Thrash metal and metal in general are alive and well this year. Not even six full months have passed so far and already a variety of powerful metal and thrash albums have already been released by acts, such as Etherius, Annihilator, and Warbringer. Another of this year’s most notable current releases comes from the veteran thrash outfit Sepultura. Quadra, the band’s 15th full-length studio recording, was released Feb. 7 through Nuclear Blast Records. The 12-song record is an impressive return for the band especially in terms of its musical arrangements, which will be addressed shortly. The record’s lyrical themes are familiar in their own right and will be addressed a little later. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements and will also be noted later. Each noted item is important in its own way to the whole of this record. All things considered, they easily make Quadra one of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
Sepultura has always been one of the most respected and revered acts in the hard rock and metal community. That is because the band’s musical compositions and lyrical themes have always been something hard-hitting and thought provoking. That is even with the lineup and label changes that the band has gone through over the course of its more than 35 year existence. The band’s latest album Quadra is no exception to that rule. That is proven in part through the album’s musical arrangements. The arrangements in question take the best elements of the band’s more recent works and joins them with some elements of the band’s older material to make a whole that will appeal to a wide range of listeners. The throw back to the band’s early days comes early in the record’s 51-minute run time in the full-on thrash style arrangements in ‘Isolation,’ ‘Means To An End’ and ‘Last Time.’ The band’s ‘Roots’-era sound, which was distinctly separate from its past works, is evidenced in ‘Capital Enslavement,’ the album’s fourth song. ‘Ali,’ the album’s fifth entry, infuses even more thrash element into the album’s body. The album takes another turn as it progresses into its second half, with more of a heavy, melodic metal approach to ‘Raging Void.’ ‘Guardians of Earth’ brings more of the melodic heavy metal sound, but is distinct in its own right, producing something almost experimental, for lack of better wording. Of course that’s nothing new for Sepultura, considering the arrangements presented in the band’s 2006 album Dante XXI and its predecessor Roorback (2003). The band really goes melodic late in the album with the symphonic ‘Agony of Defeat,’ the record’s penultimate entry. As the record reaches its finale, ‘Fear; Pain; Chaos; Suffering,’ the band goes full-on doom metal, changing things up once again. Simply put, the album’s musical arrangements create quite a bit of diversity. There is no doubt that diversity will keep listeners who have not yet heard the album engaged and entertained in its own right. The foundation that the arrangements create for Quadra do more than their share to make the album applause-worthy. They are just part of what makes Quadra such a strong new offering from Sepultura. The record’s familiar lyrical themes build on the foundation formed through the musical arrangements and strengthen it even more.
The lyrical theme featured throughout Quada are important to address because they are just as familiar as the sounds in the arrangements that form the record’s foundation. Case in point is the single ‘Means to an End.’ Guitarist Andreas Kisser talked about the song’s lyrical theme in an interview, stating, “It shows the human greed with no limits, the arrogance and the ignorance of ourselves. We think we can do it all without knowledge, without respect.” That message is illustrated in the song’s chorus, in which front man Derek Green sings, “Wake up/Who’s to blame?/Brainwashed politics/Stand and defend/A means to an end.” Taking on such a topic is nothing new for Sepultura. The band took on similar topics on its groundbreaking 1993 album Chaos A.D. ‘Ali’ takes on the issue of racial inequity – a topic which today is very much a hot button issue – by telling the life story of boxing legend Muhammad Ali. The band took on the matter of pride in one’s self in some of the songs on Roots (1996). ‘Agony of Defeat’ is another example of the importance of Quadra’s lyrical themes. It comes across as addressing the concern of mental health issues. While maybe not an overly prominent matter in past Sepultura albums, it is a topic to which listeners will still be able to relate and connect. Keeping that in mind, it is still a familiar topic for audiences, and proves that much more why the lyrical content featured in this album is just as important as the record’s musical arrangements. The two elements together create a rich, fully engaging and entertaining experience for audiences that in themselves give those listeners more than enough reason to take in this album.
While the musical and lyrical content featured in Quadra goes a long way toward making the album appealing to audiences, they are themselves still only a portion of what makes the album stand out. The record’s sequencing rounds out its most important elements. As already noted, Quadra lifts from much of Sepultura’s existing catalog its presentation of its musical arrangements. Looking deeper into those arrangements, their energies are notable in examining the album’s sequencing. As the record opens, it presents a very mysterious, foreboding sound in ‘Isolation,’ That foreboding, heavy sound eventually gives way to a high-energy thrash arrangement, which carries right to the song’s end. That high-energy approach continues in ‘Means to an End,’ the album’s second song. As a matter of fact, the album’s energy doesn’t really let up until late in its run in ‘Guardians of Earth.’ Even while the song’s energy is subdued in comparison to the rest of the album’s works, it is still heavy in its own right. What’s interesting here is that the noted respite is only temporary, as the band picks right back up about two minutes into the song’s arrangement, and gets heavy all over again. There’s even a semi-death metal riff thrown in late in the song’s five-minute-plus run time for good measure. From there on, things stay heavy and fast again until the album reaches its title track, which is a brief instrumental track. From there, things pick back up again, closing out with a heavy, pounding arrangement in ‘Fear; Pain; Chaos; Suffering.’ It isn’t the thrash arrangement of the album’s opener and its immediate follow-ups, but is still very strong in its own right. Simply put, from beginning to end, Quadra ensures listeners’ engagement and enjoyment just as much through its stable energy – created through wise sequencing – as it does through its overall content. Keeping that in mind, it is the finishing touch to this recording, and together with the noted content, makes Quadra that much stronger. All things considered, they make Quadra one of this year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
Sepultura’s latest full-length studio recording Quadra is a welcome return for the band. From its musical arrangements, which really put on display different eras of the band’s existence, to the lyrical themes which are accessible to audiences in their own right to the sequencing, which keeps the record’s energy stable throughout, the record boasts a number of positives. Each item is important in its own way to the whole of the album. All things considered, the record definitely earns its place on any critic’s list of the year’s top new hard rock and metal albums.
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