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Members include Igor Cavalera, drums; Max Cavalera, vocals, rhythm guitar; Jairo T. (left group, 1986), lead guitar ; Paulo Jr., bass guitar. Later members include Andreas Kisser (joined group, 1986), lead guitar. Addresses: Record company--Roadrunner Records, 550 Madison Avenue, New York, NY 10022-3297.
Rage. Frustration. Violence. These factors surrounded members of the thrash band Sepultura as they struggled to survive in their hometown of Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Living in a Third World country surrounded by poverty and aggression, Max Cavalera and his younger brother Igor were inspired to start their own band after acquiring bootleg copies of recordings by Venom, Metallica, and Voivod.
Originally, the brothers had no intention of launching a music career. They simply wanted something to do to entertain themselves. "I was into real aggressive and extreme things," Max Cavalera explained to Screamer magazine. "That's why I decided to make this kind of music. I saw that it fit in with what I was doing. All my violent life was the same as what I was listening to." With Max singing and playing rhythm guitar and Igor planted firmly behind the drum kit, they quickly enlisted lead guitarist Jairo T. and bassist Paulo Jr. to complete Sepultura's original line-up.
Taking their lead from their name--"sepultura" means "grave" in Portuguese--the group wrote songs related to death, outrage, and destruction. They performed anywhere they could in Belo Horizonte and eventually recorded a few primitive demos. In 1984, they released their first EP, Bestial Devastation, on Cogumelo Records, a tiny Brazilian label.
Two years later, Sepultura increased their following in Brazil with their first full-length album, titled Morbid Visions. The members of the band gained underground attention in both the United States and Europe by sending cassettes to hundreds of fan magazines around the world. The heaviness and aggression in the band's music earned them the endorsement of the underground press, and the word about Sepultura began to spread. In 1986, Jairo T. decided to leave the band, and Andreas Kisser stepped in as Sepultura's new lead guitarist. With the new lineup in place, the band went back into the studio to record Schizophrenia.
More critical acclaim by the music press and an increasing fan base through word of mouth prompted independent U.S. Roadrunner Records to sign the band. Though Sepultura had difficulty communicating in English and the band's members continued to live in Brazil, Roadrunner released Beneath the Remains, the group's first international album, in 1989. Recorded in Brazil and mixed in Florida, Beneath the Remains sold more than 200,000 copies in the United States and Europe combined.
The band ventured out of Brazil to tour clubs in the United States and Europe for the very first time. Not only did Sepultura spread their music throughout the continents, they brought with them stories of a Brazil that went beyond the travelogues. "I think we are the most realistic persons in the country," Max Cavalera said in Screamer. "We are the people that don't talk about the beautiful beaches and the beautiful view, like a postcard. We talk about the reality that we see, just living there and how we felt."
Building a following worldwide, Sepultura returned to their home country in January of 1991 to open for Guns n' Roses, Megadeth, and David Lee Roth at Rio de Janeiro's second Rock in Rio festival. The band performed to a live audience of several hundred thousand people while an estimated 540 million others watched on the television screen.
They returned to Florida to record their second effort with Roadrunner, Arise, which they released later that year. With this album, which sold over one million copies worldwide, Sepultura got their first taste of stardom as they were featured on covers of music magazines around the world. The four boys from Brazil subsequently kicked off their "New Titans on the Bloc" tour across the United States with fellow thrashers Sacred Reich and Napalm Death. They then headed abroad, performing in Israel, Portugal, Italy, Britain, Australia, Japan, New Zealand, Spain, and Greece. The band played four shows in Russia to 60,000 people, two shows in Indonesia to an audience of 70,000, and of course, Brazil where they performed in front of 40,000 fans in their homeland.
Arise sent Sepultura to an entirely new level of success in the world of music, but they vowed they would continue their musical integrity against the pull of commercialism. "We've done it because this kind of music is important to us," Max Cavalera told Melody Maker. "The craziness here is unreal; the craziness where we come from is very real. It's a violent place; there's a lot of crime, a lot of violence. So, for us, no matter what happens, there'll always be a truth to our music. Punk and metal have always spoken the truth to us. Coming from that place, we find real truth in hard things."
In 1992, Sepultura finished nearly two solid years of touring, opening for Ozzy Osbourne, Ministry, and Helmet in American arenas. They documented one of their live performances with a home video concert of a show in Spain. Under Siege (Live in Barcelona) sold over 75,000 copies worldwide. The band finished their tour and traveled to South Wales where they recorded their 1993 release, Chaos A.D., with producer Andy Wallace. Roadrunner Records signed a distribution partnership with Epic/Sony Records, increasing Sepultura's market across the world.
Steering away from previous themes of death, Sepultura used Chaos A.D. to reflect the strife in Brazil as a metaphor for the decay of the modern world. "I always liked the word 'chaos,'" Max Cavalera said in Kerrang! magazine. "There's been chaos over the last 2,000 years, and it seems to get worse every day. So, we named our album after that situation."
Because their road crew resided in Arizona, along with Max's wife/band manager, Gloria Cavalera, Sepultura decided the time had come to move to the United States in 1991. Before their sixth release made it out to the stores, the band relocated to Phoenix, Arizona, where Gloria and Max celebrated the birth of their son, Zyon Graziano Cavalera, in January of 1992. The first sound heard on Chaos A.D. is Zyon's heartbeat, recorded in utero.
"People ask me, 'Did you move because it was dangerous (in Brazil)?'" Max said in Request. "That was not really the reason, but somehow it is involved. I mean, I don't really wanna raise my kid there right now, because the situation there is pretty bad. And even my mother and sister are in Phoenix now. But I don't know, maybe in the future we'll go back there 'cause I think it would be cool to return to Brazil."
With their move to the United States, Sepultura charted new musical territory as well. When the Brazilian government tried to move a tribe of Brazilian Indians out of the rain forest, the tribe committed mass suicide rather than leave their home. This tragedy inspired Sepultura's song "Kaiowas," which the band recorded in a castle to achieve just the right sound. They also incorporated Brazilian instruments like the tamburin and cuica. "Kaiowas" was the first of several songs to reflect the band's rising social sense. In a later recording, "Manifest," Sepultura gave a haunting spoken-word recitation of a hideous massacre at a South American penitentiary.
As Sepultura's music continued to grow, their recognition rose even higher, but their roots in self-entertainment still rang true. "It would be cool if Sepultura got as big as possible," said Max Cavalera in the Los Angeles Times, "but with all the integrity that belongs to the band. If we don't get big, at least the integrity will still be around."
by Sonya Shelton
Band formed in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, c. 1983; released Bestial Devastation, 1984; signed with Roadrunner Records and released first international album, Beneath the Remains, 1989; released video, Under Siege (Live in Barcelona), 1991.
- Selective Works
- Bestial Devastation Cogumelo, 1984.
- Morbid Visions Cogumelo, 1986.
- Schizophrenia Cogumelo, 1987.
- Beneath the Remains Roadrunner, 1989.
- Arise Roadrunner, 1991.
- Chaos A.D. Epic/Roadrunner, 1993.
- Billboard, November 6, 1993.
- Los Angeles Times, December 22, 1993 Melody Maker, November 25, 1989; December 16, 1989; April 13, 1991; July 6, 1991; July 20, 1991 New York Times, December 5, 1992.
- Pulse!, September 1993.
- Request, December 1993.
- RIP Magazine, May 1993.
- Screamer Magazine, December 1990.
- Additional information for this profile was obtained from Epic Records press material, 1993.
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