The concept album is usually the result of a band or artist being inspired to explore a topic or notion through music. Usually. In the case of Sepultura, I’m beginning to think they had an ulterior motive on their latest album “A-Lex”, inspired by the classic Stanley Kubrick movie “Clockwork Orange”. For a band that now only contains one original member, the bassist at that, releasing an album based on a cult classic film is a desperate attempt at getting your fading name back out there. Heck, it worked on me. I haven’t heard Sepultura since high school when my friend Sewer would blast the carnage in his beat up Cavalier, but now, 10 years later, I’m listening to their latest incarnation simply because it’s “inspired” by one of my all-time favorite films.
On the surface, a metal band doing a concept album about “Clockwork Orange” sounds logical: both are filled with pent up rage and are unapologetic about the horrorshow they cause. But there in lies the problem – there is much more going on in “Clockwork” than just senseless violence, and this is where Sepultura miss the mark. While “A-Lex” is track after track of angry thrash metal, much of the actual movie is insight into the psyche of this deranged teenager.
Yes, “Clockwork” has its moments of barbarism, but even during these scenes Kubrick counteracts the ultra-violence with the beauty of the classical music that Alex admires. In fact, metal is probably the worst music to convey his demented resentment. Kubrick understood how the classical music clashed with the violence, yet it also worked beautifully somehow.
Sepultura is just not versatile enough to pull it off. Songs like “We’ve Lost You” start with a sense that the band might be able to capture the helplessness of the parents with the soft plinking of acoustic strings, but 40 seconds in they return to their growling dirge, screaming incessantly “WE’VE LOST YOU!” the parents don’t seem so much as angry in the film as they are frustrated about their inability to parent.
“Ludwig Van” is one of the few moments where Sepultura actually attempt to pay tribute to the film, creating their own version of “Beethoven’s 9th”. Unfortunately, the addition of an orchestra cheapens their sound even more. Who would have thought that Sepultura plus an orchestra would sound like Mannheim Steamroller?
In reality, not even a band like Radiohead could pull off a “Clockwork” inspired album. The music in the film is vital enough; the soundtrack is a character its self. The creepy synth of the film creates a sparse atmosphere, a disconnect from the morality of the majority. It’s one thing to write an album about a piece of literature like Sepultura did with their last pop-disk “Dante XXI” (based on The Divine Comedy), but sinny’s already have their own soundtrack. Leave them alone, especially anything associated with that fine old droog Kubrick.