Opinion: Sepultura’s Roots 20 Years Later
Written by Matt Drummond
“Roots came from a blurry dream I had about going to the rain forest. Wine may have been involved. In the end, when we actually went into the forest to record, it was unbelievable.”
That quote didn’t come from a fantasy novel, it came from a man determined on literally getting in touch with his own and his country’s roots. What would become of this was one of the best albums of the 1990’s – Sepultura’s ‘Roots.’
To bring you up to speed for a moment, in the 1990’s Brazil was known for its top exports of iron ore, crude oil, soybeans, sugar, and poultry. I’m here to tell you that list is inaccurate. The truth is, in the 90’s Brazil’s top export was a heavy metal band by the name of Sepultura.
Forming in 1984 in Belo Horilonte, Brazil, by brothers Max and Igor Cavalera, Sepultura is a metal band of almost mythological stature. Sepultura tried and implemented things that terrified record labels and made critics laugh. I’ll admit that Max had some crazy ideas that nobody else in the metal world would even joke about. The kick in the balls for those doubters was the undeniable fact that Sepultura pulled it off, and in the process recorded some of the most incredible and original music of all time.
In 1993, Sepultura released the album ‘Chaos A.D.’ This album was the first time Sepultura started to dabble in traditional Brazilian musical rhythms. It only showed itself here and there, and could’ve been written off as just an experiment. Turns out, this new sound wasn’t an experiment, it was a warm up.
On February 20, 1996, Sepultura tuned down their guitars and unleashed their 6th studio album, ‘Roots.’ Showing their respects in numerous ways, the album’s main influence was evident immediately. For the cover, Sepultura chose to feature an indigenous woman and it’s a perfect fit for the album’s vibe. Inspired by the movie ‘At Play in the Fields of the Lord,’ Max Cavalera travelled to Mato Grasso, Brazil, to visit the Xavante Tribe. The Brazilian “rainforest” sound on ‘Roots’ is blinding and can be heard on virtually every track. Adding Brazilian musician, Carlinhos Brown, you’ll find yourself saying ‘whoa what instrument is that?’ It’s a huge reason ‘Roots’ is such a special album. On track 12, ‘Itsari’, the mad journey comes to its culmination. With recording taking place at the Xavante Indians ancestral home, it’s a song you’ll get lost in. ‘Itsari’s’ originality is unparalleled, and the courage it takes to do a song like this is a perfect representation of Sepultura’s range, open mindedness, and dominance.
As for the rest of the album, it’s a take your pick scenario. ‘Roots’ is a wildfire from the onset. Track 1, ‘Roots, Bloody Roots’, is a head banger that’ll make you punch your neighbor. The entire album rips; the lineup of Max Cavalera, Igor Cavalera, Andreas Kisser, and Paulo Jr. IS SEPULTURA AT IT’S FINEST! The proof is in the facts, and ‘Roots’ has sold over 2 million copies worldwide without being on MTV or the radio. It sold that many copies because it’s a standalone, one of a kind record. With tracks like ‘Born Stubborn,’ ‘Spit,’ and ‘Straighthate,’ it should be a staple in every metal fan’s collection. My words can’t even convey a speck of its magnitude; listening to it is the only way to understand its greatness and great it is.