Sepultura (the Portuguese word for “grave”) is a Brazilian heavy metal band from Belo Horizonte. Formed in 1984 by brothers Max and Igor Cavalera, the band was a major force in the death metal, thrash metal and groove metal genres during the late 1980s and early 1990s, with their later experiments drawing influence from alternative metal, world music, nu metal, hardcore punk and industrial metal. Sepultura has had several changes in its lineup since its formation, with Max and Igor Cavalera departing in 1996 and 2006, respectively. Sepultura’s current line up consists of vocalist Derrick Green, guitarist Andreas Kisser, bassist Paulo Jr. and drummer Eloy Casagrande. Since Igor Cavalera’s departure in 2006, there have been no original members left in the band.
Sepultura has released thirteen studio albums to date, the latest being The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart (2013). Their most successful records are Arise (1991), Chaos A.D. (1993) and Roots (1996). Sepultura has sold over three million units in the United States and almost 20 million worldwide, gaining multiple gold records around the globe, including countries as diverse as France, Australia, Indonesia, United States, Cyprus and their native Brazil. Sepultura is currently in the studio recording their fourteenth studio album, which is due for release in late 2016.
After several early membership changes, Sepultura established a stable lineup of Max on guitar, Igor on drums, vocalist Wagner Lamounier and bassist Paulo Jr. Lamounier departed in March 1985 after disagreements with the band, and moved on to become the leader of the pioneering Brazilian black metal band Sarcófago. After his departure, Max took over the vocal duties. Jairo Guedes was invited to join the band as lead guitarist.
After about a year of performing, Sepultura signed to Cogumelo Records in 1985. Later that year, they released Bestial Devastation, a shared EP with fellow Brazilian band Overdose. It was self-produced and recorded in just two days. The band recorded their first full-length album, Morbid Visions, in August 1986. It contained their first hit, “Troops of Doom”, which gained some media attention. The band then decided to relocate to the larger city of São Paulo.
In early 1987, Jairo Guedes quit the band. Guedes was replaced by São Paulo-based guitarist Andreas Kisser, and they released their second studio album, Schizophrenia, in 1987. The album reflected a stylistic change towards a more thrash metal-oriented sound, while still keeping the death metal elements of Morbid Visions. The band gained attention from Roadrunner Records who signed them and released Schizophrenia internationally before seeing the band perform in person.
The band’s third studio album, Beneath the Remains, was released in 1989. The album was recorded in a rustic studio in Rio de Janeiro while the band communicated through translators with the American producer Scott Burns. It was an immediate success and became known in thrash metal circles as a classic on the order of Slayer’s Reign in Blood. It is hailed by Terrorizer magazine as one of the all-time top 20 thrash metal albums, as well as a gaining a place in their all-time top 40 death metal records.
The band relocated from their native Brazil to Phoenix, Arizona in 1990, obtained new management, and recorded the album Arise at Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida. By the time the album was released in 1991, the band had become one of the most critically praised thrash/death metal bands of the time. The first single “Dead Embryonic Cells” was a success, and the title track gained additional attention when its video was banned by MTV America due to its apocalyptic religious imagery. The album was critically acclaimed and their first to chart on the Billboard 200, reaching No. 119.
Sepultura’s fifth album, Chaos A.D., was released in 1993. It saw a departure from their death/thrash metal style, adding elements of industrial and hardcore punk. AllMusic wrote that, “Chaos A.D. ranks as one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time.” Sepultura’s departure from death and thrash metal continued with their sixth album, Roots, which was released in 1996. On this album the band experimented with elements of the music of Brazil’s indigenous peoples, and adopted a slower, down-tuned sound. The album was hailed as a modern-day heavy metal classic. AllMusic said, “Roots consolidates Sepultura’s position as perhaps the most distinctive, original heavy metal band of the 1990s.”
