Before “Chaos A.D.,” Sepultura were a great death metal band that were as important as Slayer. The only problem was that the genre that Sepultura helped create had become very popular by the early 1990’s. Bands like Carcass, Napalm Death, Morbid Angel, and Suffocation had formed and Sepultura, even though they made such classics as “Arise,” sort of started blending into the crowd, because they were only a little bit different from everybody else.
Even though I don’t think that’s what the purpose of “Chaos A.D.” was, Sepultura’s fifth album definitely helped them stand out. In addition to being very experimental and daring, “Chaos A.D.” is also one of the band’s most creative discs (second only to 1996’s “Roots”). The main difference here has to be “Kaiowas.” Sepultura had previously flirted with acoustic guitars (like the intro to “Beneath the Remains”), but “Kaiowas” was their first completely acoustic song. This instrumental, which is definitely this group’s most gentle and pretty song, was also the first heavy metal song (that I know of) to feature tribal drums. This innovation, which later became a trademark of frontman Max Cavalera, would also be adopted by other metal bands, like Ill Nino. Another experiment Max and Co. delved into is having a guest singer. “Slave New World” features a cameo by Biohazard singer Evan Seinfeld; but his voice is almost indistinguishable from Max’s.
Some old-school fans think this is where Max sold out and went mainstream. I strongly disagree. Yes, they added some melody, but most of this disc is still caustic heavy metal. Plus, even though the metal is more punk influenced here than it was before (it isn’t as fast as the 1980’s Sep albums, and there aren’t any monstrous vocals on here), I don’t see how this C.D. was a complete change of sound. It’s not like Sepultura became a nu-metal band. Finally, “Chaos A.D.” was their breakthrough album, but Sep also enjoyed quite a bit of success with the earlier albums “Schizophrenia,” “Beneath the Remains,” and “Arise” (even if that success was from an underground audience).
Something about this album just grabs me and holds on, keeping my attention focused completely on the song I’m listening to. This whole album is artfully catchy and contagious, interesting, memorable, and all around great.
“Refuse/Resist” is a personal favorite because it is so irresistibly catchy and forcefully heavy. It opens with some booming riffs, which is followed by (what sounds like) tin can drums. It then evolves into a stop-start beat, with punching, groove-y guitars. The deep throated vocals then come on, and the song ends with a good guitar solo (which makes a wah-wah sound in places).
“Territory” has a bouncy little drum solo for the intro, then the guitars kick in and make the beat groove. The guitars then alternate from rhythmic riffing to choppy, staccato riffs, and another, louder, guitar solo is included.
“Amen” has chug and churn, up and down riffs. I enjoy the part of this song when the beat comes down a few decibels and some female vocals sing over the light percussion. The song ends with bobbing riffs and some good, pounding drum work.
The aforementioned “Kaiowas” remains a staple/centerpiece of Sepultura’s live shows. The band members play for a little while, then abruptly stop to talk amongst themselves. They finally shut up and play the rest of the song in is entirety. They strum the acoustic guitars fast and the drums thump, but, even still, this is a very pretty, melodic, and atmospheric song. I also enjoy the squawking birds, giving it a rainforest vibe.
“Propaganda” has machine gun riffs which, together with the drums, sound awesome. Another Slayer-esque, careening guitar solo is included, and the song ends with cascading riffs.
“Biotech is Godzilla” has a scorching opening riff, but this song is a highlight because of the tempo changes (before and after the choruses, which are slower) and the catchy shout along: “BIO-TECH!”
“Nomad” has some more stop-start rhythms and riffs, and increasingly fast, heavy, and talented drum work (which becomes especially apparent at the end).
“Chaos A.D.” can easily become very addictive. It is a very interesting, brilliant, and an all around amazing album. With this album, Sepultura showed they were great, creative musicians, in addition to being great metalheads. Thus, I recommend this to both new and old school Max fans. Even though I prefer “Beneath the Remains” to this, “Chaos A.D.” is definitely one of the best and most innovative things Max has ever done. The bottom line is, like any Sepultura classic, this is essential listening for all metalheads.