Sepultura was probably my favorite metal band of the ’90s. After Max Cavalera left, I dutifully kept following the band. It was a tough friend to keep around. With each new Sepultura record, I would have the same reaction 30 seconds in: “God, this sucks.”
A-Lex (SPV, 2009) is no different. The reason is simple: Andreas Kisser cannot write a riff to save his life. When Max left, he took the riffs with him. Since then, Sepultura has been mired in faceless, generic riffs. They’re sort of hardcore, sort of thrash, sort of grunge, sort of boring. Annoyingly, their execution is often great. Energy levels have been high on the last few records. Igor Cavalera played his heart out on Dante XXI (reviewed here). His replacement Jean Dolabella does a fine job on A-Lex. Derrick Green is a much more expressive vocalist than Max Cavalera. But no matter how hard they put their backs into it, they’re still shoveling shit.
Most of the songs on A-Lex are between two to three minutes long. Yet they feel interminable. Most are lucky to get past two notes in a riff. In their knuckleheadedness, they sometimes recall Roots – minus the conviction and tribal flair. When Kisser unloads the occasional hot lead, it feels false; such overdubs are absent in the band’s one-guitar live setup. This record is best when the band doesn’t play. The ambient interludes have rich sound design. The overall recording is heavy and organic-sounding.
But these are just condiments. The sandwich is still inedible. Never mind the album concept about A Clockwork Orange. It’s a talking point to mask mediocrity. I didn’t read the book, but I saw the film. Assuming that the film is inferior to the book, this record trails miles behind. The film was lurid and horrifying. The only horror here is the endless mundanity.