Sepultura are also one of the most critically acclaimed metal bands of all time, having changed the face of the genre forever.
Purveyors of the ferocious, unrelenting and cathartic trope of metal that carries the “thrash” or “death” descriptor, they are to the underground metal scene what Metallica are to the mainstream scene.
Formed in 1985 in the sprawling suburbs of Belo Horizonte, the third-largest city in Brazil, the band’s early work — though already displaying the incendiary aggression that was to become the hallmark of their debut album, Morbid Vision, and its follow-up, Schizophrenia — was poorly recorded and adhered to every precept in the thrash-metal bible.
The band had already achieved cult status in their native Brazil when the 1989 release of Beneath the Remains, with its superb production and furnace-like blast of nihilistic rage, rocketed them into the international spotlight.
The album remains what the All Music Guide refers to as “one of the most essential death/thrash metal albums of all time”. However, it was only with the 1993 release of Chaos AD that Sepultura began to break seminal new ground and embark on their radical revolution of the metal formula.
With the incorporation of blunt, social commentary and native Brazilian rhythms into their music, Sepultura evinced an articulate political consciousness and a level of musical complexity that took metal where few headbangers dared go.
Yet many a headbanger took the plunge, with Sepultura achieving massive worldwide success on the epochal Roots.
For this album the band recorded with remote Brazilian tribes, juxtaposing spare, haunting vocals with Sepultura’s searing, saw-toothed guitars, revealing a strangely graceful side to metal never seen before.
Together with singer Max Cavalera’s terrifying tirades against injustice and oppression (in English and Portuguese), Roots is a chaotic yet ineffably eloquent statement about imperialism, exploitation and the complex dynamics of the Third World and First World relationship.
Sepultura’s iconoclasm, conceptual daring, musical sophistication and raw, primal power made them a heavy metal band with substance as well as considerable style.
When internal tensions saw Cavalera leave to form Soulfly, many proclaimed the end of the Sepultura era. However, rather than wander off into the sunset, the band recruited American furioso Derrick Green, whose enormous build, brooding features, blood-curdling roar and fearsome stage presence put him at the top of just about anybody’s “people not to meet in a dark alley” list.
Sepultura have just released their third album, Roorback, with Green leading the charge and, by all accounts, the impact of the band’s music is more skull-crushing than ever.
It’s become a cliché to say that Sepultura haven’t been the same since Cavalera left, but with this new album, the band silence all doubts about their ability to deliver the goods in their new incarnation.
As influential metal magazine Absolut Metal puts it: “Maybe the last two albums didn’t impress you, but there’s something wrong if no one has to peel you off the floor after hearing this one”, before pronouncing the two words every Sepultura fan with divided loyalties since Cavalera’s departure has been waiting to hear: “Max who?”
Set to reclaim the metal throne with Roorback and having directly influenced just about every anti-establishment metal band of the moment (System of a Down, Slipknot, Godsmack, to name a few), Sepultura seem to be riding into an even fiercer future.
And along the way, they’ll be coming to South Africa to perform four live shows in September. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see one of the hardest, fastest, loudest and angriest bands in your own backyard.