Album Review – Sepultura / Quadra (2020)

A sensational concept album based on Quadrivium embraced by a fusion of Thrash, Groove and Progressive Metal, masterfully crafted by the best Brazilian metal band of all time.

In case you’re form another dimension and haven’t listened to Quadra yet, let me tell you that the fifteenth studio effort by Brazilian Thrash/Groove Metal titans Sepultura is much more than just another metal album. With a concept based on Quadrivium, which are the four subjects or arts (namely arithmetic, geometry, music and astronomy), taught after teaching the trivium, Quadra, meaning “four ways” from Latin, is a 12-track album divided into four sections of three songs each. The first being Thrash Metal songs based on the classic Sepultura sound; the second section is inspired by the groove-percussion oriented sound the band explored in Roots; the third part has more progressive songs inspired by the track Iceberg Dances from Machine Messiah, albeit not all are instrumental tracks; and side four features slow-paced and melodic tracks similar to the song Machine Messiah. Add to that the undeniable talent by the band’s four horsemen Derrick Green on vocals, Andreas Kisser on the guitars, Paulo Jr. on bass and Eloy Casagrande on drums, and there you have the band’s most successful record since 1998’s Against.

Recorded and produced by Jens Bogren at Fascination Street Studios in Örebro, Sweden, and featuring a bold artwork by Christiano Menezes from Darkside Books revolving around the meaning of the number four, Quadra is also the Portuguese term for sports court. “We all come from different Quadras. The countries, all nations with their borders and traditions; culture, religions, laws, education and a set of rules where life takes place. Our personalities, what we believe, how we live, how we build societies and relationships, all depends on these set of rules that we grew up with. Concepts of creation, gods, death and ethics. Money, we are enslaved by this concept. Who’s poor and who’s rich, that’s how we measure people and material goods. Regardless of your Quadra you need money to survive, the prime rule to play this game called life. Hence the coin. The coin is forged with the senator skull, who represents the set of rules and laws we live by; the world map on his head delimiting the borders of all nations, imaginary lines separating people by concepts of race and the sacred,” explained Andreas about the concept behind the album art.

Tribal beats and futuristic sounds ignite the brutal and groovy Isolation, an old school Thrash Metal chant with Sepultura’s unique twist, where Derrick already tells us all this album is going to be fantastic through his enraged roars, whereas Means to an End is another ass-kicking, trademark creation by the quartet with the talented Eloy bringing tons of progressiveness and fury to the musicality, while Paulo continues to be precise and groovy as usual on bass. And there’s no sign of slowing down in Last Time, where Derrick and Eloy represent the brutality in the music while Andreas showcases his infinite talent as a shredder as well as with his fantastic solos; and adding primeval elements and beats from the band’s cultural background it’s time for one more round of savagery and groove united in the name of metal in Capital Enslavement, with Andreas slashing his strings beautifully accompanied by the unstoppable Eloy on drums. Back to a more traditional sound blending Thrash, Groove and Progressive Metal, Andreas, Paulo and Eloy generate a bold and reverberating atmosphere in Ali, sounding beyond perfect for Derrick to fire his beastly growls.

Raging Void is a mid-tempo, neck-breaking tune led by Eloy and his pounding drums where Derrick is effectively supported by all backing vocals, while Andreas keep stunning us all with his whimsical guitar. Then  a sensational acoustic intro by Andreas sets the stage for an austere and multi-layered metal feast entitled Guardians of Earth (which has one of the best and most touching official videos of the past decade), with all choirs and orchestrations making the whole song even more impactful and thrilling; followed by The Pentagram, bringing to our ears a classic Death Metal sonority infused with endless progressiveness and rage. Furthermore, Andreas is superb on the guitars as usual, while Paulo brings the groove with his minimalist but precise bass jabs, resulting in an excellent instrumental composition. After that we have Autem, uniting the past, present and perhaps the future of Sepultura by alternating between old school thrashing moments and the obscurity and hatred from Death and even Black Metal. Needless to say, Eloy and Andreas are in absolute sync throughout the entire song, and after the brief but beautiful acoustic intermission Quadra, it’s time for a darker, more introspective side of Derek in Agony of Defeat, where once again all background choirs and orchestrations bring a touch of finesse to the overall result, albeit not as majestic as the rest of the album, though. And last but not least, the delicate, sexy vocals by guest Emmily Barreto make a superb paradox with the raspy growls by Derrick in Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering, with the music sounding grim, melodic and vibrant form start to finish, or in other words, a great composition showcasing the band’s endless creativity and passion for heavy music.

