Before I start this review, I want to you take a good look at the cover art for Arise. Normally, I don’t put a lot of stock into the artwork of an album (after all, it’s the MUSIC that matters, right?), but just look at it. It’s freaking wonderful! Hell, I don’t even know what it is. I see a steaming brain in there. There are a couple of lobster claws, some tribal statue thingamajigs, and the massive eyeball in the middle, staring you right in the face. It’s like it’s saying, “I’m gonna kick your ass and there’s nothing you can do about it”. Oh, and it will. This cover art perfectly represents the Brazilian jungle-born chaos that is Arise.
Arise picks up where Beneath the Remains left off, and that’s RIFFAGE! Oh, early Sepultura riffs. How I love them. I love each and every one of them like they are my children…which, regrettably, is not the case. The title track is a Sepultura classic, as is Dead Embryonic Cells, with its amazing breakdown and traditional Kisser shredding. And the riff at 2:47? That’s just one of the many on this album that will be slaying pretty much everything. You don’t even have to headbang to this. The music will just pop out of your headphones and do it for you. Remember the eyeball…pure ass-kicking, my friends.
The album continues in this fashion for roughly 42 minutes (52 if you got the remastered version with bonus tracks); Subtraction? Yes. Altered State? Yes please. Infected Voice? YES YES OH MY GOD YES. Again, there really isn’t any filler here, with every track offering something special. The personnel deliver another great, cohesive performance; Max is Max, his growling vocals front and center, adding the dark and aggressive tinge that most thrash bands around this time period were lacking. Andreas Kisser’s solos are as wild and out of control as his leads are tasteful, once again forming the perfect combination with Max’s rhythm guitar. Igor’s drumming is, again, mind-blowingly precise, being the engine that powers this furious thrash attack. And Paulo, well…he’s audible this time. As a thrash bassist, you shouldn’t really expect much more than that.
About now, this might sound like a carbon copy of Beneath the Remains. This is not so. As much of a classic as Arise is, it’s also somewhat of a transition album for Sepultura, as several subtle yet noticeable changes creep into the Brazilians’ sound. First of all, Arise was recorded in the United States, and Roadrunner shelled out a considerable amount of dough to have this beast sound like it should. As awesome as Beneath the Remains was, it would be absolutely immortal if the guitars sounded like this. The riffs are meatier and just plain sound better. This brings me to my next point: the overall tempo on Arise is a bit slower compared to previous Sepultura efforts. They had begun incorporating more groove into their sound, and as a result, there are slightly fewer neckbreaking thrash riffs than before (although this is negligible). Industrial and tribal effects are also introduced for the first time, although they are mostly used as introductions in the tracks and are not a nuisance, like they become later on in Sepultura’s career. Basically, with the improved production and slight dash of groove and tribal elements, Arise takes the best of early Sepultura and mixes it with a safe dose of their later efforts. As such, it’s considered to be the peak of the band’s discography by many people, both accessible and METAL at the same time.
If you can, get your hands on the remastered version of Arise. Usually, the extra money spent for one extra track isn’t worth it, but here I believe it is. For one, the remaster makes the already excellent production sound even better, but it’s the Motorhead cover that’s the real catch. Sepultura have always done great covers regardless of what they were playing at the time, and Orgasmatron is probably the best example of that. It has become a staple in live Sepultura shows, as Max’s vocals and the guitar tone add the special touch that the original just didn’t have.
Arise is probably the last great Sepultura album (although you can make a case for Chaos A.D. if you’re fine with groove), and is one of the most influential albums in extreme metal, fueling the future of several subgenres while remaining fresh and innovative. While I think that the band held back too much in the speed department, this is still an essential piece of music for fans of thrash and death metal alike. It’s certainly the most “complete” Sepultura album, and is a timeless piece of history that every metalhead should own.