Wednesday, September 14, 2011

September 14: Sepultura, "Refuse/Resist"

Artist: Sepultura
Song: "Refuse/Resist"
Album: Chaos A.D.
Year: 1993

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Though it was rather overshadowed for a number of different reasons, the heavy metal genre had some of its most important moments during the 1990's.  While a number of the most highly regarded metal bands from the previous decade were making a clear effort to streamline their sound to have wider commercial appeal, it was within the emerging groups that the most powerful and stunning music of the decade was being created.  The way that bands were fusing together the sounds of hardcore, hip-hop and a number of other styles within the heavy metal genre yielded brilliant new approaches, and there may have been no finer a heavy metal group during the decade than Brazil's own, Sepultura.  Though in today's music scene, the band stand as one of the most highly revered acts on the planet, it was during the first half of the 1990's that the group made their name, and this was thanks to a number of absolutely amazing studio recordings, where one can experience and urgency and sonic assault that is unlike any other band in history.  From the wild poly-rhythms to the almost feral vocal assault, Sepultura knows few, if any peers, and they reached their creative apex on 1993's Chaos A.D.  The album finds the band finally matching their energy and passion with some of their most focused and muscular musical efforts, and few songs can match the impact of Sepultura's 1993 masterpiece, "Refuse/Resist."

From the moment that "Refuse/Resist" begins, there is no question that the song is far beyond most other heavy metal songs from any point in history, as the high-octane grind and grit that the band delivers can still send any crowd into a frenzy.  This is largely due to the monstrous lead guitar progression from Andreas Kisser, and it stands as one of the greatest riffs in the entire history of heavy metal.  The punch that he brings to his playing is as good as metal gets, and yet there is a sense of urgency within his sound that borders on a thrash sound, and served as a warning call that the metal style was far from dead.  The way that Kisser's guitars smash up against the rhythmic assault from drummer Igor Calavera is nothing short of stunning, and it is Calavera's playing where much of the power of Sepultura resides.  In both the cadence and strength with which he plays, Calavera pushes "Refuse/Resist" forward with an attitude that is nothing short of perfect.  This is highlighted by the bass of Paulo Jr., as he winds around the rest of the music, pushing the overall level of energy to an almost overwhelming height.  The combined sound of the band remains one of the most imposing in all of music history, and one can hear the hardcore and punk influences in the fact that there is not a moment wasted anywhere on "Refuse/Resist," and this lack of any extraneous notes is what pushes the song to an unmatched level of impact.

Perfectly matching the band in terms of both intensity and ability, there are few vocalists in the history of heavy metal or hardcore that can hold their own when compared to Sepultura's Max Calavera.  On every song he sings, there is a fire and power within his voice, and his performance on "Refuse/Resist" may very well be the finest of his career.  While some may attempt to group Calavera along with the other "shouters" of the heavy metal genre, there is an ever-present commitment to ensuring the lyrics are clear that sets him far aside from his peers.  This balance between power and clarity is rarely found anywhere in the heavy metal genre, and this fact, combined with the unique rhythms Calavera often finds, places Sepultura into a category all their own.  It is also the proximity to the words he sings, as well as a sense of authenticity in these lyrics that garnered the band such a loyal following.  "Refuse/Resist" is a call to arms far beyond almost any other similar song, and it is the fact that Calavera was able to make the lyrics so universal that enabled it to become a worldwide anthem on many levels.  From police brutality to all out riots by the downtrodden, "Refuse/Resist" paints a grim, but powerful picture, and the way that Max Calavera delivers this warning call proves the unparalleled power in both his vocals, as well as his talents as a lyricist.

As the years have passed since "Refuse/Resist" was first unleashed onto the world, it has become one of Sepultura's best known songs, as well as a definitive songs in the entire history of the heavy metal genre.  In tribute to the overall greatness and impact of the song, it has been covered a number of times, and classical-metal group Apocalyptica chose it as one of the tracks on their Inquisition Symphony album.  Yet there is no question that the original take on the track remains the finest, and even as the lineup of Sepultura has changed over the years, "Refuse/Resist" has continued to be a part of the bands' live sets.  However, one of the most unique aspects of the song is the pulse that serves as the lead-in before the pummeling from band begins.  Though many assume it to be "just some studio effect," it is in fact the heartbeat of Max Calavera's then-unborn son, and it gives "Refuse/Resist" an even more unique overall tone.  However, it is the way that Sepultura moves as one massive unit that makes their songs so stunning, as once they begin, the band simply steamrolls anything in its path, and few groups from any era have equaled their power.  Showing no concern for commercial appeal, Sepultura remain the high-water-mark for "real" heavy metal, and it is the punk and hardcore edge to their music that would create a new blueprint for bands that is followed to this day.  Though the band is responsible for a number of stellar recordings, few songs can compare to the impact and strength that one can experience on Sepultura's stunning 1993 recording, "Refuse/Resist."

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