Departure of Max Cavalera
In 1996, Sepultura played on the Castle Donington Monsters of Rock main stage alongside Ozzy Osbourne, Paradise Lost, Type O Negative, Biohazard and Fear Factory. The band was suddenly a three-piece with Andreas Kisser taking over on lead vocals, after Max Cavalera left the concert site earlier in the day upon learning of the death of his stepson Dana Wells in a car accident. After Dana Wells’ funeral was finished, Max returned and continued to tour with Sepultura. A few months after Wells’ death, the band had a meeting with Max and said that they wanted to fire their manager Gloria Bujnowski, who was Max’s wife and Dana’s mother, and have her replaced with someone else.
The other band members felt that Bujnowski was paying more attention to Max rather than the band itself. Max, who was still dealing with the death of Wells, felt betrayed by his band members for wanting to rid of Bujnowski and abruptly quit the band. For many years, the true reasons behind his departure remained unknown. Max Cavalera’s final performance with Sepultura was at Brixton Academy in England on December 16, 1996.
Derrick Green era
Following Max Cavalera’s departure, the rest of Sepultura announced plans to find a new vocalist. Among those who auditioned were Chuck Billy of Testament, Phil Demmel of Machine Head and Vio-lence, Marc Grewe of Morgoth, Jorge Rosado of Merauder and a then-unknown Jason “Gong” Jones. American musician Derrick Green from Cleveland, Ohio, was selected as the band’s new front-man. The first album with the new line-up was Against, which was released in 1998. The album was critically and commercially less successful than previous albums and sold considerably fewer copies than the debut album by Max Cavalera’s new band Soulfly.
The band’s eighth album, Nation, released in 2001, sold poorly. It would be their last studio album with Roadrunner Records. A recording of Max Cavalera’s last live show with Sepultura, titled Under a Pale Grey Sky, was released in 2002 by Roadrunner Records.
After recording Revolusongs, an EP of covers in 2002, the band released their ninth studio album, Roorback, in 2003. Despite receiving greater critical acclaim than its predecessors, sales remained low. It was their first album with SPV Records. Sepultura’s tenth album, Dante XXI, was released on March 14, 2006. It is a concept album based on Dante Alighieri’s The Divine Comedy. Music videos were recorded for the songs “Convicted in Life” and “Ostia”. Igor Cavalera left the band after the release of Dante XXI and was replaced by Brazilian drummer Jean Dolabella, leaving the band without any of its original members. After leaving Sepultura, Igor and Max formed Cavalera Conspiracy.
Sepultura released the album A-Lex on 26 January 2009. This was the first Sepultura album to include neither of the Cavalera brothers, with bassist Paulo Jr. as the sole remaining member from the band’s debut album. A-Lex is a concept album based on the book A Clockwork Orange.
On July 6, 2010, it was announced that Sepultura were signed with Nuclear Blast Records, and would release their first album for the label in 2011. The band confirmed that there would be no reunion of the classic lineup. On March 1, 2011, Sepultura had completed recording their new album, entitled Kairos, which was released in June 2011.
On July 19, 2013, it was revealed that the title of the band’s thirteenth album was The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart. In a June 2015 interview with Yell! Magazine, guitarist Andreas Kisser stated that Sepultura would begin work on their fourteenth studio album after the completion of The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart tour. On February 24, 2016, Sepultura announced on their Facebook page that they had begun writing their new album, and posted pictures of themselves in the studio. The band entered the studio in May to begin recording it with producer Jens Bogren.
Musical Style, Influences and Legacy
Sepultura’s early influences were heavy metal groups such as Iron Maiden, Metallica, Celtic Frost and Slayer, and death metal bands like Possessed and Death. Andreas Kisser affirmed that “without Slayer, Sepultura would never be possible”.
Sepultura’s music comes in a wide range of heavy metal musical styles. The band has been described mostly as thrash metal and death metal. Another genre the band has been commonly categorized under is groove metal. The band’s early music has sometimes been described as black metal. The band later on started experimenting elements of other musical genres such as hardcore punk, industrial metal, alternative metal, world music and nu metal.
MTV has called Sepultura the most successful Brazilian heavy metal band in history and “perhaps the most important heavy metal band of the ’90s”. In 1993, Robert Baird of Phoenix New Times wrote that the band played “machine-gun-tempo mayhem” and that the members “love to attack organized religion and repressive government”.