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  • My first year of grad school I rented a room in a 3-bedroom apartment on West 121st Street in Manhattan. My apartment mates were Bob, an aspiring playwright, and Naomi, an aspiring architect. We were by no means close – like orangutans we led solitary existences and crossed paths mainly at large feeding patches. Bob and I got on well enough, stopping to chat on those occasions when we encountered one another. Naomi was a more difficult animal – she didn’t like to meet face to face, but rather preferred to leave me notes with little reminders about household chores it was my turn to do. Her notes were always signed N. as though she were a character straight out of some 19th century Russian novel. Plastered to the refrigerator, the bathroom mirror and even my bedroom door, N.’s little missives never failed to get under my skin and more often than not, I ignored them and returned to my lair to blast some death metal. Believe me I had some great death metal just waiting to be heard on such occasions – Obituary’s The End Complete and Entombed’s Left Hand Path leap immediately to mind. But even more compelling than those classics was Sepultura’s Arise, a 42-minute slab of pure aural aggression. Max Cavalera’s brutally precise riffing and wolf-like growl were enough to put that little N. beast and her petty desires out of my mind for awhile, that’s for sure. Sepultura’s world on Arise is an unforgettable one – it is heavy, bleak and beautiful all at once. If you’ve ever driven the New Jersey Turnpike on a rainy afternoon and said to yourself, `damn, those factories are strangely beautiful’, you know exactly what I’m talking about. If you’re still clueless, imagine the sort of music that might go along with the song titles, “Dead Embryonic Cells”, “Desperate Cry”, “Altered State”, and “Under Siege (Regnum Irae)”. This is metal with an appeal that crosses international boundaries. I seem to recall once seeing the word “Sepultura” carved into a desk in a classroom atop a windswept hill on the campus of the University of Antananarivo in Madagascar. A pretty wide sphere of influence for the boys from Brazil, wouldn’t you say? One word of warning – you may not want to listen to the lyrics closely if you like to sleep well at night. Max’s lyrics are a lot more unsettling today than they were when this album came out 11 years ago. For example, on the first track, “Arise”, he warns of a “terrorist confrontation waiting for the end” and “cities fall(ing) in ruin”. Then, on the classic “Dead Embryonic Cells”, Max rails against “tribal violence everywhere, life in the age of terrorism”. Let’s hope that’s as prescient as Max gets as there’s a lot of other disturbing stuff on here that we can only hope never happens. Did I tell you that I really hated N.’s notes? Trust me, I got around to the chores eventually – I’m not that inconsiderate. Of course, I could have retaliated by leaving notes for N. when she fell behind in her chores, but decided that would be a bit unfair since as far as I could tell, N. didn’t have her own copy of Arise to take solace in. No reason to put her through the stress of encountering notes signed J. if the poor dear had nothing to help her cope with them.I know, annoying notes are not a big deal in the grand scheme of things. You probably have more to worry about than some recent Yale grad and her inordinate fondness for post-its. But, I’m telling you, Arise is the sort of album that can help you forget your minor worries, whatever they are, at least for awhile. Along with the groundbreaking Roots, Arise is one of Sepultura’s two best releases and did time as my favorite album back in the early 90s. I listened to it again today and it still blows me away. If you dare to call yourself a metal fan, I expect to find Arise in your album collection the next time I look through it.

    Posted on March 2, 2010