Following Max Cavalera’s departure in 1996, Sepultura’s career began a series of poor record sales compared to the likes of Arise, Chaos A.D., and Roots. Nevertheless they remain today well-received in certain circles. By and large however, their material post-Max is met with much disinterest, especially now that we’re throwing Cavalera Conspiracy into the mix. From A-Lex and onward I have ended up listening to a promotional track off of their new album at the time. While I was never impressed with these tracks, I never really explored the root of this growing disinterest, until now. I recently listened to the Brazilian quartet’s debut with Derrick Green on vocals, Against. I set out to determine whether this disinterest was just a big misunderstanding, or completely justified.
Note that the nu metal influence on this album which many criticize, was present on the preceding album Roots. However Against, was a commercial flop compared to the success of Roots.
It begins with the title track, a punk-like intro with very sterile production, treated to the lyrics “Don’t do that, I knew it, Don’t do that I knew it-knew it” on repeat. The next track, “Choke”, has a guitar similar to that of Mick Mars, as well as the riffs. There are guitar leads on this track but no actual solos. The Brazilian-style drumming remains intact, but Green just doesn’t sound as ferocious as Cavalera. The song that follows is yet again, a showcase of guitar effects with no solos from the days of Beneath The Remains.
Track 4, “Old Earth”, is another track driven by a nu metal riff, slower this time. While the dueling riffs in the bridge sound pretty good, Green’s vocals are particularly bad on this track. “Floaters In The Mud”, the next track, sounds like the beginning of a good album. The main riff is catchy, the acoustics in the bridge give a nice twist to the song. At the end of the track, there is an interesting loop of guitar effects. The only real downside, is that in the album’s first occurrence of a guitar solo, it’s nothing too impressive. The next song, “Boycott” has a very simple riff that can be played by beginner guitarists. Then we come to the instrumental “Tribus”. One envisions tribal music, but is presented with an awful nu-metal groove thrown into the mix.
On “Common Bonds” the grooves get heavier and there is an added wah effect on the lead guitar. It sounds unique at first, but then Derrick Green introduces vocals similar to early Machine Head. Enter second tribal instrumental with nu metal guitar. This time, it’s a cover of a J.B. Pickers song, “F.O.E”.
The track “Reza” is the next track deemed worthy on this album. The pinch harmonics in the beginning of the song make for a great intro before entering a punk phase with none other than João Gordo of Ratos De Porão on guest vocals. Unlike the title track, “Reza” sounds more like an authentic punk song. “Unconcious” the song that comes next, can be classified only with Meshuggah-like riffs, which Meshuggah were already doing at the time of this record’s recording.
“Kodo” is the first instrumental on this record that is quite interesting without any overused nu metal techniques. It has a riff with a hook and there is a chilling woodwind instrument playing at it’s end. We come to track 13, “Drowned Out” another punk tune that reminds you of Integrity. Then there is the final real track (the actual final track is an instrumental). This closer, features Jason Newsted on baritone guitar, percussion, theremin, and vocals. It’s another punk-like song only this time, the main riff is recycled and grows stale. The redeeming fact about this song is that it has the most impressive solo of the entire album bringing the listener back to the Chaos A.D. days.
My verdict: Largely uninteresting
After absorbing the 15 tracks of “Against”, I’ve concluded that most of the distaste towards this album is justified. Recurring themes of this album include weak vocals from the band’s new lead singer, overused guitar riffs with a lack of decent solos, and sterile production. If you’re one of those dedicated metal collectors and need to have a track or two from this album then I would recommend “Floaters In The Mud” and “Reza”. Several critics have claimed that later albums with Derrick Green are much better than their first. One may also argue that the early Sepultura records are an incredibly high bar to set for a band. Regardless, it’s fair to say that “Against” certainly marks the beginning of the end of Sepultura.