photo & text by nacrowe
when i discovered SEPULTURA in sixth grade back in 1995, it was a few months after my FAMILY moved to NIGERIA from SOUTHERN CALIFORNIA. on a FAMILY trip to ITALY, between my brother and me we scored TOOL's UNDERTOW (review linked HERE), RAGE AGAINST THE MACHINE'S self-titled debut (EPIC, 1992), FAITH NO MORE's ANGEL DUST (review linked HERE) and SEPULTURA's CHAOS AD (ROADRUNNER, 1993) and ROOTS (ROADRUNNER, 1996) albums. it was one of the better and most INFLUENTIAL record hauls of my life and very much served as the SOUNDTRACK to my experience living in LAGOS during my middle school years. i say this only to setup the fact that MAX CAVALERA's music helped CONTEXTUALIZE the rampant POLITICAL and ECONOMIC CORRUPTION and widespread HUMAN SUFFERING i witnessed of a burdened population with its neck firmly under the boot of a MERCILESS and BRUTAL MILITARY DICTATORSHIP. i was also similarly gutted the following year when CAVALERA left SEPULTURA, effectively ending their relevance as a creative entity moving forward.
my motivation for reading MY BLOODY ROOTS: FROM SEPULTURA TO SOULFLY AND BEYOND (JAWBONE PRESS, 2022) was to gain some INSIGHT and CONTEXT in his own words into the BELOVED BRAZILIAN METAL icon MAX CAVALERA and his ECLECTIC career that i've followed and enjoyed for most of my life. to me the dude is a SINGULAR figure, even among the CELEBRATED greats of the genre, in that he has continued to expand both the LEXICON of the genre by incorporating new TEXTURES and INSTRUMENTS, often from INDIGENOUS world traditions, and has seemingly brought the extended FAMILY of METAL together throughout his career. METAL can feel a bit INSULAR at times, with the never-ending patchwork of evermore OBSCURE sub-genres, but CAVALERA seemingly proves the COMMONALITY and SHARED NATURE of such ARTISTIC EXPRESSION with each DISTINCT iteration and recording by his ongoing SOULFLY project (which has touched on everything from DEATH METAL, THRASH METAL, BLACK METAL, CROSSOVER THRASH, GRINDCORE, DOOM METAL, SLUDGE METAL and even NU METAL).
in MY BLOODY ROOTS, CAVALERA presents a BRAZILIAN childhood that was marked by the death of his ITALIAN father when he was 9, effectively impoverishing his FAMILY and transitioning his life in short order from one of means and SECURITY to one of SURVIVAL. by the time he was 13, CAVALERA decided that music was his means not only of EXPRESSION and employment, but also an IDENTITY and sense of COMMUNITY in the wake of his father's passing. it seems obvious that CAVALERA's knack for COMMUNITY BUILDING started in that moment and has continued unabated to the present. along with his drumming brother IGGOR, CAVALERA established SEPULTURA and gradually learned his instrument and the band made its way up the ladder in BRAZIL, each record expanding on the prior in terms of LYRICAL CONTENT, TECHNICAL PROFICIENCY and SONIC BRUTALITY. this culminated in ROOTS, which saw the band incorporate INDIGENOUS RHYTHMS and TEXTURES into their EVER-EXPANDING SOUND, even collaborating some field recordings with the native XAVANTE tribe in the interior MASSO GRATO state in BRAZIL. in the wake of the demise of SEPULTURA, CAVALERA through his SOULFLY has incorporated word RHYTHMS and TEXTURES from SERBIA, TURKEY, RUSSIA and EGYPT among other places to date.
SEPULTURA effectively broke up due to INTERNAL business tensions over their manager GLORIA, who in time was married to CAVALERA. the band thought MAX was given PREFERENTIAL treatment and that they could do better as a unit with outside management. her firing led to CAVALERA's quitting SEPULTURA, the band he started with his brother, who stayed along for another decade. the band is still an ongoing entity today, but their influence and stature is nominal at best. they are essentially a HOLLOWED-OUT edifice of what was a ONCE-PROMISING BAND poised to be the next METALLICA.
the story of CAVALERA's career is one of finding COMMUNITY in the face of DISAPPOINTMENT and TRAUMA at the STAGGERING LOSS of his FATHER, his BAND and his STEPSON. it is also the story of coming to terms with such and the DESTRUCTIVE coping mechanisms he employed surrounding the excessive use of alcohol and other chemicals. the fact that he address such head-on with no fanfare and went to rehab with the right attitude and came out successful is a testament to his sheer will and LOVE and CONNECTION to his FAMILY, both of the blood and musical variety. i truly feel that what separates CAVALERA is his INTENTION. you never feel that he is going through the motions, just writing and performing music for its own sake. there is a palpable EDGE and a real sense that this process is deeply PERSONAL and CATHARTIC for him, always. in turn the listener buys into the SENTIMENT as well and treats him as a REVERED sage on a truly CHAOTIC but INSIGHTFUL aural journey.
i'm always interested in his work with any number of his myriad of side projects, from CAVALERA CONSPIRACY with his brother, to KILLER BE KILLED with peers from THE DILLNGER ESCAPE PLAN and MASTODON, and GO AHEAD AND DIE with his son ZYON. not to mention the downright INCENDIARY NAILBOMB. his memoir MY BLOODY ROOTS may be a bit STRAIGHTFORWARD and UNADORNED, but its HEARTFELT and and unassailably AUTHENTIC much like his music. most definitely recommended.