Ex-Sepultura Vocalist/Guitarist Max Cavalera: “I Don’t Think ‘Roots’ Is A ‘Nu Metal’ Record. In Fact, I Think It’s Very Opposite…”


The 1996 album “Roots” from Brazilian thrash/death metal band turned groove metal legends Sepultura was certainly a turning point for the band. In addition to opening the group up to a wider audience commercially with its nü-metal-friendly sound, it also served as the band’s final effort with Max Cavalera (now of Soulfly, etc.) on vocals and guitar.

The record, and its predecessor, 1993’s “Chaos A.D.“, represented the height of the band’s commercial success, with “Chaos A.D.” becoming the group’s first gold album in the United States in 2000 and “Roots” hitting that milestone in 2005.

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However, despite the marked shift in down-tuned guitars and tribal rhythms featured on the album, along with a guest list that included spots from the likes of Korn‘s Jonathan Davis and then drummer David Silveria, Limp Bizkit turntablist DJ Lethal and even unwitting nü-metal architect, Faith No More, etc. vocalist Mike Patton, Cavalera feels that “Roots” was unfairly lumped into nü-metal category.

Speaking recently with Pamela Calderón for iRock about that and some fans being unhappy with the album not being “metal enough”, Cavalera replied:

“I don’t think they gave the record a real chance. To me, ‘Roots‘ is a very heavy record. I think some of the stuff like ‘Straighthate‘, ‘Spit‘, ‘Ambush‘ and ‘Endangered Species‘ was so frickin’ heavy and it’s fast and it’s brutal. I think it’s because it got tagged… It got really popular; it got trendy. Some people connected it with ‘nu metal’. I don’t think ‘Roots‘ is a ‘nu metal’ record. In fact, I think it’s very opposite — it’s really kind of more caveman. It’s simpler — downtuning but simpler riffs. Very heavy percussion.”

“On its own, in its essence, to me, it’s a special record for sure. I won’t say it’s my favorite ’cause that’s like choosing your kids; it’s not right. I don’t wanna choose between Sepultura records; I like all. But to me, ‘Roots‘ feels like… It’s an idea. It was born at the right time. And it was just a crazy idea that I had in my mind, to record with Brazilian Indians and to bring that to metal.

And I think that was very ambitious and very courageous. ‘Cause not many people do that with their career; not many people gamble everything and make a record with crazy ideas like that. ‘Cause so much can go wrong. A lot of bands like to play it safe: ‘We just make this record for the fans, and we’re good.’ And we’re just not that kind of band. We like to push the envelope. We like to go forward. And we always never really tried to make the same record. To me, it was an exciting record.”

“I was heavily very passionate about the idea of the record — going to the tribe; using all the tribal elements, the percussion. The ‘Brazilianity’ of the record is incredible. And the record to me sounds amazing. The mix that Andy Wallace did is really, really great. The videos were really cool. The ‘Attitude‘ video with the Gracies; the ‘Roots Bloody Roots‘ video in Salvador; the ‘Ratamahatta‘ [clip] with the dolls.

Yeah, it was a phase in our life. It ended up being kind of crazy because it was the end of my run with Sepultura. But I’m proud of this record. And it’s a big record. Many famous people like this record a lot, like Dave Grohl, and so many people like that. The Slipknot guys, they love ‘Roots‘.

“I understand some of the old-school metalheads; they just want ‘Arise‘. They want me to play ‘Arise‘ for my whole life — just keep doing ‘Arise‘, ‘Arise‘, ‘Arise‘ all the time. [‘Arise‘ and ‘Beneath The Remains‘] are great, but there’s different stuff you can do.

Chaos A.D.‘ is great. ‘Roots‘ is great. I wouldn’t change it for anything. It was the record we wanted to make at that time. And I think now that I’m actually practicing to play it live [for an upcoming tour], I understand ‘Roots‘ more now than before.

And I think it’s a very complex record; it’s a very strange record that’s very unorthodox and very cool to listen to. If you listen to the whole record, it has some very different dynamics that’s really, really great.”


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