Probably the last thing that the current lineup of Sepultura wants is to be compared to the classic Sepultura lineup that ran five albums from 1985-96. Yet, heavy metal is a genre terribly stamped by the “what have you done for me lately?” attitude, and to that end, many of the fans of old Sepultura have eyed any of the post-Max Cavalera material with a wary eye.
Enter “Kairos,” the band’s twelfth official studio album, and the second without either Cavalera brother listed in the credits. It is the band’s first recording for Nuclear Blast Records, and the production and execution from that end is flawless. Each note, chord and hammering beat sound perfectly fuzzy (paradoxical though that may seem,) and the product comes equipped with the expected level of punch that Nuclear Blast often brings to the table.
Let’s be brunt about this. Relative to the most recent “new” Sepultura albums, “Kairos” fits decently well in that niche, as part of the Derrick Green-era set. Unfortunately, that entire era will now and forever live in the shadow of the Max Cavalera-fronted golden age, and “Kairos” does not meet that lofty standard.
Similar to all of Sepultura’s most memorable works, “Kairos” musically focuses on driving the beat home again and again and again (to a fault by the end of the album.) Jean Dolabella’s percussion is consistent, and relentless. The guitars use short, choppy riffs with simple hooks that are whipped like race horses to gallop through an entire song. For many bands, that kind of repetition is usually a by-product of mundane songwriting. In this case, not so different from Static-X, the cyclical nature of the music is intentional; the album pistons out the same brand of ferocity for anywhere between three and eight minutes at a time. So long as Andreas Kisser still remains part of the lineup, that will likely be the case.
Initially, this works well for the album, as “Spectrum” and the title track are both creatively uncreative. The former concentrates on pummeling the listener with a riff-heavy guitar assault, the latter with endless streams of percussion. “Relentless” does the same thing, then “Dialog” does as well (albeit slightly slower,) and so on and so forth. Rounding out the first half, “Mask” is a distinguishable song, but I found that mentally I could track large portions of the verses and chorus from Cavalera Conspiracy’s “Inflikted” over the top of Green’s vocals. Try it and see.
After that, what started out as creatively uncreative becomes dogged and repetitive. With the exception of “Structure Violence (Azzes)” and the finisher “4648,” nothing really makes the eyebrow raise. Even those two cuts aren’t much separated from the din of pounding but pigeon-holed songwriting.
“Kairos” isn’t a bad album. Seriously, it’s OK. But that’s all it is. If you can sift through the off-white wallpaper and find the nice pocket of Green’s vocals, or the really solid soloing of Kisser, there’s reward to be had. Still, “Chaos A.D.” this is not.