Machine Messiah is a diverse creature. It cuts with straightforward thrash brutality while implementing unique twists and turns that add layers of complexity and character to the music. The title track sets the scene for this unorthodox approach as it stitches together a sombre atmosphere using low vocals and minimalistic strings that stir imagery of campfire stories in a dark forest. The tension breaks as the chants transform into screams and the guitars fire up with an edge of distortion. The disparate blend of techniques creates an uneasy sensation while building a mounting suspense that is capitalized on throughout the album.
Selpultura seem to have put something for everyone into Machine Messiah and, more impressively, did so with discipline and style. While the heavy sections of the album are the embodiment of sonic chaos, they are done with clean production that prevents confusion. Every time the guitar bites, there is a satisfying crunch that leaves the audience with no option except to bang their heads. The percussion sets in at a machine gun tempo, blasting away in the sections of madness while still showing the restraint to pull back at the appropriate times. Even the bass manages to sneak in for a few quick blows, as the excellent production allows for each element to feel purposeful and full of intention.
The to-the-point thrash portions of the album are strong in their own right, but they are framed by high levels of drama and theatrics that make the performance something special. “Iceberg Dances” is a prime example of the theatrics at work in Machine Messiah, as it has vibes of Opeth’s Deliverance, while being delivered with speed and ferocity cut with oddball elements like heavy synthesizer à la 80’s Deep Purple, and acoustic South American folk sections. The relentlessly contrasting styles keep the album exciting for its entire runtime and drags listener’s to the edge of their chairs. The one problem with this kaleidoscope of music is that some of the more straightforward tracks (“Resistant Parasites” in particular) seem uninteresting when stacked against their diverse brethren.
Machine Messiah is simply a great album; it builds suspense and tension effortlessly, and is presented with a shining coat of high production values. The masterful execution is coloured by unique moments of alternative music that brighten the whole performance. The album is engaging, drawing the listener into Sepultura’s world and shaking them until they can’t take it anymore. The album is a musical treat for those who like the traditional methodologies of thrash and also presents intrigue to folks who like a little bit of weirdness in their ears. If you want to hear some groovy acoustics and keys mashed with skull-shattering guitar, Machine Messiah is worth your time.