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In 1991-1994 Sepultura was at the height of their power and popularity. It is therefore not very surprising that their then-label Roadrunner Records sought to capitalize on their success after years of heavy touring and recording. In the wake of DVDs in the early 2000s the label re-issued the band’s previous VHS “Under Siege” and the then-brand new “We Are What We Are” (compiling the “Roots” music videos) together with a pseudo-documentary and live recordings under the uncreative moniker “Chaos DVD”.

The first thing you’ll notice is exactly how crappy and cheaply made the entire package is. The DVD is split into three different sections: there’s the “Under Siege (Live in Barcelona)” recording from the “Arise” world tour, the “Third World Chaos” video from the “Chaos AD” world tour and finally the “We Are What We Are” video from the “Roots” era, featuring all three videos of that album. The “Under Siege (Live In Barcelona)” segment is the most worthwhile, as it features an entire live show from the mammoth “Arise” world tour, interspersed with short interview bits. It is unfortunate that these interview bits can't be skipped (or viewed in their entirety) as the live show is what most fans will shell out hard currency for. Likewise had these interview parts better be given their own separate chapter. This way both interests would have been served simultaneously. Nevertheless this is the only really worthwhile segment of the three present on this DVD. That is less than half of the DVDs content, which is a sad state of affairs considering Sepultura were one the label’s biggest sellers back in the day.

“Third World Chaos” is the most widely known video release of the band, and the way it is amateurishly cut and edited speaks volumes just how skewed metal DVDs generally are put together. It is the usual jumble of random live recordings with uninteresting backstage videos, the band goofing off/being drunk, TV interviews and on-the-road footage spliced together with all of the band’s music videos up to “Chaos AD”. The audio and video quality varies heavily from section to section, and there’s no flow (besides chronology) to the whole. That it spents extended time on a scatological joke is the least of its problems, which run far deeper than juvenile humor. It starts off with the band’s then-most recent material and works it way back to the days of “Beneath the Remains”, their breakthrough record for the label. Sepultura’s stint with Cugomelo Records is ignored entirely. That is understandable in a way, but Roadrunner had already re-issued the often ignored “Morbid Visions/Bestial Devastation” and “Schizophrenia” albums by this time, which gives them no good excuse to ignore that part of the band’s early history. There’s no possibility to choose and play separate chapters, or only the promo videos – which begs the question why this was released on DVD format in the first place. That it wasn’t possible in its original incarnation was forgivable, as that was on the dying VHS format. Being reissued later on DVD, it is a headscratcher why Roadrunner Records didn’t bother with chapters for each segment. This would have made the disc more interesting and functional in the long run. As it exists today it a half-hearted and corner-cutting attempt to squeeze more money out of the band’s existing fanbase.

The segment opens with the encore songs of the Donington show, which is a bit puzzling. Sure, it was a memorable show with relatively high production values and stage design, plus when the band destroyed their instruments at the end, it made for a memorable finale. However, the Donington show was filmed in its entirety, and while it can be argued that not all footage is of the desired quality. An abbreviated cut of this show could have made everybody happy. Now we just are left with a Motörhead cover, a quick Titas cover rendition and the band’s destruction of the stage. All in all fairly pointless and inconsequential stuff considering the wealth of material present in the band’s personal archives. It isn’t representative for Sepultura, or its discography and actually shortsells them in many ways. The opening section sets the tone for the rest of the documentary: corners are cut, history is selectively ignored and subjects that could have added some substance are only mentioned in passing. “Third World Chaos” simply doesn’t do the band the justice it deserved. “Chaos AD” might have been the band’s creative death certificate, even they didn’t deserve a limp eulogy like this.

As Sepultura was a formidable live act you’d be hardpressed to actually notice that from this DVD. There’s no unedited, full-blown live recording to be found here, but truncated edits of the group’s show at Donington, UK in 1994. Granted, the recordings of that Donington show weren’t exactly stellar, but to edit it down to merely a Motörhead and Titas cover is just selling the band short. The show focused heavily on “Chaos AD”, arguably Sepultura’s most enduring and popular but creatively empty record – but it did contain it fair share of early classics. The same could be said of the band’s appearance at Finland’s Giants Of Rock from 1991, which is only briefly mentioned in archive footage of the “Arise” period. Overall, there was a wealth of live footage to mine from, and Roadrunner decided to go for this pseudo-documentary and promo video compilation instead? Why? Granted the DVD, especially the “Third World Chaos” segment, is an easy view. Mostly because it never dwells on any given subject for an extended period of time. Which is positive for more casual fans of the band, but leaves long-time supporters on their hunger. Nothing is explored beyond the superficial (very fitting for the dreadful “Chaos AD” era, and what it stood for), and the most interesting eras of the band’s history are skipped over for easy entertainment and uninteresting backstage footage.

