Sepultura are one of the true pioneers of the extreme metal scene. From their thrash masterpieces like Beneath the Remains and Arise, through to the cold industrial groove of Chaos A.D. and the tribal downtuned nu-metal of Roots, their early history is saturated with metal classics that inspired several generations after them. Still going strong more than 35 years later and with their best album in decades out last year, Sepultura played London’s Koko for a devoted audience that braved the cold and Sunday’s laziness.
The Brazilian veterans brought with them a whole roster of extreme metal talent to support them – deathcore outfit Fit for an Autopsy, black metallers Goatwhore and tech-death virtuosos Obscura. After three diverse sets that impressed the steadily gathering crowd, the moment of truth came as the lights came down and we hushed in anticipation of the Brazilian machine. Sepultura exploded right into the fast-paced hardcore punk of ‘I Am the Enemy’ from Machine Messiah, their 14th album that is the focus of this tour. The sea of bodies floating towards the stage followed immediately, and the progressive rhythms of ‘Phantom Self’ or the bulldozer-thud of ‘Kairos’ only served to encourage them.
Visually, Sepultura are a sight to behold. Frontman Derrick Green is a 6.5ft muscular giant who jumps and hurls himself around the stage with ceaseless energy, his face crooking in expression of his guttural growls. Drummer Eloy Casagrande may be petite by contrast, but he bangs the drums with enough force to sustain the power grid of a small town. Guitarist and main songwriter Andreas Kisser, and bassist Paolo Jr. completed the lineup – two men who have dedicated their life to Sepultura. Aggressive music flows through these people’s veins, and the London crowds had the pleasure of witnessing them at their best.
In addition to presenting Machine Messiah, Sepultura were also celebrating another important milestone this year. It has been 20 years since US-born Derrick Green became their vocalist, in what remains one of the highest-profile member changes in metal, after founder and frontman Max Cavalera left his bandmates on bad terms (Max and his brother Igor, also a founding member, were recently in London to celebrate the legacy of Roots). Although many fans never accepted Derrick and the new direction of the band, he has now been its longest-serving frontman, and undoubtedly one of the key creative forces of Sepultura today.
This reminder of Sepultura’s massive legacy made the focus on Machine Messiah – and the positive reception to it – all the more impressive. With a good chunk of the setlist dedicated to their latest release, you would have been hard pressed to see anyone yawning or anxiously checking their watch in anticipation of the evergreens. If there were any, they would have been satisfied with the closing section of the show. A trio of ‘Slave New World’, ‘Ratamahatta’ and, of course, ‘Roots, Bloody Roots’ concluded the set, squeezing the last remaining traces of energy out of the pit.
With the wind of an inspired album in their sails and the sea of dedicated fans in front of them, Sepultura delivered an earth-shattering performance and proved that they are still, deservedly, a leading force in extreme music today.