Coming Back Alive and Kicking
Sepultura, Stamping Ground and Atreyu, London Astoria, 13 July 2003
by: Jackie Smit
Max Cavalera was not Sepultura. He was 25% of a very talented musical collective, who recorded some classic albums, but as the album credits will forever state in black and white, he was not their sole songwriter, nor, as the Soulfly records prove, their most talented member. The almost deafeningly vocal contingent who declared a post-_Roots_ Sepultura deceased have never been able to get around this fact, and as tonight proves, never will. While _Against_ was a somewhat disappointing record, both _Nation_ and _Roorback_ contain some of Sepultura's best and most inventive work to date; without a doubt a far cry from the nu-metal blatherings of the Soulfly efforts.

By the sound of the rapturous ovation afforded the Seps as they make their way to the Astoria centre stage this evening, mine is not an isolated view. So deafening is the applause, and so absolutely mind-blowing the performance that follows, that one could almost forget the impressive efforts of the two opening acts.

Atreyu, first to tantalize the punters tonight, blend old-school Maiden-esque melodies with admirably performed hardcore aggression. They may be young and possibly quite nervous, but they thankfully also have a clear understanding of stage activity as well and not only are we treated to a fair amount of jumping and cavorting, but we also get to bear witness to some thoroughly classic unison headbanging as they blast through the excellent "Vampire's Lament".

Stamping Ground are always a reliable addition to any bill, and though coming across as decidedly more docile than in my previous encounters with them, they nevertheless throw one hell of a show. Debuting new material off their forthcoming record, they come close to shattering the Astoria's foundations with a blistering version of "Officer Down" -- complete with an accompanying "wall of death" from the audience. It may be some twenty years down the line, but there is no doubt in my mind that Stamping Ground have the ability to become Britain's answer to Slayer.

Back to Sepultura though, and tonight they are on a form that defies any reasonable praise. Mixing in old fan-favourites like "Refuse/Resist", "Propaganda", "Necromancer", "Troops of Doom" and "Inner Self" with storming renditions of newer material like "Leech" and the daring U2 cover of "Bullet in the Blue Sky", their show is only made so much the better by the fact that, for once, the Astoria's sound is almost miraculously perfect tonight. The crystalline thud of Igor Cavalera's inventive beats ripples through the frantic audience like tidal waves as they explode into one of the most frenzied mosh-pits I have ever seen when the opening dirge of “Attitude” explodes through the PA. And to be honest, Derrick Green sounds nothing short of fantastic. No matter how well Max Cavalera's mighty roar used to suit the Sepultura sound, Green's voice has a superior range and enough aggression to strip the paint off a car at ten paces. Of course, the fact that his sheer size could intimidate an entire Tolkien Orc army into running for cover adds no end to his dynamic stage presence.

Like Slayer just days before, Sepultura are faultless tonight, and by the time "Come Back Alive" and "Roots Bloody Roots" close the show, I -- and the great majority of Sepulfans in attendance -- barely have enough left in us to stand up straight. Truly, if this is the sound of a band on the decline, then 99% of metal acts may as well cash in their chips and call it a day.

(article submitted 22/7/2003)


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