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Sepultura | Live in Sao Paulo | review | dvd | Lollipop
Live in São Paulo (SPV)
by Tim Den
The name Sepultura means different things to different people. To some, it represents 20 years of metal history-making that's still viable and relevant today. To others - such as myself - it's merely a reminder that one of death metal's pioneers are presently a mere shadow of their former selves. Yes, I am one of the naysayers who've not followed their post-Max material, but not because vocalist Derek Green brought his admittedly larger-than-life presence into the camp, rather, because the songs have not been "Sepultura caliber" since.
Live in São Paulo, to an old school fan like myself, could've and should've been the persuasive evidence to bring me over to the post-Green side. Recorded in the Sepulrabid (sorry, couldn't help it) city that bears its name, the double DVD/CD set has the band storming through 20 songs with Green at the helm, more than capably leading the charge like he was born to do the job. The man is a towering, intimidating machine, commanding the audience with both his height and the boom of his voice. Sure, his bopping back and forth sometimes distracts from the heaviness of the music's weight, but between his throat and the extra guitar/percussion that he sometimes handles, he more than proves his worth.
But Green is not the problem here. The problem is that the band 1) play all of their songs way faster than the original versions, losing all feel and groove in the process, 2) cling to their "more famous" material (namely Chaos A.D.) instead of tackling their entire career like they should, and 3) humiliate their best works - Beneath the Remains and Arise - by shortening their songs, as if the band couldn't be bothered with them. Personally, when "Dead Embryonic Cells" - arguably the best Sepultura song EVER - is shortened in order to include covers like "Bullet the Blue Sky" and "Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos," it's time to pull the fucking plug. At least "Escape to the Void" avoids the butcher knife, and the father of nü metal that is Roots only gets two entries, sparing old thrashers like myself recalling ape-like songwriting's victory over style and substance in that dark time known as the late-'90s.
The band have simply not written good music since Chaos A.D. Argue about Green all you want, but despite Against's Discharge-ish punk energy, everything since has been pure boringness. Rehashed grooves and simple refrains repeated ad nauseum in an effort to somehow recapture the height of their fame, resulting in nothing more than declining sales over the years. The problem isn't who's singing, people: It's that Sepultura have forgotten how to write good songs. Shit, Paul Di'Anno was a better frontman than Bruce Dickinson to a lot of Iron Maiden's first fans, but most went along with the vocalist change when it happened. Why? Because Iron Maiden wrote even better songs with the new singer. Sure, there's only one Iron fucking Maiden, but that's just an example of how quality is quality, no matter who's in the line-up.
Live in São Paulo has its moments, though. The aforementioned energy of the band and the fans, the guest appearances of friends (members of Krisiun and Ratos De Porão, among others), and especially the jam with ex-guitarist Jairo "Tormentor" on oldies "Troops of Doom" and "Necromancer." No one can argue that two guitars just make Sepultura sound better. Note: Isn't it weird that Jairo is shredding side by side with the guy who replaced him all those years ago?
The bonus material features additional live songs ("Desperate Cry" in its entirety, thank fucking god), three music videos, some backstage footage, and a very incomplete band documentary that only goes back as far as Green's entrance into the band. I guess that's another minus of the DVD: As much as Live in São Paulo has a celebratory feel, it's obvious that one piece of the puzzle is missing amongst all the friends, fans, and loved ones. It would've been an even more momentous occasion if the hatchet was buried for one night and the entire Sepultura clan was able to bash it out together. But I guess that's just wishful thinking. Kind of like how the hopeful still hold their breath for new material that's actually fresh and vibrant.