It is also completely selectively blind to the band’s early history. Early lead guitarist Jairo Guedz Braga is only briefly mentioned in one of the many interview soundbytes, and there are no mentions of original singer Wagner Lamournier, or session keyboardist Henrique Portugal. The entire early history of the band is in fact skipped over. It would have been interesting to see home video material from the “Bestial Devastation”, “Morbid Visions” and “Schizophrenia” days. Even if it was only a crude rehearsal, outtakes from the band’s early local shows or interviews with early supporters and former band members. None of this is present. A segment about the recordings of “Beneath the Remains” and especially “Arise” (when the band holed up in death metal mecca Morrisound in Tampa, Florida) could have added such tremendous depth to this shallow money-grabbing exercise. Neither of these are accounted for, and only mentioned in passing. Everybody knows that Sepultura were one of the most potent death/thrash units of their day. As the ‘90s set in change was inevitable for the Brazilians. Largely abandoning their riff-based thrash formula of old, “Chaos AD” heralded an era of musical simplification and a reliance on groove. We’ll never known what transpired within the band to initiate such a dramatic turnover in style, but it was successful at least financially for the band, who now played bigger touring slots and festivals. Popularity and musical merit aren’t to be conflated, or considered equal.

The third and final “We Are What We Are” segment is culled from the then-new “Roots” period and its subsequent fallout. It compiles the band’s three music videos that were shot to promote the album. All three are interesting in their own ways, especially ‘Rattamahatta’. Not so much musically, but for the fact that it was the band’s only foray into stop-motion animation. The segment is incredibly short, with a fairly pointless introduction by the band after which all three videos follow back to back. The album is its own brand of awful, and the promotional videos show the band’s further regression into mediocrity and irrelevance. That the band imploded at the height of its commercial success is a reminder that even the most promising of bands can falter dramatically.

In all “Chaos DVD” is indeed chaotic (and not in a good way). It is an unorganized mess of a compilation, of which only the “Under Siege (Live in Barcelona)” part is worth repeated viewings. The remainder of it is crudely sewn together cuts of brief interview bits, backstage footage and the occasional festival recording. In between those the band’s promotional clips are strewn in order to give it some semblance of coherence and chronology. On its face it appears to be a fan-package, but on closer inspection it is anything but. It is shallow and superficial mess that focuses on unimportant trivialities and ignores the impact and importance, both domestic and abroad, of the band’s pre-“Chaos AD” era. This shouldn’t come as a surprise as Roadrunner Records was clearing its artist roster of its commendable death metal past around this time to welcome the widely (and rightly) despised nu-metal movement. Few of the older bands were to remain with the imprint, most notably Fear Factory, Machine Head and Sepultura were able to keep their contracts – but at a severe cost. “Chaos DVD” is an epitaph for both band and label as each would go through its own set of changes. It’s functional for what it is, but hardly commendable for anybody looking for substance and worthwhile content.

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Whereas “Conquering the Throne” was a serviceable debut of a couple of noted underground musicians, it was “King Of All Kings” that truly elevated Hate Eternal to the upper echelons of the death metal genre, domestic and abroad. The constellation of Erik Rutan (vocals, lead/rhythm guitar), Jared Anderson (bass guitar, vocals) and Derek Roddy (drums) had delivered their breakout record, and now more than ever all eyes were set upon them to deliver on the promise of that second record. Somewhere during the touring campaign Anderson defected to deal with his substance addiction, and a temporary replacement was drafted in one Randy Piro. Once again holing up in Mana Recordings in genre hotbed Florida the trio wrote and recorded “I, Monarch”, the band’s third and most conceptually complete record up to that point.

hatepic2The third Hate Eternal album marks the end of an era for the band. It was the last record for long-time contractor Earache Records, the last to feature notorious drum mercenary (and budding solo artist/clinician) Derek Roddy and the sole record to feature bass guitarist/vocalist Randy Piro. It is the first record to feature artwork by Paul Romano, and the last of three records to feature royal connotations in its choice for album title. Functioning as the transitional record in between the two eras of the band, it is a punishingly brutal, and inhumanly fast but surprisingly diverse and groovy exploration of the sound Hate Eternal had perfected on the preceding two albums. The ornamental enhancements accentuate the band’s strengths and put more emphasis on the more developed songstructures. This can especially be heard in the instrumental track ‘Faceless One’, which is sadly the only such thing Hate Eternal has done to date. This more adventurous spirit is what makes this record so much more engaging than the competent but rather faceless two albums that came before. The right level of experimentation, and instrumentation make this record slightly different from the pure exercises of inhuman speed and technical expertise. The same can be said about “I, Monarch”, but it is wrapped in an atmospheric package from which it benefits.

