Max and Igor Cavalera have been responsible for some of the heaviest and most groundbreaking metal of the last 3 decades, starting with the legendary Sepultura. Formed when they were teenagers, Sepultura helped put Brazil on the map for thrash and death metal, producing some of the most aggressive music in the genre. After the band’s highly experimental album Roots, Max and Igor parted ways under not so friendly terms, with Igor opting to continue with Sepultura, while Max formed the equally acclaimed and influential Soulfly. Fans of the early death/thrash style of Sepultura were given a pleasant surprise in 2007 when Igor (who had left Sepultura the year before) and Max announced that they had put their differences aside and formed a new band, Cavalera Conspiracy.
Pandemonium is the latest offering by Cavalera Conspiracy, and the third overall for the band, this time seeing the brothers joined by longtime Soulfly guitarist Marc Rizzo and Converge bassist Nate Newton. Pandemonium has some of the fastest, heaviest, and most outright punishing music Max and Igor have produced since Sepultura’s Chaos A.D., which will certainly be music to many old-school fans’ ears. The first 4 songs rip through your headphones with such speed and intensity that you won’t even realize what’s happening! I almost had to do a double take to make sure I was indeed listening to Cavalera Conspiracy, and NOT Sepultura, as the music contained on Pandemonium is mostly pure death/thrash; even Max’s vocals take on a much more guttural, aggressive sound than what he does in Soulfly.
Marc Rizzo’s six-string sorcery is a huge bonus on Pandemonium, bringing a high level of technical proficiency to the table, and with plenty of room to shine in the more groove-oriented tracks like “Cramunhao”. Although, unfortunately, pn the first couple of tracks the music is so fast that any impact Nate Newton’s bass playing might have is minimized, when the band slows things down you get to enjoy that super fuzzed out tone Nate favors in Converge (the super scuzzy bass intro on “Scum” is a great example of this). True to their style, Max and Igor don’t leave the experimentation behind on Pandemonium, as it is attested by “Apex Predator”, which incorporates some synthesizers, and “Not Losing The Edge”, which flirts with the tribal-flavored groove metal often heard in Soulfly. The final track, “Porra”, even throws in some acoustic guitar work that showcases Max’s love of world music, which he has often incorporated in both Sepultura and Soulfly.
The production is fairly scaled back compared to that used on Max and Igor’s other bands; the thrashy numbers are fairly sparse in their arrangement, opting for an old-school thrash tone. As I mentioned earlier, the bass tends to get lost in the mix in the faster tracks, which is a bit shame since Nate is a pretty formidable bassist. The most attention to detail is given to Max’s vocals, which range from deep and guttural, higher-pitched screaming, to the tough-guy yells he uses in Soulfly; these are all often layered together, creating a very effective larger-than-life vibe. Even the occasional use of reverb on the vocals isn’t really a hindrance, as the effect is used pretty sparingly; after all, masking Max’s vocals with studio tricks would be absolutely criminal.
Pandemonium is not a Sepultura record, nor does it try to be; what Pandemonium IS though, is a damn heavy record and will certainly be a welcome addition to any fan of the Cavelera brothers’ collection. Brutal, intense and blazing fast, I’m left a bit winded after listening to this latest offering… but also with a big grin, as this is one of the most thoroughly enjoyable records Max or Igor have crafted in years.