“Arise” was the summit of Sepultura’s musical evolution since its inception, and the realization of the sound they had been building towards since “Bestial Devastation” and “Morbid Vision”. It is the most unified and complete Sepultura release in terms of imagery, lyrics, music and presentation – all the pieces fell in place. As the penultimate Sepultura effort it is testament to what the band could have been. From this point onward Sepultura would only deteriorate and regress in every aspect of its being, musically as well as artistically.
The album is evolved in the melodic sense, masterfully paced, and far more controlled sounding than both of its predecessors. It is the logical conclusion of the progression in musicality and technical prowess that “Schizophrenia” introduced. What it loses in riff count it compensates in visceral intensity, memorable hooks and nuanced song arrangements. Of the early Sepultura canon “Arise” is the most ambitious and dynamic in terms of songwriting scope. As a signpost for the end of the band’s early era it was the last to feature long-time studio keyboardist Henrique Portugal in any capacity.
‘Dead Embryonic Cells’, ‘Desperate Cry’, ‘Murder’ and ‘Subtraction’ are easily the most technical cut of the record. “Arise” tones down the sheer amount of riffs per song and the album as a whole, along with the band’s patented speed outbursts, in favor of a more controlled, refined take on their earlier sound. It is a significant change that would inform the band’s decision allowing for the groove metal pandering on “Chaos A.D.” and its eventual follow-up, the band’s creative death certificate “Roots”. On “Arise” the more deliberate pace allows many of the nuances in the songwriting and riffs to come more to the fore. It is the most death metal sounding of all the early Sepultura releases. The synthesizers by Portugal and the Kent Smith produced sound effects enhance the very otherworldly atmosphere. Sadly, it would never be revisited again in the band’s post-Cavalera catalog making “Arise” a unique proposition in that respect.
‘Altered State’ is opened with simulated wind sounds and tribal percussion. ‘Under Siege (Regnum Irae)’ with an acoustic guitar section and quotes two passages of the abbreviated prologue to the controversial 1953 historic novel “The Last Temptation” by Nikos Kazantzakis. The novel was famously adapted for the screen by Martin Scorsese as “The Last Temptation Of Christ” which in turn was sampled by Tampa, Florida death metal act Deicide on its third and most defining album “Once Upon the Cross”. In order to give “Arise” the proper marketing push two promotional videos were shot. Chosen for the treatment were ‘Dead Embryonic Cells’ and the title track. The latter led to its share of controversy as MTV refused to play the video due to its apocalyptic religious imagery. A further high-quality live home video “Under Siege” was shot in Barcelona, Spain during the band’s European tour in support of the album.
Seeing how “Beneath the Remains” was mixed at the renowned Morrisound Studio in death metal capital Tampa, Florida – it was only natural that Sepultura would record its next album at said facility. For “Arise” death metal sound guru Scott Burns manned the console. Of the early Sepultura catalog “Arise” had the best production work. The lead/rhythm guitars sound crunchy and concrete, the bass guitar tone is warm and commanding. The drum tones are full-bodied, organic and warm sounding. The album has the best bass guitar and drum tone the band was ever able to capture. Although credited in the production notes Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr. did not play bass guitar on the record. Andreas Kisser recorded studio bass parts for the album.
That “Arise” is the best produced record of the band’s prime era was in no small part due to the involvement of Scott Burns. Lending their expertise to the product were a number of other respectable figures. For “Arise” artwork by Michael Whelan was commissioned once more. On this canvas Whelan depicts H.P. Lovecraft's Yog-Sothoth, a cosmic deity from the Cthulu Mythos. The bone S that would become the band’s mainstream identifier and their most recognizable sigil is introduced here, as well as the enduring font logo. The old logo that was used up until “Schizophrenia” can still be found in the booklet. The album was mixed at Quantum Sound Studios, Jersey City, New Jersey by Andy Wallace. Wallace would produce “Chaos AD”, this album’s highly divisive successor, at Rockfield Studios in South Wales, England. Howie Weinberg at Masterdisk in New York mastered “Arise”. Kent Smith at Soundsmith Productions was responsible for the sound design and numerous studio effects that can be heard on the album.
As the most death metal sounding of all early Sepultura releases “Arise” is the zenith of the band’s individual and collective skill. Masterfully paced it is where Sepultura found the ultimate equilibrium between death – and thrash metal without doing concessions to either style. Next to being the most unified and complete in terms of presentation “Arise” is the zenith in the band’s early discography as far production work is concerned. Pushing the band to the limits of its capabilities, in both instrumentation and songwriting, “Arise” heralds the end of Sepultura as a death/thrash metal formation. The band would subsequently experience an identity crisis that would eventually fracture it at the height of its popularity. In the aftermath of said split Sepultura would regroup but never reclaim its place within the mainstream metal consciousness outside of its native land.