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May 9, 2011

Jason Kennaly


The first metal show I ever went to was Sepultura/Pantera with Prong opening. Pantera was maybe a bit too blue collar for my taste at the time, but I couldn't wait to hear Prong sing "Snap Your Fingers, Snap Your Neck". And Sepultura had a special place in my heart-I had spent hours in my bedroom listening to Beneath the Remains, and "Primitive Future" was my absolute favorite song. Of course they did not play "Primitve Future" that night, but they did cement my future as a metalhead. Their tie-dyed metal played at a blistering pace left me exhausted and blissful in a way that only an amazing metal show can.

Tonight was the first time I had seen Sepultura since then. The venue had shrunk dramatically-this was a scaled down House of Blues show, not the Sports Arena. They were the headliner, with a long undercard, but the top opening act was a forgettable Teutonic power/death act. The crowd was waiting for the men who had forced a spot for Brazil in metal history.

As the band took the stage and delved into "Arise", the differences were already clear from that earlier show. The Cavalaeras were gone-this was a different band. Max's guitar had never been replaced-and the missing rhythym guitar was clear from the beginning. It seemed to me that Andreas had distorted his guitar a bit more than he should have to make up for the missing rhythym, and that Paulo's bass roamed more than it should have. The vocals by Derrick Green, surprisingly, were better than I remember Max. Green was clearly a fan, and belted out "Arise" with the heart of a fan who still feels lucky to be singing with such legends.

Following "Arise", the band continued the opening hit parade with "Refuse/Resist". That first time that I saw Sepultura had been on the Chaos A.D. tour, and even though I had lost interest in the album, "Refuse/Resist" is such a great crowd-pleaser that I was instantly enthralled. Unfortunately, the euphoria faded quickly-drummer Jean Dolabella simply did not have Igor Cavalera's chops. The opening drumming into "Refuse/Resist"-really the best part of the song-was not played in the call/response fashion, with only the call being played. Green's vocals still brought the heart, and Andreas provided a decent lead guitar, but the it was clear that these men were shadows of the Sepultura from 1994.

With my expectations re-calibrated, I forced myself to think of this as, alternately, a nostalgia act (why else was at a metal show alone on a Monday night?) and the best Sepultura cover band ever.

Sepultura responded with an awesome rendition of "Dead Embryonic Cells". The thin sound, so lacking in rhythym guitar, was not enough to ruin this song, and once again Green's clear excitement for the show carried the band. Following "Dead Embryonic Cells", the band went on atour through their many albums, picking songs from all their albums (although still not playing "Primitive Future"!) and performing them adequately, if not with the blistering aggression or technical brilliance of their earlier incarnation.

While Sepultura clearly still has the heart that led them to put South America into the metal lexicon in the late eighties and early nineties, lineup changes and time have relegated them to a nostalgia act. There is some great metal still in the musicians, but it is being wasted trying to maintain the legend of Sepultura. It is time to put down the tribal symbology, and move onto projects.

After they put it aside for a few years, I'll be at the reunion show. Still waiting to hear "Primitive Future".

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