For more than twelve years, Sepultura has beaten the odds, accepted and overcome challenges, and triumphed over every obstacle thrown in their path. But in December of 1996, the band who first emerged from Brazil over a decade earlier faced their greatest challenge yet: the departure of frontman and co-founder Max Cavalera. The remaining members of the band knew they had reached a crossroads.
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"Throughout this year-and-a-half, we thought about everything," says Andreas. "We did, in fact, think about saying, fuck everybody, fuck music, fuck bands, fuck everything.' But we didn't make any decisions during the most turbulent time, because those decisions usually turn out to be the wrong ones. We took things slow and took our time to think everything through."
Now, in 1998, Sepultura is back with an album as filled with ferocity and power as anything they've previously done. AGAINST, produced by Howard Benson and mixed by Bill Kennedy, takes Sepultura into territory they've never explored before, and introduces the world to the band's new singer, Derrick Green. Basing it all firmly on the foundation of the band's six previous studio albums, yet incorporating new musical influences and the broad new range of Green's vocals, Sepultura is re-launching themselves with a whole new freshness and energy.
"We didn't even know if we would use the name Sepultura," says Igor Cavalera about the band's evolution. "We decided that we would write a few songs first, and if it didn't sound like anything resembling Sepultura, then we would stop using the name right away. But once we had a few songs, we saw that we were justified in keeping the name. And the more we played, the more comfortable we felt. Our only relief during this whole time was playing music."
Music is what literally saved Igor and Max Cavalera from an obscure existence in Belo Horizonte, a small Brazilian city. The brothers formed Sepultura in 1984 with Paulo Pinto and original guitarist Jairo T. After a couple of crude early releases (the Bestial Devastation EP and Morbid Visions album), Andreas replaced Jairo and the band kicked themselves to a new level of musicianship with the now classic Schizophrenia. That album, and a growing underground fan base, persuaded Roadrunner Records to sign the fledgling act. Sepultura's first worldwide release, Beneath The Remains, was voted one of 1989's top metal albums by critics everywhere and was hailed as a masterpiece of the genre.
Three more albums, Arise (1991), Chaos A.D. (1993), and the groundbreaking Roots (1996) found Sepultura incorporating more and more different influences into their style, ranging from ancestral Brazilian sounds to African roots music, creating a unique blend of genres that, coupled with the band's near-legendary live show, made Sepultura a million-selling act around the globe. But different views on the band's business affairs led to a parting of the ways that even the band members' strong bonds couldn't prevent.
"A lot of people really thought that Sepultura was only Max, and we were only the musicians behind him," says Andreas. "But Sepultura was always everybody together, and everybody contributed their ideas. We have the same attitude, the same music, and the same message. The only thing different is that Derrick is here now."
Born in Cleveland, Derrick Green has been singing since he was 16, when he joined the Midwest hardcore act Outface. He and the guitarist moved to New York after six years together to form Overfiend. When Sepultura announced that they were looking for a new vocalist, a Roadrunner A&R man sent them an Overfiend demo and told them to check it out.
"We sent him a tape of "Choke" and asked him to put vocals over it," recalls Andreas. "We liked it a lot, so we invited him to come to Brazil, because we were staying there at the end of last year. So we got together, and right away, we were pretty sure he was the man. Not just because of Derrick's technical abilities, but because he's like us. He really believes in the same stuff, has the same vibe--plus he really likes soccer!"
"I didn't know what direction they wanted to go in, but I knew that if they wanted someone who was identical to Max, it would have been totally ridiculous and I wouldn't have done it," says Derrick. "I didn't want to do anything remotely similar to that, because it's just not me. So it was really important for me to meet them and find out what they were looking for."
Once it was established that Green was "the man," the band commenced recording, laying down tracks in several different locations, including studios in Brazil and, for one memorable song, Japan. "We recorded a song called "Kamaitachi" with Kodo, a Japanese percussion group," says Andreas. "We spent four days in Japan and it was very cool to switch to something different and use elements from a different musical culture. It's not as prevalent as the other influences were on Roots, although the album artwork also reflects a Japanese influence."
For Derrick, the new man on the scene, recording was an enjoyable experience. "There was a lot of pressure at first--and it started to get to me for a little while. I could feel it internally, physically. But after meeting the guys, they made it a totally non-stressful situation. We listened to the songs, and it only took four or five days to open up, get into the rhythm and begin communicating ideas back and forth. It was a learning experience for myself and the test of the band."
Now that AGAINST is ready to be unleashed upon the world, Sepultura will take to the road and do what they do best: bring their music to audiences around the world. "We've grown a lot in the last year-and-a-half," says Paulo Pinto. "We learned to stick together more, and found out a lot of what friendship is really about. When we go out on tour, that's really gonna express itself onstage. We're very excited about getting out and playing again."
Having survived the most difficult period of their careers, Sepultura has refocused on what playing music means to them, and are proud to let AGAINST speak for them. "It's a good time to come back to the idea of what Sepultura is," concludes Igor. "It's not just me, or Andreas, or Paulo, or Derrick--it's the chemistry of four people playing together."
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