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Sepultura – The Limelight, Belfast – August 12 2012

There’s been something of a trend this year, with some of the top metal bands popping over to Belfast to play exclusive one-off headline shows will pounding their way across Europe’s festival circuit. Machine Head and Lamb Of God respectively sandwiched Download into triumphant appearances at Download, and this time it the turn of what remains of Brazilian thrash legends Sepultura to follow up their Bloodstock booking with a trip across the Irish Sea to the Norn Irish capital.

I use the term ‘what remains’ in relation to the current incarnation of the Seps advisedly, as I am one of the old school believers that the South American behemoths without either (or both) of the Cavalera cabelleros is not, in fact, the same band – well, until tonight, when the 2012 version of the quarter very firmly changed my mind.

Local riffmeisters Triggerman were clearly in their element and they blasted through their short support slot on the biggest date of their careers to date. Heavily plugging their most recent album, ‘Hail To The River Gods, Bap and the rest of lads nevertheless manage a couple of real crowd pleasers, especially in shape of the always enjoyable ‘Lurgy’ (remind us to explain what that’s all about some time…), and the band deliver a highly pleasing battering ram of a set to a very appreciative audience.

But, tonight is about one thing only – the return of Sepultura to Belfast after an absence of almost a decade (a period which has seen both Cavalera brothers more regular visitors than their former bandmates), and the expectation levels are nearly as high as the temperature as the houselights dim and the shadowy figures move on stage. Then, it’s boom – or is it? At first, there is something terribly wrong with Derrick Green’s vocals – in fact, they are virtually inaudible for the first couple of bars… but, thankfully, it is the most temporary of transient glitches as the magic switch is thrown and – pow!

The band are certainly on fire: Andreas Kisser dances around the stage, powering out da Seps’ trademark Latin American-tinged riffs, and Paulo Jr may look like someone’s uncle who has wandered into the wrong gig, but his bass playing is exemplary as usual, while Green towers over proceedings, delivering his vocals with the right balance of snarl and charisma. But, the real revelation is ‘new’ drummer Eloy Casagrande who is, quite frankly, awesome as he delivers one of the best live performances it has been this reviewers’ pleasure to witness in nearly 30 years of covering metal gigs: it’s not hard to see why he is earning comparisons to some of the greats, such as Dave Lombardo – and even earns a cheeky reference to Iggor Cavalera during Kisser’s introduction to the latest recruit’s drum solo.

With a few surprising moments – such as a great rendition of ‘Mask’ and a pretty damn cool cover of Ministry’s ‘Just One Fix’ – the band almost succeed in bringing the house down, especially with amazing renditions of ‘Arise’ and ‘Roots’, and leave an audience that ambles out into the balmy Sunday evening air knowing that they have just witnessed one of those nights that make metal all the more glorious and majestic when it is performed by true masters of their craft…

About Mark Ashby

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