After all is said and done, it’s more than fair to give such amazing album of heavy music four of our rating skulls, especially as the album revolves around the various meaning of the number four, right? In addition, in case you haven’t done so yet, I recommend you follow the best and most influential band of the Brazilian metal scene of all time on Facebook and on Instagram, subscribe to their official YouTube channel for more of their unique and heavy-as-hell songs and videos, and of course purchase or stream Quadra by clicking HERE. When Derrick was asked during an interview with BraveWords “Which Sepultura album are you most proud of?”, he replied, “Definitely Quadra. It’s the latest album, and we really worked so hard on it. We have so many different elements from the past that have helped us get to here – where we are at right now. So, without a doubt in my mind, this is the strongest album that we’ve done together. And I’m extremely proud of it.” I guess we must all agree with Derrick that Quadra is hands down the most detailed, diverse and electrifying album of his era fronting Sepultura, raising the flag of Brazilian metal higher and higher for the delight of all of their loyal and diehard fans.

Best moments of the album: Isolation, Capital Enslavement, Guardians of Earth and Fear and Pain, Chaos, Suffering.

Worst moments of the album: Agony of Defeat.

Released in 2020 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. Isolation 4:56
2. Means to an End 4:39
3. Last Time 4:27
4. Capital Enslavement 3:40
5. Ali 4:12
6. Raging Void 3:57
7. Guardians of Earth 5:11
8. The Pentagram 5:20
9. Autem 4:06
10. Quadra 0:46
11. Agony of Defeat 5:51
12. Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering 4:09

Alive in Brazil Digipack and Earbook bonus disc (recorded live at “Audio” in São Paulo, Brazil on June 20, 2015)
1. Choke 3:46
2. Convicted in Life 3:31
3. Sepulnation 4:41
4. Apes of God 3:22
5. Sepultura Under My Skin 3:45
6. Manipulation of Tragedy 4:19
7. The Vatican 6:34
8. Cut-Throat 2:55

Band members
Derrick Green – lead vocals
Andreas Kisser – guitars
Paulo Jr. – bass
Eloy Casagrande – drums, percussion

Guest musicians
Bruna Zenti – violin
Kadu Fernandes – percussion on “Capital Enslavement”
Renato Zanuto – keyboards, orchestrations on “Isolation”, “Means to an End”, “Capital Enslavement” and “Guardians of Earth”, choir arrangements
Francesco Ferrini – orchestrations on “Last Time” and “Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering”
Robertinho Rodrigues – acoustic bass
Chorus Mysticus – choir vocals
Jens Bogren – backing vocals
Paulo Cyrino – effects on “Ali”
Gunnar Misgeld – choir arrangements on “Isolation”, “Last Time”, “Guardians of Earth” and “Agony of Defeat”
Emmily Barreto – female vocals on “Fear, Pain, Chaos, Suffering”

Album Review – Unleash The Archers / Abyss (2020)

The Matriarch is ready to eat our hearts while we fall into the abyss to the sound of the brand new album by one of the best Canadian metal bands of all time.

Formed in 2007 in Vancouver, the biggest city in the stunning province of British Columbia, Canada, the unrelenting Power/Melodic Death Metal squad known as Unleash The Archers has sharpened their arrows and hit the bullseye once again with their fifth full-length album, entitled Abyss. Featuring ten new tracks, this adventure is a concept album and a sequel to their 2017 masterpiece Apex, and was once again recorded with legendary producer Jacob Hansen of Hansen Studios in Denmark. Portraying another epic artwork, this time designed by Adam Burke (Nightjar Illustration), Abyss might not be as grandiose and breathtaking as Apex, something quite impossible to be done in my humble opinion, but it’s indeed a vibrant display of the band’s dexterity, their passion for Heavy Metal and their infinite creativity to bring forth a compelling storyline together with their music, proving why frontwoman Brittney Slayes, guitarists Grant Truesdell and Andrew Saunders, and drummer Scott Buchanan heave reached such high level of admiration and relevance all over the world, carving their spot in the hearts of all types of metalheads.

