Dante XXI

To be honest, I really haven’t had a whole lot of interest in Sepultura since they split with guitarist/vocalist Max Cavalera in the mid-1990s. I boughtAgainst just to see what the “new” Sepultura was like and wasn’t really that interested in keeping up with them after that. They’ve done a few things here and there I’ve liked, but I just haven’t really followed them the way I did in their early days. This record might change that.

After Max Cavalera and Soulfly took a heavier turn on their most recent album, I was hoping his former bandmates would follow suit. Still, I put Dante XXI into the CD player not expecting much and was quite surprised when “Dark Wood of Error” kicked in. The song is very much in the vein of Chaos A.D., my personal favorite Sepultura record. That sound continues on “Convicted in Life.” The entire first act of the album continues in an older Sepultura sound with “City of Dis” and “False,” which are both very reminiscent of Roots.

At this point, I should probably explain that this is a concept record in four parts. It’s based on the Divine Comedy, and each of the acts has its own personality and intro music with strings and other instruments you don’t expect to hear on a Sepultura record. Surprisingly, for such a high concept record, Dante XXI is pretty short, clocking in at less than 40 minutes, with most songs in the 2-3 minute range. I guess I’m used to seeing concept records more in the progressive and power metal genres where they’re drawn-out epics.

One of the complaints about vocalist Derrick Green has been his hardcore background and his bringing that into Sepultura’s sound. At least in the early going on this record, that influence is muted. It starts to rear its head on the last track of the first act, “Fighting On,” which still has a pretty catchy spoken chorus.

Some fans might get put off a little by the second act, as it veers into metalcore territory. But it’s on the better end of that spectrum. I really like the gritty tone of “Nuclear Seven,” and “Repeating the Horror” puts me in mind of Prong.

The final two acts consist of only one song each (not counting the intro). The third act, “Crown and Miter,” is a full-on hardcore number without much metal input at all. The album closer “Still Flame” aims for horror-movie soundtrack territory, starting with a dark, clean guitar piece and some choral singing then adding some tribal drums and strings. I do like the end with the string flourishes over a grumbling guitar riff. It’s an OK piece, but more like the ending credits of a movie than a song. Still, I suppose that’s probably what the band intended.

Is Dante XXI the Sepultura record I was hoping for? Not exactly. I’d still like to see them turn in something more along the lines of Chaos A.D. or Arise. But I was quite surprised by this album, and it should appease fans looking for that older style somewhat. It’s easily the best performance the band has turned in for the past 10 years.

[Visit the band's website]
Written by Fred Phillips
March 14th, 2006


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