The American author Mark Twain once said “Familiarity breeds contempt – and children”.
It’s a nifty quote that could be applied to Max Cavalera who, along with brother Igor, head the list of pioneers of Brazilian death-edged thrash metal. Max Cavalera’s literal children, of course, ended up getting involved later, but his musical offspring would be the multitude of bands that he helped establish. Each one of those bands became outlets for Max’s preferred style of songwriting. Naturally, with so much similar material being pumped out, there stood a case for familiarity breeding contempt. Regardless, fans of his aggressive, tribal metal have stayed faithful and his records continue to sell in their hundreds of thousands.
There are no prizes for guessing the content of this third Cavalera Conspiracy album. However, if you’d expected clipped, rapid-fire verses paired with choruses repetitiously bellowing the track title then you’d be a winner. However, there are a few little tweaks in Pandemonium that might surprise. Firstly, the album has quite possibly the ugliest cover art I’ve ever come across. Within, the music is marked with an especially haranguing, bleak tone and the emphasis is on more thrash, less groove so expect this to clash heads with early Sepultura material. In the words of Max, “This one is almost grindcore. I was really a dictator in the studio with Igor. So every time he’d go into the groove, I’d be like “Fuck the groove! Go back to the fast shit!” As a consequence it’s inherently evil and is much a case of love by force.
Marc Rizzo puts in a shift, throwing out fizzed chugs and lightning riffs like confetti and Igor’s got a few ear-plosions in store for us with a gut-punching bass drum. ‘Banzai Kamikaze’, in particular, is a crushing power play with a viscous construction that keeps you on your toes. Other leading lights are the fist-pumping glory of ‘Apex Predator’ and ‘Insurrection’. These are two of the most virulent, callous, putrid tracks from the band to date, and the powerful, anthemic smack of ‘Not Losing The Edge’ is little short of glorious. With Converge’s Nate Newton grabbing the bass from Johnny Chow there’s a stomping backline to drive the album forward with real attack and, as a bonus, he’s employed to howl out the echoing, enigmatic words of ‘The Crucible’ – a track that explores the tale of the witches of Salem.
Elsewhere, it’s very much a case of business as usual with ‘Babylonian Pandemonium’, ‘Scum’ and ‘Father Of Hate’ (which, being heavily-accented, amusingly sounds more like ‘Fucker Of Hate’) resorting to type. There’s also the Neanderthal charm of ‘I, Barbarian’ and ‘Cramunhao’ to deal with. Both are distorted to within an inch of their life and the former even employs a jarring industrial edge that simply falls flat. It’s not long before the similarity between tracks does become tiresome and you do find yourself gasping for change. They eventually oblige, raising their heads for the closing tribal pots-and-pans tub-thumper ‘Porra’. Fans of Soulfly should know the script, but this also employs a curious Manu Chao-esque vocal rip and has a danceable latino vibe that it returns to between the messy, gruff sections of grumbling, dissolute thrash.
Pandemonium isn’t going to blow your mind. It is way too predictable for that, which is a shame when you consider the exciting hardcore edge that Blunt Force Trauma offered. Fans, however, will lap this offering up and they should. Amidst all the familiarity, it has enough grunt to kickstart a pit all of its own. Under this particular guise, Max, Igor and Marc do seem to produce their best work.
Cavalera Conspiracy’s Pandemonium gets…