Smooth, serene guitar lines invite us all to join the band in their quest for metal in the opening tune Waking Dream, where Brittney already showcases all her vocal potency, gradually evolving into the epic title-track Abyss, with Grant and Andrew taking the lead with their crisp and strident riffs and solos. It will work beautifully when played live, blending their modern-day Power Metal with 80’s Glam Metal, I might say. Then again presenting an 80’s rockin’ vibe thanks to its background keys and classic beats we have Through Stars, sounding like it was taken from an old school Hard Rock album, being very pleasant while at the same time developing the story majestically told by Brittney, and when you think they’re going to slow down a little they come with an onrush of sounds titled Legacy, even bringing nuances of Black Metal added to their classic metal music. However, the music never really clicks, though, falling flat after a while (nothing to worry about, though).

In Return to Me the band brings forward a more progressive and groovier side, with Scott dictating the rhythm with his old school beats, resulting in another good composition by the quartet albeit a bit generic if compared to their older songs, whereas it’s with Soulbound that the party really starts, showcasing ass-kicking lyrics screamed by Brittney (“We race around the melted char of what was once a neutron star / And use the gravity to whip us into dark galactic rifts / Yet still somehow we can’t escape, they have no flaw, they feel no pain / These twisted shadows of the men I once condemned”) while Grant and Andrew are unstoppable with their axes in this ode to Heavy Metal. And get ready for another round of inspiring, metallic words (“Once more we’re flying fast as light / Dark matter passing in the night / Pursued by a force we can’t outrun / As we hurtle towards a dying sun / We maneuver through the remnants of a moon on the solar winds of supernovas / There is not a place to hide, the Matriarch is close behind, it’s plain to see she’s coming for us all”) in the superb Faster Than Light, bringing to our ears a stuninng Stratovarius-like feel (and an absolutely weird official video to our eyes, by the way), with all band members speeding things up and blasting sheer awesomeness for our total delectation.

After such intense tune, it’s time for a passionate performance by Brittney supported by her loyal bandmates in The Wind that Shapes the Land, with Grant and Andrew slashing our ears with their sharp riffage while Scott doesn’t stop hammering his drums throughout the song’s eight minutes of a top-of-the-line fusion of Melodic Death and Power Metal. Carry the Flame is another 80’s-inspired Hard Rock/Heavy Metal song showcasing a beautiful vocal duo between Brittney and Andrew, while Scott continues to bring the thunder to the music with his beats, all spiced up by some ass-kicking, soulful guitar solos. Lastly, in order to properly conclude the album the band brings to our ears the epic, symphonic and climatic Afterlife, a very detailed and dense composition where Brittney is once again flawless with her high-pitched, heroic vocals, accompanied by the galloping beats by Scott and the always flammable guitars by Grant and Andrew until the song’s serene and warm ending.

In a nutshell, as already mentioned, although Abyss is not on par with Apex, it will surely entertain all fans of the band while at the same time it puts a climatic conclusion to the overall story concept initiated with their 2017 album. Do not expect to listen to a new “The Matriarch”, “Call Me Immortal” or “Shadow Guide” in Abyss, but to brand new, unique compositions that have their place and purpose well defined by Unleash The Archers, and if you want to give their new album a shot you can stream it in full on Spotify or purchase a copy of it from several locations such as their own BandCamp page, Napalm Records, Apple Music, Amazon or indiemerchstore.com, among others. Also, don’t forget to follow Brittney and the boys on Facebook and on Instagram, getting up to date to all things related to one of the best metal bands of all time hailing from Canada. In the end, the Matriarch might eat our hearts while we fall into the abyss, but as long as that happens while we listen to the first-class metal blasted by Unleash The Archers, we can rest assured our souls will be free in the afterlife.

