By Jonathan Smith
Judging from the polarized review scores already found across the internet, it’s clear that the new album from Sepultura is dividing people. Some have hailed Kairos as a return to form (of sorts) for the band, whereas others have warned listeners to stay far, far away. The diversity of opinions seems largely informed by how one understands and appreciates Sepultura’s history. For example, despite any PR talk about the album as if it were a thrash record, Kairos is certainly not a return to the aesthetics of Beneath The Remains and Arise. It’s definitely not Roots or Chaos A.D. either, as it largely stays away from those albums’ instrumental variety and their sense of place and politics. It also lacks the bombastic thematics of, say, Dante XXI. Instead, Kairos is a strong and enjoyable example of the band’s liberal mixing of elements from thrash, death, and industrial metal.
The variety of styles found on Kairos provides the album with a diversity that allows its songs to stand or fall on their own. “Spectrum” is a fantastic opener, a lumbering mid-tempo beast that focuses on building mood rather than storming out of the gate. “Dialog” stands-out and is also one of the most blatant displays of Sepultura’s trademark focus on personal empowerment and choice in dicey times and situations. “No One Will Stand” is where the Slayer-and-friends influence is finally heard in earnest, a direct contrast to “Structure Violence (Azzes),” the album’s most avant-garde and industrial track. While the former provides the example of the blistering guitar solo, it’s on the latter where Sepultura’s politics (more subdued on Kairos than on past records) are nonetheless reflected in the sound samples and spoken words.
There are definitely lesser moments on the album. Even as four separate (and unsubstantial) recordings of crowd sounds and chiming bells seem intended to re-emphasize the album’s theme of time and critical moments in life (hence the album’s title), a connecting thread between all tracks isn’t apparent and the short interludes aren’t substantial enough to warrant their presence. Two of the album’s less necessary moments are two covers, Ministry’s “Just One Fix” (which at least fits with the overall sound) and The Prodigy’s “Firestarter” (which seems out of place despite being annoyingly catchy). A trilogy of tracks, starting with “Seethe” and ending with”Embrace the Storm,” are perfectly adequate but don’t stand out as much among the stronger cuts.
What isn’t lesser is vocalist Derrick Green’s singing. As he is still continually (and frequently negatively) compared to Max Cavalera, one can hope that Kairos will further prove that he is now firmly part of Sepultura. Here his husky growls give a sense of restrained power while still allowing his lyrics to be heard, and his strained higher-end rasps provide a vocal range well-suited to the band’s sound and (increasingly abstract) socio-political themes. Andreas Kisser’s guitar work is more subdued, as the lack of outright thrash aesthetics means that his more blistering solos are fewer in number. What Kairos is about is its infectious rhythms, emphasized by Jean Turrer Dolabella’s drum work and Paulo Jr.’s constant bass lines. What is lacking in speed and exuberance is made up for in slow-burning and mostly rewarding song-writing.
Kairos is definitely an album produced by a band that has seemingly stuck to their guns even when their decisions have divided their fan base. While not a huge progressive leap forward, it’s a great listen. Whether it will be a stand-out in the band’s catalogue onward into the future remains to be seen, but another album in a similar vein is welcome.