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The Mediator Between The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands is the Heart and Oblivion is the Remains of Sepultura

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“The fact is, most records can’t do something like this the right way. The line between death and groove metal is incomprehensibly blurred here, all for the benefit of us. With little tribal asides and the tactile drumming of Eloy Casagrande, death metal’s post-deathcore rigidity is tested in a satisfying way. It’d do the metal world well to hear more albums like this: loose, heavy, but most of all, fun.

3 1/2 out of 5 horns

-Sammy ‘Gunner’ O’Hagar”

…is what the end of my review would read if The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands is the Heart were released by a band other than Sepultura.

Yeah, it’s not fair to judge a band by its former glory when all they’re trying to do is make great new music. But Sepultura is a band so distinct and adored that it’s hard to give them a pass on something comparatively milquetoast. All the pieces are there on Mediator, but without some of the right people to fit them, they don’t lock together. The result is some interesting parts with nothing substantial to latch on to. This works for a fun, B-grade deathgroove band, but not for one called “Sepultura.”

Mediator does flow nicely from song to song, with all the requisite peaks and valleys. But rarely does the Sepultura of old splash up, and then mostly (and predictably) in Andreas Kisser’s snarling riffs and squealing ‘80s leads. The rest, oddly enough, is beholden to Sep’s many imitators. Even the elbow-throwing openings to “The Vatican” and “Impending Doom” eventually fizzle out into some shapeless death-thrash. The interesting tracks — like the doomy “Grief”— don’t feel like anything more than diversions. Closer “De Lama Ao Caos” is everything that’s wrong with Mediator: Maybe rhythmic groove metal with (probably) Portuguese chants felt natural on Chaos A.D. or even Roots, since the flexibility of Sepultura allowed that without it being jarring; in 2013, it feels tacked on. Like, a Sepultura record must have X percent of Brazilianness in order to qualify; it doesn’t feel exciting anymore.

The biggest flexibility issue involves the aforementioned Casagrande. Though Mediator isn’t the first record sans founding drummer Igor Cavalera, he has never been so missed. This is absolutely no slight against Eloy, a nasty, tight drummer with deep, serious groove. But for a band like this, a great drummer is no substitute for the right drummer. They aren’t a band like Pig Destroyer or Slayer where a sub can outline a new dimension; Sepultura isn’t that malleable. The Mediator wouldn’t call for such comparisons if it could stand on its own merits. I’m sure Kisser and other founding member Paulo Xisto Jr. have a lot of good metal left in them; Sepultura, though, I’m not so sure.

Sepultura’s The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands is the Heart comes out October 29 on Nuclear Blast. You can listen to the track “The Age of the Atheist”  here and pre-order the album here.

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