Australian Guitar - - Feature - WORDS BY MATT DO­RIA. PHOTO BY ANDY HAYBALL.

The ca­dav­er­ous howls of “Roots!Bloody

ROOOOTS!” are enough to kick­start the cold and/or life­less heart of any met­al­head worth their patches. But it’s not just the blood‑cur­dling gut­turals and wal­lop­ing riffs that made Sepultura’s 1996 break­through a driv­ing force in the scenes to come – it’s the gritty pro­duc­tion, lack of re­straint and, sub­vert­ing any no­tion of for­mula, an am­bi­tious fu­sion of Brazil­ian tribal mu­sic with sharp, pun­ish­ing thrash metal. 21 years later, Roots is still such a cru­cial opus that its brain­trust, Max and Iggor Cavalera, are sell­ing out arena shows in its hon­our wher­ever their pass­ports will take them.

“We had no ex­pec­ta­tions when we started this tour,” says Max Cavalera, rhythm gui­tarist and lead throat‑sav­ager on the al­bum. “At first it was like, ‘Let’s do a few shows and see what hap­pens’ – y’know, it was just for fun, and so I could be with my brother and we could play to­gether – but the next thing we know, peo­ple were los­ing their shit! All of the places we were play­ing sold out, so we de­cided to re­ally go for it.”

What started as short stint of club shows in the States quickly bal­looned to ex­pan­sive treks all through­out Europe, the UK, Rus­sia (sur­pris­ingly enough) and, of course, their na­tive South Amer­ica. And come the lat­ter weeks of Septem­ber, the broth­ers will bring their one‑of‑a‑kind tribal moshes Down Un­der with a five‑date theatre tour hit­ting Bris­bane, Syd­ney, Mel­bourne, Ade­laide and Perth.

“Aus­tralia has al­ways been very fa­natic and very de­voted,” says an au­di­bly hyped Cavalera, “so I’m ex­pect­ing to see the big­gest pits we’ve had on this tour. [ Roots is] a spe­cial record, so I think it will bring out a lot of the old fans, but also a new gen­er­a­tion of fans that have never seen us play these songs.”

It was in­ter­est­ing to wit­ness, when the tour was first an­nounced, just how many younger fans there are stoked to swing their warpaint‑decked limbs in the pit. Cavalera pins the gen­er­a­tional impact of Roots down to the wel­com­ing na­ture of a wider heavy mu­sic scene. “Metal bridges the gap be­tween ev­ery­thing – be­tween gen­er­a­tions, races, so­cial com­mu­ni­ties… The coolest thing about metal is that it’s a re­ally close so­ci­ety,” he rhap­sodises.

“In the real world, so­ci­ety fails be­cause there’s so much racism and so much of a di­vi­sion be­tween these com­mu­ni­ties that all hate each other. But in metal, there’s none of that. No mat­ter where you’re from – you can be from Aus­tralia, from Brazil, even from some­where like Is­rael – that love for metal is stronger than any­thing else. And I think that’s one of the coolest things about metal: it tran­scends pol­i­tics and it tran­scends re­li­gion. Metal is our re­li­gion!”

Roots is par­tic­u­larly no­table for tight­en­ing the dis­so­nance be­tween cul­tures in main­stream metal. At the time of its re­lease, the most prom­i­nent heavy scenes in the West­ern world were dom­i­nated by white bands that car­ried a uni­ver­sally ho­moge­nous style. By ex­pos­ing those cir­cles to the raw, anoma­lous sounds of Brazil­ian tribal mu­sic, Sepultura forced metal into a new world­view. Which, as Cavalera ex­plains, was their prime mo­tive.

“The whole theme of Roots is to em­brace and be proud of your cul­ture,” he muses, “And to show your cul­ture to the peo­ple that might not have known any­thing about it. That’s the thing about Roots that I’m most proud of: we show off our Brazil­ian cul­ture the way it is, which is very pow­er­ful, very strong and very beau­ti­ful. And I think, as well, those sounds had never been done in that way be­fore.”

In the stu­dio, Sepultura en­listed the tal­ents of the Mato Grosso‑na­tive Xa­vante tribe, who used their own tra­di­tional in­stru­ments to lay down the al­bum’s in­dige­nous spark. Au­then­ti­cally repli­cat­ing their chants and pri­mal beats on­stage proves an in­ter­est­ing chal­lenge for the Cavalera broth­ers, but in­stead of re­sort­ing to back­ing tracks or draft­ing in ex­tra mu­si­cians, they’ve gone a step fur­ther and mas­tered the in­stru­ments for them­selves.

“I play the berim­bau* bit on the be­gin­ning of ‘At­ti­tude’ and we both do per­cus­sion on ‘Am­bush’ and ‘Ratama­hatta’,” Cavalera says. “And we’ve got songs like ‘It­sari’, where Iggor recre­ates the voice of the In­dian and does the drum­ming on top of it. It’s fan­tas­tic to watch.”

When it comes to the oth­er­wise skull‑shat­ter­ing fret­work that pil­lars Roots, Cavalera promises a faster and more in­tense jour­ney in con­cert – but also one that stays true to its… Well, roots, and doesn’t bas­tardise the band’s orig­i­nal vi­sion in favour of a more ‘2017’ sound. “I think Roots is an al­bum that has sur­vived the test of time,” Cavalera says when asked why. “It sounds as great to­day as it did when it came out… Even bet­ter, maybe! And I think the songs are bet­ter live now than they ever have been, so it re­ally is a priv­i­lege and an hon­our to get to play them af­ter 21 years.”

* ‑a berim­bau is a long, sin­gle‑stringed mu­si­cal bow that tears out a unique (and f***in­g­sexy) twang.

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