CAVALERA CONSPIRACY & KINGDOM OF SORROW: THE FIRST NICE SURPRISE VS. THE FIRST BIG DISAPPOINTMENT OF 2008
Reunions and supergroups* almost never add up to the sums of their parts, yet they’re always going to provoke our interest. We just know, deep down somewhere, that our favorite guitarist from Band A working with our favorite singer from Band B can just never be as cool as it sounds, because a great band usually has that intangible element known as “chemistry.” In other words: just because two talented people decide to work together doesn’t necessarily mean we’ll get some great.
Of course, sometimes we’re proven wrong. Based on two tracks posted on the band’s MySpace page, like, forever ago, I had high expectations for Kingdom of Sorrow, the new collaboration between Crowbar’s Kirk Windstein and Hatebreed’s Jamey Jasta; meanwhile, I was fairly certain that Cavalera Conspiracy, the new Sepultura non-reunion between long estranged brothers Max and Igor Cavalera, was going to turn out to be a worthless cash-in on Sep fans’ nostalgia for less Green pastures.
Misters Cavalera, I owe you an apology.
Kingdom of Sorrow – the band and the album – is a perfectly fine project that delivers pretty much what you’d expect: a 50/50 cross of Crowbar and Hatebreed. The problem is, there’s nothing here even remotely as memorable as the best material by either of those venerated bands. As it turns out, those two tracks that were on the band’s MySpace page – “Begging for the Truth” and “Buried in Black” – are the two best songs on the album (they’re stuck all the way at the end on the finished product, natch). Maybe I’m just fatigued from all the thousands of other bands out there now that sound exactly like Crowbar or Hatebreed, but few, if any, of the riffs, breakdowns, or melodies have managed to stay with me – and that’s after multiple listens. Yeah, “Free the Fallen” has a decent chugga-chug breakdown, but you still have to sit through the rest of the generic song to get to it; meanwhile, album opener “Hear This Prayer for Her” sounds an awful lot like Windstein’s other supergroup, Down, except it invites negative comparisons to those southern rockers; it paints a very clear picture of the contribution that Windstein’s co-conspirators make for that project. It’s that pesky chemistry thing again.
The Cavaleras may have been apart for over a decade, but they’ve still got chemistry in spades (they are brothers, after all). Max and Igor have replaced their absent Sepultura bandmates with Gojira’s Joe Duplantier on bass and Max’s longtime partner-in-crime from Soulfly, Marc Rizzo**, on guitar, and they still manage to sound exactly like vintage Sep – so much so that one can hardly be blamed for starting to wonder if Andreas Kisser and Paulo Jr. weren’t getting too much credit back in the day. The boys wisely steer away from the nu-metallic tendencies of Roots (although there’s still some tribal drumming on tracks like “Dark Ark” – which is fine, ’cause that was always the best part of Roots, anyways) and instead offer up deathrash in the vein of Arise, Beneath the Remains, and Chaos A.D. – you know, the Sepultura albums that totally kicked your ass and got you into these dudes in the first place.
The production techniques are considerably more modern in sound – Max’s deep, ball-shaking death metal growl towards the end of “Dark Ark” appears over what sounds like a semi-ambient chorus of monks – but by and large, this is exactly the album that anyone with half a brain would’ve wanted the classic Sepultura line-up to record if they’d reunited in full this year. From the speed metal of “Hex” and “The Doom of All Fires” to the elephants-plodding riff of “Ultra-Violent” to the breakdown in “Sanctuary” that puts every breakdown on Kingdom of Sorrow’s album to absolute and utter shame, this album is killer from start to finish. I can’t wait to jump up and down with my fellow Sepultura worshippers during “Terrorize,” and I can pretty much guarantee that “Hearts of Darkness” and “Must Kill” are better Metallica songs than we’re gonna get from Metallica this year (shouting “MUST! KILL!” at the band’s live show is going to be suh-weet).
I guess what I should take away from the experience of listening to these albums, then, is some sense of humility: yes, I can be wrong, and no, I ought not be so quick to judge. But we all know that that’s never gonna happen, so let me boil it down to this: chemistry is what makes the difference between Audioslave and Rage Against the Machine. One of these bands has it spades, and the other just doesn’t. ‘Nuff said.
Kingdom of Sorrow, Kingdom of Sorrow:
(two and a half out of five horns)
Cavalera Conspiracy, Inflikted:
(four out of five horns)
*Actually, these days half the supergroups really are just reunions in disguise: see Audioslave, Velvet Revolver, Army of Anyone, etc.
**I’ve never really been a Rizzo fan up ’til this point – dude, what’s with the backpack? – but his solos on this album are smokin’. Way to step it up a notch, brother.