Sepultura - Dante XXI - SPV Records 2006
Running Time: 39:03
Roughly four hundred and fifty years ago, an Italian poet (himself dead slightly over two hundred years) had the adjective "Divine" attached to a little epic known until that time as simply Commedia. This superlative addition, while accurate, seems unexpected, due to the fact that this selfsame work had branded Dante a heretic during the final days of his life in a time when the church didn't only abide by the law - the church was the law. Time-travel nearly half a millenium ahead, and Brazil's favoured sons of metal have also flown in the face of convention, turning in their first career-defining album in roughly a decade, in the form of Dante XXI.
Then again, maybe "turning in" isn't the best way to describe the thrashfest unleashed in the opening 'Dark Wood Of Error'. Never to these ears have Derrick's vocals sounded so on top of their game, and if the previous few years have given Sepultura anything musically, it's the pointed sense of direction found within this album. While 2003's Roorback was a typical Green-fronted Sepultura album, that's really all that could be said in either its criticism or defense, depending on which side of the fence you stood. 'Dark Wood Of Error' singlehandedly shifts the focus from Green as "the new guy", and puts it back where it should've been all along; the band as a unit. You can almost see the ecstatic grin on Andreas Kisser's face - as he leads the all-out attack of 'Convicted In Life' - at Sepultura's return to a more definite Metal sensibility. Cavalera has wisely traded in his jump-core skinwork for a twisted hybrid of near-industrial bursts ('City Of Dis') and balls-out thrash frenzy (also 'City Of Dis'). If you enjoy the material thus far, 'City Of Dis' will floor you. I'd like to personally thank whoever lit the fire under the collective ass of Sepultura, because as expansive as 'City Of Dis' is, the roar and blast of 'False' is that much more deadly, setting the stage for 'Fighting On'. 'Fighting On' pendulums between harsh chug and melodic undertone with equal fervour, and finds Green adding a Pattonesque dynamic to the Faith No More-gone-hardcore tone of this bass-driven behemoth. I'd be remiss in not mentioning the bass of Paolo Pinto, contributing as it does to the overall sound of Dante XXI. Whether racing furiously to keep up with Cavalera's kickdrums or yanking warped snatches of rhythm from the density of 'Ostia', Pinto proves himself once again to be one of the most solid bassists in straight-ahead metal. The machine-gun strafing of 'Buried Words' collapses into 'Nuclear Seven', the former destined for status as a favourite of the band's live sets. In 'Nuclear...' and 'Repeating The Horror', Green barks "Show me the way!" and "I want redemption!" with such conviction it becomes clear (even without a lyric sheet) that Dante XXI is nothing less than lyrical catharsis. With 'Crown And Miter', the light at the end of the hellish tunnel we've been through is seen, with the line "There is a way out!" leading the way into the finale of 'Still Flame'. I have to admit not really knowing where the band was going with 'Still Flame' with no vocals appearing until the final moments of the piece. In subsequent listens, however, the (sampled?) brass section and cinematic tone put the album to rest in fine fashion.
Like Mastodon's groundbreaking Leviathan, which took much of its inspiration from Melville's novel of the struggle between man against nature (and man against himself), Sepultura has crafted an album which will stand the test of time as the most musically cohesive, literate work in their catalog thus far.