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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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Supposedly after the mammoth tour in support of “Arise” Brazilian quartet Sepultura ran out of steam and, well, ideas, really. Lord knows what happened to them on that trek all over the world. Not only did it knock the air of what was formerly the most violent and cutthroat death/thrash unit on the scene, it also sucked out the band’s creativity. “Chaos A.D.” is equal amounts punk/hardcore as it is copious amounts of Pantera worship. This is the album, a gateway album for many at that, where the Brazilian contenders to the thrash metal crown lost the plot, a thing from which they never recovered. It mostly marks the end of an era. The end of Sepultura’s reign as death/thrash mavens, the last to feature Michael Whelan artwork and the one but last to feature Max Cavalera on vocals and rhythm guitars. Although you are hardpressed to find that last aspect a selling point.

sepultura92The album opens with the in utero heartbeat of Max Cavalera’s then-unborn son Zyon, and while that sample is a great intro piece on itself, it begs the first question of many: what happened to long-time keyboardist Henrique Portugal? Where’s the aggression? Where are the whirlwind riffs? And probably most importantly: where are the songs? Sepultura never hid the fact that they liked hardcore as much as they liked extreme metal, but this is the first record that actively suffers from needless experimentation. It spents far too much time on trying very hard to be something that it is not - and probably will never be. It also is a sobering reminder what happens to great bands when they decide to ditch their legacy in the name of the almighty dollar. Integrity, previously Sepultura’s most defining trait, is exchanged for an oversimplified, dumbed down stab at senseless commercialism and lukewarm mainstream acceptance. “Chaos A.D.” is big, dumb and loud. Dumb mostly, though.

‘Refuse/Resist’ is the first song, and while the lack of riffs and speed is immediately noticeable – it at least has the decency to not waste anybody’s time. The title was taken from Indian dissident Mahatma Ghandi’s ideology of non-violent civilian disobedience, and the lyrics are concise and to-the-point. ‘Territory’ starts off with a tribal drumbeat, but falls back in tempo soon after the intro. ‘Slave New World’, co-written by Evan Seinfeld from Biohazard, is another pointless hardcore ditty, and the presence of Andreas Kisser’s solo does little to redeem this track, or the ones that came before it. It has nothing to do with the Aldous Huxley novel “Brave New World” which is referenced in the song title. In truth, the most intelligent thing about this song is the somewhat clever pun of the song title. The increased levels of bass-centricness, the presence of barely two riffs per song (not counting the slight variations of each which are passed off as bridges), the stripped down hardcore approach in the songwriting and the Pantera groove metal aping is what makes “Chaos A.D.” the crushing disappointment that it is. The three singles mentioned earlier only serve to display that sad and sorry fact. No amount of label-muscle was going to be able to hide how poorly conceived and written this record is, or was rather. “Chaos A.D.” is a mess, a glorious mess at that.

One of the surprisingly effective new ideas was the instrumental cut 'Kaiowas’. Consisting of acoustic guitars and tribal percussion the track exposes a frail and sensitive side the band had not shown prior. The execution and delivery isn’t lacking per se, but a bigger deal could have been made out of it. ‘Kaiowas’ exists, and it passes the listener by without the realization that it hints at something bigger and better. It is unfortunate that this lone great track is surrounded by a veritable morass of bad ideas. ‘Amen’ and ‘Nomad’ follow the architecture of previous tracks, and the inclusion of crudely sampled religious chants does not redeem it. In fact it further exposes the eroded songwriting capability of this once mighty band, and the chants accentuate the absence of any real riffs. ‘Nomad’ follows suit, and while it has some decent riffs (especially the one after the break) and drumming it still is lacking in about every department that the band used to excel at. ‘Biotech Is Godzilla’ was co-written by Jello Biafra who also adds backing vocals. It is a fast and short hardcore/punk track that really feels out of place on a Sepultura record, and even on the subsequent Nailbomb album it would have been considered pointless and lacking. ‘Propaganda’ is much of the same as ‘Biotech Is Godzilla’ and ‘Manifest’ is another experiment in sound that really shouldn’t have been allowed to happen in the first place. ‘We Who Are Not As Others’ is something, although I’m not entirely certain what. It consists of about two riffs and a mantra-like repetition of the song’s title. The solo does little to redeem it, but that goodwill is crushed by the idiotic laughing that concludes the track. ‘The Hunt’ is a functional cover of a New Model Army song with a ton of neat little acoustic guitars in the background and a slightly better vocal performance by Max. ‘Clenched Fist’ is a prototype for the later Nailbomb album, which would become the companion piece to this record.

“Chaos A.D.” is, no matter how you spin it, Sepultura’s artistic death certificate.

This is a record of changes, superficial and profound. The songs all are mere shells of what the band used to write. The lyrics are still socio-political, but they seem more based around one-liners and quips rather than actual dissections of ideas or ideologies. The absence of riffs per song is hard not to notice, and the riffs that do appear are one-two note excuses that even hardcore bands would be embarrassed to use in their songs. The band that once stuffed their songs to the brim with impressive riff after riff here contents itself with building a song around a single, or two riffs at most. The fire is gone and so is the passion. Max Cavalera’s vocals regressed to a severe degree. His once mighty roars and thrash metal screams became a caveman shout that was supposed to convey all the anger, frustration and righteous indignation at the world while it mostly comes off as comical, and well, mentally challenged, if we’re being honest about it. The fact that the songs are largely build around Cavalera’s grumbling, percussive tough guy vocals don’t help matters either. That this record has the highest count of expletives makes the new vocal style even less defensible. This isn’t tough. It is embarrassing. The songs all are a lot slower too. It is hard to believe that this band wrote “Beneath the Remains” and “Schizophrenia” – both classics of riff-oriented high speed thrash metal.

Some call the production unlistenable, but for one reason or the other this is one my favorite productions of the era. Without a single doubt this is, literally, the heaviest Sepultura has ever sounded from a production standpoint. Igor’s kickdrums sound ominous and powerful, Paulo’s bass guitar finally gets the attention it deserves, and the guitar tone, both for rhythm and leads, is earthy and organic but never lifeless or sterile. What the production does bring to attention is that, while the band sounds heavier and cleaner than it was ever before, the song material on this record is lacking, and when it does occasionally deliver something of note it is lowest common denominator pandering. This is why this record is so divisive and polarizing for many, even a full two decades after its original release. This was my first metal record, and while I have some adoration for it, mostly through nostalgia, that doesn’t change the fact that it isn’t very good, or even worthy of half the lavish praise it continues to get with the casual masses.

R-6455452-1419688264-4300For all the praise the record gets it seems to focus on the wrong elements of this particular equation. The songs on here are drawn out, listless affairs based around one or two riffs, tons of caveman grooves and daft anti-authorian lyrics that don’t really say a whole lot than the band has established on earlier records. Sure, it is the band’s most direct and confrontational record, but how much does that say exactly? The crunchy and concrete production is bass-heavy and absolutely stellar, but it is wasted on a dull, meandering record that doesn’t seem to have any real purpose, or direction. “Chaos A.D.” is indeed a chaos of mismatched ideas, disjointed groove riffing and listless chugging that would have the most ardent Pantera disciple running for cover. The 90s were an ugly time for metal above and below the mainstream, this is a reminder of that.