Since the day Derrick Green joined Sepultura, or maybe more accurately, since the day Andreas Kisser became the leader of the group, Sepultura’s more intellectual side started to shine. Sure, Chaos AD and Roots evolved around certain themes like social injustice and politics, but both lyrically and musically the band had chosen very direct, straightforward ways to get their messages through. It wasn’t until Max Cavalera’s departure though that the band started experimenting with unconventional instruments, different cultures (check the Japanese influence on Against), displaying ideas about utopian nations on the verge of anarchy, ecology and a brighter view on politics and war. Clearly Sepultura was becoming a thinking (thrasher’s) man’s band.
In that vein Dante XXI is Sepultura at their most ambitious, not only because they choose Dante’s Divine Comedy as an inspiration for this concept album, but because they decide to adapt it into a modern, 21st-century context. Challenging job to say the least, only here Sepultura deliver, not just lyrically (Green has done a great job here) but also musically.
What is also important to be said is that up until Dante XXI the general consensus appeared to be that even though an intellectual side of Sepultura emerged with the departure of Max Cavalera, he seemed to have taken with him the more aggressive side of the group. A simple comparison between Seupultura and Soulfly proves that vividly. With this record the band reaches a balance rarely seen in a thrash album in general; the band’s arsenal includes cruel thrashers once again, many years since the last time they wrote a fast song that didn’t sound like hardcore. In that sense Dark wood of error, Burried Words and especially Crown and Miter are jaw dropping in their furious tempos, and their smart use of one or two short beatdowns .On the other hand, over the years mid tempo tracks that focus on heaviness have become the band’s specialty and this record is no exception; In fact Convicted in Life and Nuclear Seven are among the greatest cuts Green-era Sepultura have offered, while City of Dis starts off with a threatening intro and rapidly becomes Dante XXI’s most brutal track. And of course as it is expected from post-Max Sepultura, there is also room for a lot of experimentation here; Ostia, the most impressive song of the album includes horns and a string solo, and one can’t easily get past Still Flame, a trip hop Massive Attack sound-alike.
It is clear that Dante XXI is based on an ambitious, very demanding idea. For Sepultura ambition is a matter of mentality , the very same mentality that suffocated them 3 years later with A-Lex. Thankfully with this one the band managed to deliver a multi dimensional record with many successful experiments and an unexpected consistency, probably the best one since Derrick Green joined them