Requires a bomb behind it
It's an old cliché in music, but the phrase 'the difficult second album' is certainly true for many acts that enjoyed a lot of acclaim with a debut album. 'The difficult eleventh album' however, is a phrase unlikely to turn into a cliché. But with Sepultura's new release 'Dante XXI,' I think that phrase sums it up quite well.
I guess it comes to all bands that have had a certain degree of success. After a number of albums they may find themselves fallen by the wayside, either because of changing musical climates or the band themselves have lost their way. Iron Maiden arguably reached this point during the nineties, as did Metallica. Annihilator's 'Remains' album was a step too far, Megadeth's 'Risk' was exactly what it was and Queensryche's 'Hear Now In The New Frontier' departed too much from their edgier roots. It takes a good band to realise the error of their ways and I hope Sepultura can realise this quickly, because Dante XXI is a perfect example of a band going through the motions.
Great songwriters don't become bad songwriters overnight. I can safely say there aren't any bad songs on 'Dante XXI,' but by the same token, there aren't many good songs on it either. There are a lot of ideas, such as 'Dark Wood of Error' and 'Fighting On,' that sound tired and uninspired, especially when compared to the volatile material of bands such as Trivium and even the great come back of Exodus. Not even horns and strings can inject life into 'Ostia.' I can hear what the band were trying to do but all the dressing up can't disguise a pretty humdrum tune.
'Dante XXI' does have its moments. 'Convicted of Life' and 'False' are immediate standouts and a reminder of what a great band Sepultura are/were. 'Buried Words' is another good bit of thrash but also a frustrating listen because it makes you ask the question 'what if?' What if the whole album had this no-holds-barred attitude? What if the album had more of this 'go for the throat' ferocity? With fifteen tracks covering only thirty-nine minutes Dante XXI also has that rushed thrown together feel, and that career destroying 'Oh, that'll do' attitude. The seven minutes of non-metal musical interludes, including the dull 'Still Flame,' reduce this album to only just over half an hour of mediocre metal. A poor show from such genre innovators I'm sure you'll agree.
I don't think Sepultura's legacy is in any doubt or under any scrutiny with this release. One can't deny the great service they've given to metal. But for a band so critically revered in the past it's sad to see them lose their edge and write music for music's sake. This album has some solid song writing on it but it lacks the passion and energy that once oozed from them. Sepultura have grown up and unless someone gives them a kick where it's needed most, they'll just fizzle and fade which would be a travesty for such a great band. If it takes a reunion with Max to achieve this then so be it, but I think potentially, they have the musical tools to write a killer album. It's a pity we'll have to wait about three years to hear what they'll come up with next. In the mean time Dante XXI will be gathering dust whilst Chaos A.D will be given a shiny new jewel case to replace the worn out broken one. Here's to that 'difficult twelfth album.'