Kisser is in prime form with his masterful guitar work standing proudly as some of the best work of his career. There are some truly shredtastic moments on the album, but Kisser's ability to convey power through the electric guitar and then emotion through the acoustic is truly remarkable standout on Quadra.
Paulo Jr. (Bass) and Eloy Cassagrande (drums) are one of the most solid rhythm sections going at the moment and really provide the right platform for the guitar and vocals to shine. It’s no secret that a lot of Sepultura's appeal has come from the catchiness of their songs, with a large part of that being attributed to the band’s rhythm section, and Quadra sees this pair nailing the groove and trash aspect perfectly.
Derrick Green’s vocal delivery is also worthy of discussion. Green has always been a commendable vocalist, but his delivery has been on a sharp upturn over the past few albums. Quadra sees him performing a few different ways, with each sounding uniquely profound, but his harsh vocals sound fiercer and less forced and convey the lyrics in a more audible fashion than previously, and his clean vocals/spoken passages are all better than they have been before. It’s great to listen to.
The band has opted again to use Jens Bogren of Fascination Street Studios to produce the album, and just like Machine Messiah beforehand, this choice has provided Quadra a production quality which really emphasised all the best aspects of Sepultura. With the well-layered bass and drumming sections providing the perfect platform for the crisp distortion on guitar to really shine, and the vocals then resting neatly on top, the production quality and mix is impeccable and is a strength of this album in addition to the music itself.
At 51 minutes in length, the 12 track album is structured in a cohesive way that makes it an effortless listen. While the earlier portion of the album focuses on the thrash and rhythm components many attribute to Sepultura, the album’s latter portion certainly lends itself to being more about the experimental and melodic sounds which are going to really surprise listeners. It’s very difficult to see anyone picking this album up and shutting it off before its ending, with new twists and turns each song, and the album structure serving in such a way that it will more than likely leave listeners longing for more at its conclusion.
Many things in the music industry have changed since their formation, but 35 years on and Sepultura still remains strong in their convictions towards releasing good music, with Quadra standing as a testament to that conviction. Although though they might be heading towards their fourth decade together as a band, Sepultura is showing no signs of slowing down, and Quadra, in all its raw, aggressive, emotive and catchy grandeur is going to be an album that fans will talk about long into the future.
Rating: 9 out of 10
Quadra will be released February 7th on Nuclear Blast Records.