Sepultura – Quadra

Quadra is Sepultura‘s best album since Roots (1996). That might seem like a trite assessment, since the same has often been said about each of their albums since at least Kairos (2011), and has also arguably been true of all of their albums since Roorback (2003). Nevertheless, the fact remains that Sepultura have really hit their stride in the later part of the Derrick Green era, and continue to steadily improve with each new release. Even in the face of such consistency, however, Quadra constitutes something special.

Despite their reduced reputation, Sepultura have produced some outstanding records during the Green era – especially of late. Their previous two records, The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must be the Heart (2013) and Machine Messiah (2017), are each outstanding records in their own right, as is (I would also argue) 2009’s A-Lex, and Roorback remains a striking return to form. Even so, Quadra is the first album of the Green era that stands up to the band’s classic output.

It’s also their most death-metal leaning record since the early years of Morbid Visions (1986) and Schizophrenia (1987). Opener, “Isolation” is an instant classic that sets the tone for what’s to come. It’s frantic riffing is pure Beneath the Remains (1989), with Eloy Casagrande’s colossal drumming lending it a modern edge, with the result being what is easily the best (traditional-style) Sepultura song of the last two and a bit decades. Much of the record’s early offerings follow suit, with Green – who has been somewhat of a weak link within the band, even across the last couple of records – delivering a powerful and varied performance, that proves, once and for all, he’s the right man for the job. Whether it’s the drawn-out deathgrowls on “Means to an End” or the menacing spoken sections on “Last Time” his performance is never short of exceptional.

Although it’s newer-recruits Green and Casagrande who primarily draw focus, it’s long-time guitarist Andreas Kisser who remains the MVP. Between the expanded scope shown here and on Machine Messiah (and, again, I would argue, A-Lex), Kisser is quietly becoming one of the most ambitious and understated composers in extreme music. He has long been the band’s primary composer and, although much of Quadra stick’s to a more traditional death/thrash template than some of the band’s more recent releases, he record still manages to incorporate some more experimental textures, which are perhaps even more expertly executed in their subtlety.

The album is layered with (relatively) minimalist choral and string sections which recall the Satanic menace of mid-period Dimmu Borgir. The choral sections at the end of “Last Time” and the slower “Capital Enslavement”, which blends the band’s trademark tribal brooding with some tastefully menacing strings, provides the album’s first hint the extra layers incorporated into Quadra, and the album continues to open up as it progresses. The grandiosity of “Guardians of Earth” embodies the album’s political concepts while allowing Kisser to take full flight, before the instrumental “The Pentagram” again proves his underappreciated chops as a composer. All of this culminates in the cathartic “Agony of Defeat”, which utilities Green at both his soulful and brutal best to full effect, bringing Quadra to a logical and satisfying close.

The album’s fluid progression makes Quadra by far the most logically complete of any Sepultura album. Or it would if it weren’t for supurfluous closer “Fear; Pain; Chaos; Suffering”. The album’s final track feels like a less-refined rehash of “Agony and Defeat”, with Emily Barreto‘s additional vocals doing more to accentuate it’s out-of-placeness than they do the song itself. It’s unfortunately a very tacked-on feeling conclusion to what is otherwise a masterfully composed and executed record. Nevertheless, the rest of the album remains faultless and should be essential listening for any fan of heavy music, but especially those who gave up on the band long ago. You don’t want to miss out on this one.

Quadra comes out Feb. 7 via Nuclear Blast.

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