Released: 2013, Nuclear Blast Records
Reviewer: Peter Atkinson
After following up two ambitious – and arguably overwrought – concept albums, Dante XXI and A-Lex, with the more back-to-basics Kairos in 2011, Sepultura bring these two approaches together with their tongue-twisting 13th album. They also give a nod to their past by hiring Ross Robinson – the man behind their nu-metal landmark/piece of crap (take your pick) Roots – to once again produce.
That might sound like a recipe for an absolute disaster. Fortunately, for those fans who have stuck with the band over the years despite a string of spotty albums that began with Roots, it is not. Indeed, it all kinda works a lot better than you might expect. Robinson's production is still pretty gritty and raw, but with a much more thrash metally approach by the band here Mediator largely avoids ending up sounding like the collection of ham-fisted hooks and thudding beats that Roots became, save for the throwaway cover song “Da Lama ao Caos” at the end.
“Trauma of War,” the ripping “The Vatican” and “Manipulation of Tragedy” hark all the way back to 1993's Chaos A.D. with their speed and aggression. Guitarist Andreas Kisser really saws away for all he's worth here, and that's certainly a good thing.
Overall, Mediator is certainly the most assertive and up-tempo album Sepultura have done, again, probably since Chaos A.D., and is a welcome change from the turgid Nation or Roorback or the all-over-the-place A-Lex. New drummer Eloy Casagrande delivers moxie and energy to match here, and is equally adept when it comes to bringing tribal percussion to “Tragedy,” “The Bliss of Ignorants” or “Tsunami.” He also is joined by once-again ex-Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo for a double-barrel assault on the manic “Obsessed.”
Despite being built around a storyline inspired by Fritz Lang's dystopian silent film classic “Metropolis,” Mediator doesn't have the feel – or bloat – of a full-blown a concept album. The usual connective tissue/interludes/segues are noticeable in their absence and the album has a natural flow that sounds more the result of smart sequencing than careful scripting. And the songs, for the most part, can stand on their own, with the initially serene, then droning “Grief” being the only track that seems like a bridge to something else.
Mediator is one of the year's more pleasant surprises. It proves that no matter how much people want to write off Sepultura, they've still got some life left in them and haven’t forgotten what it takes to make good thrash metal, despite ample earlier evidence to the contrary.