ST- ICK TO YOUR ROOTS
WITH A NEW BACKING BAND (BUT TRADITIONAL ETHOS), SEPULTURA FOUNDERS MAX AND IGGOR CAVALERA ARE FINALLY GIVING ROOTS THE FULL-ALBUM WORLD TOUR IT’S DESERVED SINCE ‘96. AND THIS MONTH, IT’S COMING TO AUSTRALIA.
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.