REVIEW: SEPULTURA – “Machine Messiah”
The first impression with every record, before you even get a chance to hear the opening notes, is the artwork. And regardless of your individual opinion on Machine Messiah for it’s track, there is no denying the artwork is simply stunning. Originally a painting by Filipino artist Camille Dela Rosa titled “Deus Ex-Machina,” the artwork fits in brilliantly with the interesting concept Andreas Kisser wanted to explore with Machine Messiah. Regarding the album’s concept, Kisser states on Sepultura’s website:
“The main inspiration around Machine Messiah is the robotisation of our society nowadays. The concept of a God Machine who created humanity and now it seems that this cycle is closing itself, returning to the starting point. We came from machines and we are going back to where we came from. The messiah, when he returns, will be a robot, or a humanoid, our bio-mechanical savior.”
On the first listen, I was pleasantly surprised by Machine Messiah. Everyone has an opinion on Derrick Green at the helm of Sepultura, but no one can deny Andreas Kisser has some killer riff writing chops. And this shines through throughout Machine Messiah. From start to finish, the album is crammed with a steady mix of groovy and thrashy riffs, and mesmerizing lead work. Sepultura are no strangers to the proggier side of thrash, but Machine Messiah takes this to a new level. The band spend a lot of the album expanding their melodic and prog-influenced side, and it gives the album a lot of potential to really be a game-changer.
Unfortunately, Machine Messiah fails to capitalize on the potential it has. The prog-influence really does open up Sepultura’s musical arsenal, however, the band also include a heavy emphasis on their old-school punk influences. Mixed with the pseudo-prog sound, the punky feel carried by some of the tracks just doesn’t really work, and it gives Machine Messiah a bit of an unfocused and disjointed feel. A further failure of the album is the general lack of really memorable tracks. While listening to the album, it is certainly enjoyable, but there are very few songs that really stick in the mind. Machine Messiah is good, don’t get me wrong, but it is, sadly, unremarkable.
That is not to say Machine Messiah is without strengths, however. Opening with the title track was a smart move. The melodies and more instrument-focused nature of the track made it an enticing listen, and is an immediate high point. The newest track to be released, “Phantom Self,” is a contender for the strongest song on Machine Messiah. The crushing grooves mixed with stunning Eastern-influenced orchestration give the track a really unique feel. Sepultura take their heaviest turn with the massive “Sworn Oath.” Opening with ominous melodies before diving straight into a groove-heavy, decimating riff-fest, “Sworn Oath” is edges out “Phantom Self” to take the crown of Machine Messiah’s best song.
There is nothing inherently bad about Machine Messiah. It is a solid, reasonable offering with a few really excellent points. But the majority of this record, while decent, is unremarkable. With so many old-school thrash bands offering up career high-points in the last few years, Sepultura miss the mark with Machine Messiah. It certainly isn’t a flop, but a modern classic it ‘aint.