Review Summary: A strong and lengthy live album from Brazil's finest, their final show before Max left the band. Showcases mostly material from the Roots album.
“Under A Pale Grey Sky” documents the very last concert performed by the original Sepultura line-up, at London’s Brixton Academy on December 16, 1996. The reasons for this album release have been debated on many message boards (including theories regarding the motives of Roadrunner). But it’s still an important release as it marks a period of time in metal where one of its flagbearers was splintering and about to break apart.
If you’re only a recent convert to metal and want to a good introduction to classic Sepultura over 2 discs, then this isn’t a bad place to start. Personally, my all-time favourite record from the band is Arise, a stunning thrash metal album. But this release covers mostly the Roots album (12 tracks in all) and a smattering of earlier songs. I’m certain every single show from this tour started with Roots Bloody Roots (after the intro), and this version is respectable, albeit a little shaky in parts. Some tracks certainly stand up better than others, the nondescript album track “Born Stubborn” is great with its massive chorus, as well as “Attitude” and the short track “Spit” that appears very early in the set.
There’s a nice range of covers delivered, including classic tracks by Dead Kennedys, Cro-Mags and the Motorhead show closer (with the classic track Orgasmatron). They even pull up tour support Strife to contribute to the onstage mayhem (I bet they’re happy to be appearing here). The playing throughout is really impressive, guitars roaring with unbridled energy, the bass keeping everything locked into place, and what more can be said regarding the drum work of Igor Cavalera? He is magnificent during this show, never missing a beat (please comment if (where and when) he does) and clearly demonstrating why he is acclaimed as a master in his craft.
Now there are a few things about this album that leave me shaking my head. Let’s start with the crowd noise. What happened here guys? It sounds like the crowd have been left to watch the gig from where they parked their cars. I’ve heard and seen video from plenty of Brixton Academy gigs (even from groups I don’t really like), but I can’t remember any of them with less atmosphere than this. It’s slightly frustrating at times because there is ample opportunity to generate a firestorm of chanting and mayhem. Tracks like “Endangered Species” and the opening moments of the aforementioned “Attitude” could have used this.
Secondly, my absolute favourite Seps track would be Desperate Cry from the Arise album. For some reason we get a version here covering only about 2:30 in length, missing the awesome mid section after the second chorus, and the fantastic solo and bridge into the final chorus. I’m not sure if the band actually played this shortened version at this stage of their careers (please let me know if this was the case), whatever the reason is it doesn’t sit well with me.
There’s also this thing with connecting older songs together. “Beneath The Remains” and “Mass Hypnosis” get this treatment along with true classics “Arise” and “Dead Embryonic Cells”. These songs are outstanding and deserve to stand on their own two feet. Thankfully another early gem “Troops Of Doom” along with “Inner Self” are left alone and really shine amongst the “Roots” and “Chaos AD” material.
Overall, this is a pretty decent release showcasing a mighty band completing the final chapter with their original line-up. I’d recommend adding this to your collection if you can find it (like I did) at a discounted price, but do also check out any of their previous albums, partcularly “Beneath The Remains” and “Arise” if you like this. They will knock you right off your feet!