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The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart

(Nuclear Blast)

Reviewed by : David Perri
Rating : 8.0

"We have to win back the trust of the people," SEPULTURA guitarist Andreas Kisser told me in December of 2008, and that sentiment has stayed with me as Sepultura has continued its post-Cavalera course to mixed effect. After flying too close to the sun with the genre defining and re-defining Chaos A.D. and Roots, Sepultura seemed poised to become metal's ultimate crossover success story, a band bathed in the blood of Bestial Devastation underground but also non-linear enough to embrace the forward-thinking moments that were the apex of both Chaos A.D. and Roots. And then it all stopped suddenly, Sepultura splitting, literally, into the two camps that have defied the stacked odds against them and have remained steadfast for the last decade and a half.

That said, let's be honest: it hasn't been the best of times for Andreas Kisser, Paulo Jr. and Derrick Green. 1998's Against was an angular record that made it hard to captivate the capital Sepultura had accrued with its back catalogue, and though the five albums that have come after it have tried - valiantly even - to recapture what made Sepultura so incendiary at its peak, the band has had difficulty sustaining any sort of traction or legacy for its records, despite the monumental effort it probably took to write and execute something as interesting and as ambitious as A-Lex.

So here's where the narrative takes an unexpected twist: The Mediator Between Head And Hands Must Be The Heart (fantastic, insightful title, just too long) isn't just another post-Max Sepultura record. This is the best album Sepultura has crafted since Roots and, maybe, Chaos A.D., as The Mediator is an engaging, immediate death-thrash album that evokes what made Sepultura so renowned circa Arise, though The Mediator is by no means an LP that slavishly channels that era in some sort of retro-chic way. Instead, The Mediator is the possessor of inspiration that goes beyond the Roorbacks or Nations of the world: maybe Sepultura has realised that, thirty years into a career, it has something to prove, and concept albums based on dystopias, though laudable and grand, are not the way to win back fanbases or to secure a new one that is eagerly awaiting the next abysses from LAMB OF GOD, GOJIRA or FLESHGOD APOCALYPSE. Writing an album that goes for the throat and proclaims "We are Sepultura!" while emanating the levels of confidence and self-assuredness that only a revered and respected back catalogue affords has finally, it seems, become Andreas' mandate.

And, for the most part, he has succeeded, as The Mediator is a foray into dynamic and strong song-writing, all the while never sacrificing credible and believable aggression for jumpdafuckup's sake (but, hey, we never expected that anyway). The only element that truly feels weak here is how low the tribal drums are mixed, that put-it-in-the-background seemingly a nervous, timid move, almost as if this incantation of Sepultura is afraid to acknowledge the massive contribution of Roots, lest Sepultura 2013 look simply like a vehicle for nostalgia. However, when the opening duo of 'Tantrum Of War' and 'The Vatican' make their incendiary presence felt, and when 'Grief' and 'Age Of The Atheist' speak their word and deed, one recognizes that the bleeding the Sepultura brand has encountered since the late-'90s might finally come to a halt. Add in the grin-inducing rock-out that is finale 'De Lama Ao Caos' and you wonder is if Sepultura has finally silenced all those many, diverse and long-standing lambs.