Reviewed: January 2012
Released: 2014, Rocket 88
The first official biography of Brazil\’s biggest Metal band, Sepultura.
To celebrate the 30th anniversary of the debut EP by Sepultura, I have reviewed two Sepultura related books; the Max Cavalera autobiography and the Sepultura biography now finally translated into English. Feel free to enjoy both books in this spotlight on the long running and respected Brazilian act. By a total coincidence I am writing this review on Dec 4th, 2014, the 30th anniversary of exact date of their first show, Dec 4th, 1984.
Disclaimer: I’m not a long time, hardcore Sepultura fan. I haven’t followed them for over two decades. As an old school death and thrash fan I absolutely loved the first three albums. I was disappointed in ARISE but I thought they could recover. Sadly, it was not to happen. I was horrified at the complete sell out of CHAOS A.D. and ROOTS was so fundamentally bad I still don’t own a copy (I refuse too) and I gave up on the band at that point. I still hold the unholy trinity of Phil Anselmo, James Hetfield and Max Cavalera personally responsible for the dumbening down of Metal for the American redneck-jock crowd in the early 90’s. See what I mean? ‘Dumbening’ isn’t even a word! So reader beware, my opinions of Sepultura, Max and all his horrible spinoffs are not favourable. A reader might question why I would even bother reviewing not one, but two books about bands I don’t really like. Well, Sepultura and Max’s post Sep output are just too big, too influential, too well respected and too popular to ignore. Just because I may not like the music anymore (many hundreds of thousands do) I still keep an eye on what these Metal titans are doing. 30th years in Metal is an accomplishment certainly worth celebrating even if I think they suck now. Besides, I will always have and hold those first three albums in high regard.
RELENTLESS is a standard paperback with a good-looking cover featuring the classic and iconic Sepultura ’S’ logo. The font is quite small so the book is deceptively long and it is loaded with information. There are also many black and white pictures that are quite dark and although that might be corrected in future pressings. The pictures are all very rare, many candid photos. The book is endorsed by the band and many of the 70 photos came from their personal archives. The book is quite streamlined there are not too many bonus features but there is an extensive discography. I’ve been waiting for this book for quite a while and it is has finally been issued in English following version in Brazil and Poland. The only issue I might have is that I would have chosen a different title. Yngwie J. Malmsteen issued his autobiography just last year and it is also called RELENTLESS and let\’s face it, Yngwie is way bigger than Sepultura so people are going to associate the title RELENTLESS with Yngwie, but no matter.
RELENTLESS follows a standard, linear biography from the early days to recent times. One of the strengths of the book is that Korolenko covers all eras of Sepultura with equal fairness and enthusiasm. The book covers all 30 years and ends at the beginning of 2014, the 30th anniversary of the band. Even though I am not a big Sepultura fan, I gained a new appreciation of the work and creativity that went into the more recent albums. Korolenko extensively discusses some of the deep themes and underlying concepts behind albums like A-LEX and DANTE XXI. In fact, he includes a song-by-song analysis of every album.
Korolenko discusses with candor some of the controversial events of the bands past and it makes a very good comparison to the Max autobiography. He doesn’t dwell on the negative politics, preferring a more positive approach. The band seem to take the highroad and avoid controversy I find it amazing that even almost 20 years later people STILL want Max to return even though Derrick has been in Sepultura twice as long as the former singer and has sung on more albums and toured more. The band is always shooting down media-driven rumours and stories about reunions. It still seems strange to me that Sepultura has joined the ranks of a few elite bands like Judas Priest, Napalm Death, Stratovarius that have no original members left.
Korolenko is positive, supportive and enthusiastic but is not afraid to criticize or acknowledge that there are still those few people (like me) who call for the old days of the raw death/thrash sound of the band. He admits there have been some pretty, shall we say ‘experimental’ musical ideas that did not always work. Reading RELENTLESS, I learned a lot, especially how huge the band is globally still to this day, despite a decreased market in North America. They will play a theater tour in North America and do quite well, almost 1000 people went to see them last time Sepultura played my hometown in Western Canada on the KAIROS tour. However then they will go to Indonesia or home to Brazil and play to 30-40,000 people! Respect where respect is due, Sepultura still continue to be one of the longest running, best selling Metal bands of all time and RELENTESS is mandatory reading for any and all fans past and present.