Starter Kit: Max Cavalera

I’ve previously expressed my opinions, however brief, about Max Cavalera: ex-Sepultura singer, groove metal pioneer and overall Brazilian badass. While I haven’t been the biggest fan of Cavalera’s recent output of music, I nonetheless owe a great debt to this man, as without him I probably wouldn’t be into metal the way I am now. It was albums like Roots and Chaos A.D. and the first handful of Soulfly releases that helped me bridge the gap from my start in Metallica to heavier bands, while simultaneously creating a big interest in rhythmic beats and world music.

I thought that I would be a good idea to do a little Starter Kit for people who aren’t entirely aware of the scope of Cavalera’s discography, and wished to pursue him further. While the following albums are only a very small fragment of what’s out there with Cavalera’s name on it, I believe that they accurately portray the various sounds and themes that Cavalera has explored in his career.

sepultura-roots

There are a lot of “TR00” metal purists out there who consider Sepultura’s groove metal era (i.e. Chaos A.D. to the present day, really) to be not as good as the band’s thrash metal years (Arise, Beneath the Remains, etc.). I’m not here to debate that, but I think when we think of Max Cavalera, no Sepultura album does him more justice than his final album with the band, Roots.

Why? Because Roots is pure Cavalera, from beginning to close. It’s a brutal album—the vocals in it showcase some of Cavalera’s best singing to date (just listen to “Roots Bloody Roots” and tell me otherwise), and the overall instrumental groove makes this an incredibly moshable album.

What really brings Roots together, though, is the strong world music influence Sepultura included from their time spent with the indigenous Xavante of Brazil. “Attitude” includes Cavalera playing the berimbau, while “Itsari” contains actual recordings of the Xavante people with Sepultura, and “Ratamahatta” features Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown bringing some incredible singing and attitude to the table. All this influence put together makes an album that is epic in its presentation, tribal in its execution, and just heavy as fuck all the way around.

Roots is also an album that had a lasting impression on Cavalera, as he began to explore world music and spiritual themes heavily during the early Soulfly albums.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F_6IjeprfEs

soulfly-dark-ages

Soulfly’s discography can sort of be divided into two major eras. The first, as previously mentioned (spanning from the band’s self-titled debut to 2004’s Prophecy), features a heavy emphasis on world music and religion on top of a largely groove metal sound. The latter era—starting with Dark Ages—lessens the religious tones and world music (though world music is always integral to Soulfly’s sound) while simultaneously focusing on more thrash-influenced metal and darker themes such as death.

Dark Ages is yet again an incredibly heavy album. Cavalera’s vocals are so pained at times that it sounds like he’s working through some serious problems (which he was at the time, what with the death of his grandson, and the recent shooting of Pantera guitarist Dimebag Darrell). The influences on Dark Ages range from fast, thrash-influenced groove metal to even moments of industrial metal, such as the track “(The) March,” to light world elements, like Cavalera’s use of berimbau in “Riotstarter.” This albums also marks the second Soulfly release recorded with ex-Ill Niño guitar virtuoso Marc Rizzo, who adds some great guitar parts and a number of incredible solos.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=F2Fr0lcPmio

nailbomb-point-blank

The Nailbomb project was a short-lived collaboration between Cavalera and Fudge Tunnel co-founder and record producer Alex Newport that really only consisted of this album. However, it is one hell of an album, if the cover art—a photograph of a Vietnamese woman (presumed Vietcong) with a gun to her head—didn’t already convince you of that fact, full of beefy guitars and a relatively industrial feel.

Cavalera’s influence and contribution are probably most heard on this album—after all, you can’t have an album with Max Cavalera without guitar that makes you want to throw the first molotov cocktail in a supercharged riot. However, Newport’s work on the album gives Point Blank a little bit of a change from other Cavalera releases. Max’s brother Igor (who later joined him in the supergroup Cavalera Conspiracy) contributes some drums for about half of the album’s tracks, but for the most part the sounds not already coming from guitar and vocal performances are sampled in the song. It gives the album a pretty cool industrial influence, as if Al Jorgensen almost had a hand in making it.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e5jkAUyhDGY

Again, I believe that these albums best represent the range of Cavalera’s style throughout his career; although he’s played primarily thrash and groove metal, he’s done both with some neat reinterpretations of and additions to each. You could distinctly put Cavalera’s work into three relative categories, which I will below, depending on which albums interested you the most.

Other Albums to Check Out:

  • Thrash Metal
    • Sepultura—Beneath the Remains; Arise
    • Soulfly—Conquer
  • Groove Metal
    • Soulfly—Soulfly, Primitive, Prophecy
    • Sepultura—Chaos AD
    • Cavalera Conspiracy—Inflikted
  • Misc. (Sort of a mix of the above)
    • Killer Be KilledKiller Be Killed
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