Best moments of the album: Through Stars, Soulbound, Faster Than Light and The Wind that Shapes the Land.

Worst moments of the album: Legacy and Return to Me.

Released in 2020 Napalm Records

Track listing
1. Waking Dream 3:45
2. Abyss 6:44
3. Through Stars 5:34
4. Legacy 5:26
5. Return to Me 5:34
6. Soulbound 3:54
7. Faster Than Light 5:11
8. The Wind that Shapes the Land 8:36
9. Carry the Flame 4:42
10. Afterlife 7:30

Band members
Brittney Slayes – vocals
Grant Truesdell – guitar
Andrew Saunders – guitar, harsh growls, additional vocals, synths
Scott Buchanan – drums

Guest musicians
Francesco Ferrini – orchestration on “Afterlife”
Ben Arscott – bass (session)

Album Review – Dimmu Borgir / Eonian (2018)

Uninspired, lame, generic, way too orchestral and utterly boring. What happened to our good old Dimmu Borgir?

I honestly don’t know how to start this review for Eonian, the brand new and extremely boring album by Norwegian Symphonic Black Metal icons Dimmu Borgir, the tenth in their career following their 2010 album Abrahadabra, which was also quite bad. Well, first and foremost, I don’t think the low quality of the album is due to the several lineup changes the band suffered through the years, with vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Shagrath and guitarist and bassist Silenoz being the only original members left, and with guitarist and bassist Galder being already a longstanding member. In my humble opinion, their biggest mistake in Eonian was trying to be way more symphonic than they should, resulting in a bland and confused version of the music by Nightwish or Epica with extremely uninspired harsh vocals and generic lyrics.

Featuring an interesting artwork by Polish artist Zbigniew M. Bielak (Deicide, Ghost, immolation, Paradise Lost), much better than some of their previous installments by the way, Eonian has everything we don’t want to listen to in a Dimmu Borgir album, from totally out-of-place orchestrations to a lame background choir. I don’t know how keyboardist Gerlioz and drummer Daray survived another round of pedestrian metal music with Dimmu Borgir after Abrahadabra, and I hope for the sake of their careers they do not accept to participate in another explosion of sheer mediocrity with Shagrath and his horde in the near future. Should the band call it quits after Eonian, or will they keep recording tedious album after tedious album while at the same time they cash in some decent money from their live concerts and merch? In the end, it seems that’s what several renowned bands only care about, right?

An orchestral and imposing start evolves to a heavier version of the Symphonic Metal played by Nightwish with Black Metal vocals in the opening track The Unveiling (and that will happen with pretty much every song of the album), not even close to their classic sonority, getting utterly tiresome after a while despite its not-so-bad lyrics (“Become through earned / And granted liberation / Rise above the secrecy / And silent deception / Clarity is determined / At the depths of murky waters / The potion of black earthed blood / Is the sludge draining the conscious”). Then yet again we have another tasteless tune that seems taken from the worst of all Epica albums, the first (and boring) single titled Interdimensional Summit, which might have worked for other Symphonic Metal bands, but definitely not for Dimmu Borgir. Moreover, as already mentioned the album’s background choir doesn’t bring any potency to the music, not to mention how low the guitars by both Galder and Silenoz sound compared to the orchestrations. In the good Ætheric, the drums by Daray finally appear amidst the excessive orchestral sounds, as well as the riffs by the guitar duo, in what’s probably the best song of the album (with even Shagrath sounding more devilish on vocals). Put differently, this might be far from being a masterpiece by Dimmu Borgir, but at least it’s Symphonic Black Metal.

