Review Summary: A classic thrash metal album whose commercial success is just an indicator of its quality
Back in early 1996, right before Roots was released, when I first listened to this record, Sepultura was quite a case. There was a huge conflict between them and Slayer (and both bands’ fans) on whether Slayer were still, by 1996, the kings of thrash, or whether they had been replaced by Sepultura, who were clearly on top of their form. Max Cavalera had also made some very controversial statements regarding their 1991 cover of Motorhead’ s Orgasmatron (he thought that Sepultura’ s cover was much better than the original song) which heightened their image of an extravagant, arrogant but undoubtedly talented band. Meanwhile, Sepultura had become Roadrunner Records’ most commercially successful band at the time (by 1993 Arise had sold more than 1,000,000 copies around the world while Chaos AD went gold in many European Countries and in the U.S.), they were on the cover of every metal magazine that respected itself, and their quick rise to fame, combined with their background story (“jungle boys” who become successful and dominate the music world), had made them the talk of the town. To the point where, after having released Beneath The Remains, Arise and Chaos A.D., a good number of metal fans considered them as a legendary (thrash) metal act already. They had good reasons.
In 1991, after long tours and the album that truly put them on the map, 1989‘s magnificent Beneath the Remains, which really competed Slayer in terms of aggression and quality (there’s no denying of course that Slayer had been a great influence to Sepultura’ s sound), the band enters Morrisound Studios, with producer Scott Burns (a death metal legend) while the hype and the anticipation for the band’s new record was quickly exceeding the underground. And when Arise was released it was clear that Sepultura would live up to this hype.
Although Arise is characterized by their trademark sound, which balanced between the urgency of thrash metal and the brutal heaviness of death metal, it is influenced by Metallica’s … And Justice For All (and secondarily by Master of Puppets or Ride the Lightning). This is evident in many places during the album; Andreas Kisser ‘s solos are much more melodic than they used to be in the band’s previous album, and he actually utilizes some techniques first demonstrated by Kirk Hammet. Incredible melodies emerge from out of nowhere and then they’re all over the place, much darker and absurd than those of Metallica, but still the idea is the same. And like with the later, the instrumental parts of the songs are in fact a joy to behold; unlike Beneath the Remains, that to some extend includes an amateurish “collection- of- riffs- rather- than- songs” approach to structuring their tracks, Arise is amazingly coherent, its songs don’t drag at all and riffs, melodies and solos are all perfectly proportioned, even though Arise is clearly their proggiest effort in terms of structure. Metallica’s influence is not the primal element here of course. Sepultura had the special talent to not just copy and paste ideas but to absorb their influences in order to create their very unique sound.
Arise starts off with the title track, a fast and bombastic piece, one of the band’s finest, where all Sepultura’s talents are displayed; amazingly furious riffs, Igor Cavalera’s inventive drumming, Max’ s devastating voice and solos from hell. Plus one; Scott Burns’ exemplary production, one of the best ever for death – thrash metal.
Arise ’s fast songs, such as the self titled track, Infected Voice or Murder, are truly crushing but it’s in the most adventurous tracks that the band shines. Dead Embryonic Cells contains among others their first beat-down riff, which made this a key live track. Desperate Cry is mid tempo but super heavy with nice dual guitars in the middle. A fan- favorite. Altered State starts with a dark intro, then, the song slowly builds up with punishing riffs that are followed by metaphysical lyrics, when right when it climaxes an acoustic guitar is added to round off Arise’s most atmospheric song. Under Siege is again equally dark and intense – an example of how much Scott Burns elevated the band’s sound- and for the last 1 min. 10 secs. an incredible instrumental part indicates Sepultura’ s top form and offers metal fans one of thrash’s finest moments.
Up until then lyrics were not a strong point for the band, due to Max’s poor English. With each album he got better and better and such is the case with Arise. Sophisticated language is not included, but his messages are very clear; He questions pretty much everything, from religion to society to technology and when he does not question he sits back and paints horrific images (as in Altered State, “spirits outside bodies”) that fit in nicely with the band’s sound.
To sum it all up, Arise is widely viewed as one of the best thrash albums of all time. Right before Sepultura changed their style in Chaos AD and Roots, they perfected it, offering an album whose commercial success is just an indicator of its quality. Arise is a thrash metal classic!