Notable is that “I, Monarch” goes for a meatier, fuller production that recalls the band’s debut, but is far richer in terms of tone, depth and texture. Produced once again at Mana Recordings in St. Petersburg, Florida by Erik Rutan and Derek Roddy, it is here that the latter displays his own signature writing style, and has a crunchy production to match. For the first (and only) time the drums sound truly massive and commanding all while displaying the intricacies, precision and force with which they are played. It is unfortunate that it would be the swansong for drummer Derek Roddy. As always the bass guitar is buried underneath the thick sounding guitars, and drums. It is hard to judge exactly what Randy Piro contributes to these songs instrumentally, but at least vocally he is able to match himself with his much loved predecessor Jared Anderson. The riffs are much more interesting and engaging compared to the preceding two records, and they are of more significance within the better developed songstructures. The key strength of “I, Monarch” is that it isn’t afraid to slow down every once in a while, and put the tireless blasting of Roddy in service of the song – and not the other way around. Without a doubt it is Hate Eternal’s most diverse and accomplished recording.

It is by all accounts the most diverse and best-produced Hate Eternal record due to the use of atmospheric segues and better paced songwriting. An organic, crunchy production and each musician being at the top of their game in terms of writing and performance help immensely too. In essence “I, Monarch” is more closely related to “Conquering the Throne” in terms of construction than it is to its predecessor. What sets it apart from its predecessors is the usage of sampled segues taken from the track ‘Death Posture’ off the “The Secret Eye Of Laylah” recordings by Michael “Zos” Dewitt and Zero Kama, plus the didjeridoo that is heard in ‘To Know Our Enemies’. All of this is mostly superficial as beyond the more balanced and warmer production Hate Eternal has changed precious little in between this and the albums that came before. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing because too many bands seem to change with every record. On its first three records Hate Eternal perfected its traditional death metal sound in every possible way, and “I, Monarch” is the most representative of those changes. It is the record where the band finally showed what they were capable of as songwriters. “Conquering the Throne” and “King Of All Kings” (the former more than the latter) seemed to focus on speed and brutality almost exclusively. That is finally changed wth this third record, and the band is so much more powerful and, well, better for it.

If one was to approach the record without its atmospheric enhancements and instrumentation, what one is left with is an expertly produced but bog standard modern day death metal album. Thankfully Rutan’s former experience in Morbid Angel (and formative death metal act Ripping Corpse before that) has left him with a keen understanding of the genre’s dynamics and strengths. Where any lesser bands would fail Hate Eternal understands the importance of nuance and diversity. Nobody is going to argue that this band has a very specific, tunnel vision of what the genre should be – yet for with this third album (and the two that preceded it) they wrote poignant material within the perimeters they had set for themselves. The nuances primarily are found in the use of melody, a newfound diversity in its percussive assault and Rutan’s always sparkling Eastern sounding leads/solos. On top of all these marked improvements Rutan’s vocals are a lot better produced this time around clearly proving his ability as a frontman. In comparison to a lot of his contemporary peers his growls are well enunciated and never stray into unintelligible territory despite their impressive throaty depth.

Two videos were shot to promote the record. The videos for ‘I, Monarch’ and ‘The Victorious Reign’ were directed and produced by Shane Drake for Red Van Pictures. Of the two ‘I, Monarch’ is the most interesting as it combines the usual performance footage with a narrative of a sorcerer’s apprentice building a contraption out of human remains. The video for ‘The Victorious Reign’ is a typical performance video set in a warehouse. It is only memorable for the very brief spot where second live guitarist Eric Hersemann can be seen. Hersemann appeared prior on the Diabolic record “Infinity Through Purification” (which featured a similar but lesser interpretation of this record’s sound), and later would form psychedelic death metal act Gigan with fellow former Hate Eternal bass guitarist Randy Piro. On the successor to this record the band would enlist a new drummer, recruit a famous session bass guitarist and adopt a more bouncy sound. The classic era ends with this last installment of a three-album stint. One can only wonder what this record would have sounded like had Anderson co-written in the sessions.