In Council of Wolves and Snakes a cinematic, horror-like intro morphs into a macabre sonority, bringing a touch of Doom Metal to their dark symphony and with guests Mikkel Gaup and Martin Lopez adding a demented twist to it with their shaman vocals and voodoo beats. There’s nothing truly outstanding in this case, but it’s still a decent song, which is definitely not the case in The Empyrean Phoenix. I’m not sure what to say about this song, as it has an interesting and vibrant vibe while at the same time its instrumental pieces are again way too orchestral, lacking more aggressiveness in the end. After such unstable song we have Lightbringer, where the band shows a spark of their glorious years in a promising start that grows in intensity spearheaded by the beats by Daray, morphing into a hybrid between the band’s classic Symphonic Black Metal and the lighter Symphonic Metal that “poisons” the entire album, but fortunately in this case Shagrath and his horde sound a lot better and more cohesive.

In the horrendous I Am Sovereign, while the music itself tries to be symphonic, it feels more like a soundtrack to a very unexciting circus act, with all that’s already bad getting even worse due to its generic lyrics (“Perseverance doesn’t mean anything / Unless it’s for eternity / The real powers that will ever be / Is freedom and liberty”). Where are the guitars? What happened to Shagrath’s voice? These are just a couple of questions raised in what’s probably the worst song of all. And Archaic Correspondance doesn’t get much better than that, not knowing if it wants to be a heavy or orchestral (or even pop) song. At least Shagrath’s voice sounds slightly heavier and more demonic than in the previous tune, but the choir once again makes the whole song too soft and tiresome. In short, this is a total waste of almost five minutes of your life. Alpha Aeon Omega presents a relatively better balance between the band’s Black Metal and the infinite orchestrations in the background, with Daray’s drums sounding crisp and piercing; however, once again the guitars are almost nonexistent (which is a bummer for any fan of heavy music). And the instrumental piece Rite of Passage would have been great if the rest of the album wasn’t such a disappointment. Anyway, it’s as decent as it can be, ending the album in a somewhat whimsical way.

In my opinion, one of the biggest issues in Eonian, if not the biggest one of all for a huge part of fans of metal music, is that pretty much all songs drag for way too long. There are countless bands that can make a 15-minute song sound like if it had only a minute or two so compelling their music is, but in the case of Dimmu Borgir they managed to do the exact opposite in Eonian, with almost every song in the album being an endless torture even if they have less than five minutes in duration. Furthermore, after surviving listening to Eonian for a couple of times (trying to find something good in it), I was going to give it a 2.0, but after listening to the first single from the upcoming album by Eric Peterson’s furious and epic Symphonic Black Metal project Dragonlord, the sensational title-track Dominion, I was “forced” to lower Eonian’s rate to 1.5. I have no idea if you agree with me or not, perhaps I’m being too demanding, but if you truly think Eonian is a good Symphonic Black Metal album I highly recommend you go take a listen at Dragonlord. Then I’m sure you’ll agree with me that Eonian unfortunately sucks big time. Needless to say, I’ll never listen to it again of my own free will.

Best moments of the album: Ætheric and Lightbringer.

Worst moments of the album: The Unveiling, Interdimensional Summit, I Am Sovereign and Archaic Correspondance.

Released in 2018 Nuclear Blast

Track listing
1. The Unveiling 5:47
2. Interdimensional Summit 4:39
3. Ætheric 5:27
4. Council of Wolves and Snakes 5:19
5. The Empyrean Phoenix 4:44
6. Lightbringer 6:06
7. I Am Sovereign 6:48
8. Archaic Correspondance 4:55
9. Alpha Aeon Omega 5:18
10. Rite of Passage (Instrumental) 5:16

Band members
Shagrath (Stian Tomt Thoresen) – vocals, bass, keyboards, orchestral arrangements,
effects
Galder (Tom Rune Andersen) – lead guitar, bass
Silenoz (Sven Atle Kopperud) – rhythm guitar, bass
Gerlioz (Geir Bratland) – keyboards, additional orchestral arrangements
Daray (Dariusz Brzozowski) – drums

Guest musicians
Mikkel Gaup – shaman vocals on “Council of Wolves and Snakes”
Martin Lopez – voodoo percussion on “Council of Wolves and Snakes”
Schola Cantorum – choir vocals
Francesco Ferrini – orchestra
Gaute Storås – choir and orchestral arrangements