How Sepultura’s Roots Influenced Latin American Metal Bands

In the mid to late 90s, something funny happened simultaneously in American pop culture. Bright, innocent pop like Britney Spears and the Backstreet Boys topped the charts, radio and MTV. But there was also dark, brooding and sexual metal music on full display. The bands that became known as nu metal – Korn, Deftones and Limp Bizkit – caused shock and awe with their combination of heavy riffs, DJ scratches and rap-like vocals. But before nu metal exploded and its relevance, or lack thereof, began to cause debate in the metal field, a group with a highly respected career and discography decided to give their opinion on the genre. It was the birth of Rootsthe seventh studio album by Brazilian band Sepultura, which took a new direction for the band.

By then, Sepultura had been around for over a decade. The band formed in 1984 and established themselves as a creative and influential group in the world of thrash and death metal, mainly with the albums Under the remains (1989) and ANNOUNCEMENT of chaos (1991). In 1995 the band decided it was time to switch things up and pursue a slower, more groovy sound. To make it work, they brought in nu metal producer Ross Robinson to work on their next album.

Art by Stephany Torres for Remezcla.

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But Roots wasn’t just nu metal. It was also inspired by a lot of groove metal and also went beyond heavy music, incorporating folklore, indigenous music and afro blocos drumming (Bahian carnival drumming groups) as Sepultura sought their Brazilian roots. It was refreshing for metal and rock in general. And to this day, it is considered one of the best and most popular albums in the band’s discography, “Roots Bloody Roots” being one of Sepultura’s biggest hits.

Roots was so popular that brothers Max (guitar and vocals) and Igor Cavalera (drums) toured Latin America in July and August to celebrate the record’s 25th anniversary. Max left Sepultura in 1996 right after the album’s release to form his own distinctly nu-metal project Soulfly, and Igor left in 2006 due to personal issues. Since 2007 the brothers have been touring and recording together under the name Cavalera Conspiracy, where they perform Sepultura songs. This year they are celebrating Roots touring Mexico, Colombia, Chile, Brazil and other countries where alternative metal scenes were forming at the time of the album’s release.

This is the case of Medellín, in Colombia. The city had a strong post-punk and goth scene in the 90s, and it was there that the members of the band Nepentes met in 1998. By the end of the decade, Colombian rock music was also heavily influenced by the aggressive hardcore punk and groove metal. but the Nepentes were always looking for their own sound. It’s there that Roots entered.

“We were already listening to nu metal – Deftones, Korn, Limp Bizkit, [Mexican band] resort. But then I remember everybody started talking about Roots,” said Juan Fernando Álvarez, the singer of the group, by e-mail. “They were the new heroes. It was very innovative and, of course, it also influenced Nepentes years later.

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In 1998, Nepentes released their first EP, Latinoamerica tierra de inocentes (“Latin America, innocent’s land”), with heavy riffs and politically charged lyrics on social issues like economic disparity, which have followed the band to the present day, despite nu metal’s fame of being vapid. Political lyrics are also an important part of Roots, which deals a lot with indigenous issues and Brazilian political history, such as the military dictatorship. “We have always taken advantage of the genre to make these problems even more aggressive,” notes Álvarez.

In fact, the aggressiveness of nu metal in Latin America has caused the genre to be known as aggro metal in some countries, especially Chile. One of the most successful Chilean aggro metal bands at the time was Dracma, formed in 1996 by vocalist Felipe “Felo” Foncea, his brother, drummer Cote Foncea, and three other friends.

“[We listened to] a lot of rock, but we also come from a school with a lot of soul, Latin music (Brazilian, Argentinian, Peruvian), folk music, etc. “says Felo over email. Dracma’s self-titled debut album was released in 1999. Felo’s playful, distorted guitar riffs and infectious flow made Dracma explode on the Chilean rock scene and guarantee that the band will play many great concerts, including opening for Korn in 2002 and even Sepultura in 2003.

“It was a brutal show. We found a lot of connection with the band and the audience,” says Felo. “Sepultura had a huge influence, and Roots demonstrated that metal can be linked to the folklore of each country. It has helped many young musicians to look at their own musical roots and try these mixes.

Roots’ the ties to Latin American folklore went far beyond mere reference. While designing the album, the band traveled to Mato Grosso and met people from Xavante to record with them. Their particular sound and their way of approaching the music stuck to Sepultura, and the references to indigenous and Brazilian cultures, in general, are omnipresent in the album. For example, in “Roots Bloody Roots”, which is literally about getting in touch with one’s roots, “Ratamahatta”, which refers to the Brazilian favelas, and “Ambush”, a tribute to Chico Mendes, an advocate for the preservation of Amazon rain. -forest who was assassinated in 1988.

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For Zhândio Huku, singer and founder of Brazilian indigenous folk metal band Arandu Arakuaa, Roots is a “classic record and a source of pride for all of Latin America,” he says over email. “From cover to [the track] “Itsári”, recorded with the Xavante, indigenous issues are omnipresent in the album. »

Zhândio moved from Tocantins to Brasília in 2008 to form Arandu Arakuaa. For him, rock and metal are still very urban genres, far removed from where he grew up, where he listened to a lot of regional Brazilian music like baião and vaquejada. The band’s music is heavily influenced by these genres, and their lyrics, written in indigenous languages ​​like Tupi, Xerente and Xavante, speak of the struggles, legends and rituals of the people.

“There still aren’t many indigenous rock or metal bands,” says Zândhio. “But anyone who lives in this land that we now call Brazil should know that this is indigenous land. Therefore, defending indigenous peoples is not a favor, it should be an obligation.

Although Max, Igor and the rest of the original band members were not indigenous, Roots does exactly what Zândhio asks. And 25 years after its release, its legacy is still present in Brazil and the rest of Latin America. Posters promoting the tour state that “O futuro é indígena”, or “the future is indigenous”. Drawing on our collective past, Roots shaped the future.

About Joan J. Hernandez

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