Sepultura (Portuguese for “grave“) is a Brazilian metal band from Belo Horizonte, formed in 1984. The band was a major force in the death metal, thrash metal and ultimately groove metal realms during the late 1980s and early 1990s,with their later experiments melding nu metal, hardcore punk and industrial metal.
Sepultura have released 12 studio albums so far, the latest being Kairos (2011). Their most successful records are Arise(1991), Chaos A.D. (1993), and Roots (1996). Sepultura has sold over 3 million units in the USA and almost 20 million worldwide, gaining multiple gold and platinum records across the globe, including in countries as diverse asFrance, Australia, Indonesia, United States, Cyprus and their native Brazil.
Sepultura was formed in 1984 in Belo Horizonte, the capital city of Minas Gerais, Brazil. The band was founded by teen brothers Max and Igor Cavalera, the impoverished sons of Vânia, a model, and Graciliano, a well-to-do Italian diplomatwhose fatal heart attack left his family in financial ruin. Graciliano’s death deeply affected his sons, inspiring them to form a band after Max heard the album Black Sabbath Vol. 4 the very same day. They chose the band name Sepultura, the Portuguese word for “grave,” when Max translated the lyrics of the Motörhead song “Dancing on Your Grave”.
The brothers’ early influences included Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and Deep Purple, and the popular metal and hard rock artists of the early 1980s, such as Van Halen,Iron Maiden, Motörhead, AC/DC, Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne. They would travel to a record shop in São Paulo that mixed tapes of the latest records by American bands. Their listening habits changed dramatically after being introduced to Venom. As Igor Cavalera put it:
|“||I remember the first time I listened to Venom, it was on a friend’s borrowed tape. It was similar to Motörhead, only a lot heavier. I remember someone saying: it’s the devil’s Motörhead! After we got acquainted with Venom, we stopped listening to Iron Maiden and all that lighter stuff.||”|
The Cavalera brothers started listening to bands such as Kreator, Sodom, Megadeth, Exodus and Exciter. By 1984, they had dropped out of school. After several early membership changes, Sepultura established a stable lineup of Max on guitar, Igor on drums, vocalist Wagner Lamounier, and bassist Paulo Jr. Lamounier departed in March 1985 after disagreements with the band, and moved on to become the leader of the pioneering Brazilian black metal band Sarcófago. After his departure, Max took over the vocal duties. Jairo Guedes was invited to join the band as lead guitarist.
Bestial Devastation and Morbid Visions (1984–1986)
After about a year of performing, Sepultura signed to Cogumelo Records in 1985. Later that year, they released Bestial Devastation, a shared EP with fellow Brazilian band Overdose. It was self-produced and recorded in just two days. The band recorded their first debut full-length album, Morbid Visions, in August 1986. It contained their first hit, “Troops of Doom,” which gained some media attention. The band then decided to relocate to the larger city of São Paulo.
Schizophrenia, Beneath the Remains and Arise (1987–1992)
In early 1987, Jairo Guedes quit the band after losing interest in playing death metal. Jairo was replaced by São Paulo-based guitarist Andreas Kisser, and they released their second studio album, Schizophrenia, in 1987. The album reflected a stylistic change towards a more thrash metal-oriented sound, while still keeping the death metal elements of Morbid Visions. Schizophrenia was an improvement in production and performance, and became a minor critical sensation across Europe and America as a much sought-after import. The band sent tapes to America that made radio playlists at a time when they were struggling to book gigs because club owners were afraid to book them due to their style. The band gained attention from Roadrunner Records who signed them and released Schizophrenia internationally before seeing the band perform in person.
The band’s third studio album, Beneath the Remains, was released in 1989. The album was recorded in a rustic studio in Rio de Janeiro while the band communicated through translators with the American producer Scott Burns. It was an immediate success and became known in thrash metal circles as a classic on the order of Slayer’s Reign in Blood. It is hailed by Terrorizer magazine as one of the all-time top 20 thrash metal albums, as well as a gaining a place in their all-time top 40 death metal records. Allmusic gave the album 4.5 stars out of 5 and said, “The complete absence of filler here makes this one of the most essential death/thrash metal albums of all time.” A long European and American tour furthered the band’s reputation, despite the fact that they were still very limited English speakers. Their first US show was held on October 31, 1989 at the Ritz in New York City, opening for Danish heavy metal band King Diamond. The band filmed its first video for the single “Inner Self”.
In January 1991 Sepultura played for more than 100,000 people at the Rock in Rio II festival. The band relocated from their native Brazil to Phoenix, Arizona in 1990, obtained new management, and recorded the album Arise at Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida. By the time the album was released in 1991, the band had become one of the most critically praised thrash/death metal bands of the time. The first single “Dead Embryonic Cells” was a success, and the title track gained additional attention when its video was banned by MTV America due to its apocalyptic religious imagery. The album was critically acclaimed and their first to chart on the Billboard 200, reaching #119.
Max Cavalera married the band’s manager, Gloria Bujnowski, during this period. In 1992, Sepultura was part of two major tours: Helmet/Ministry and Alice in Chains/Ozzy Osbourne. Reflecting on their past in Brazil at the time, Max Cavalera said, “Traveling on trains. Getting beat up by cops. Sleeping behind the stage. It’s part of growing up. It’s part of the nature of this stuff. If you don’t have that kind of background, you can’t be a band like us.”
Chaos A.D. and Roots (1993–1996)
Sepultura’s fifth album, Chaos A.D., was released in 1993. It saw a departure from their death/thrash metal style, adding elements of industrial and hardcore punk.Allmusic gave the album 4.5 stars out of 5 and wrote that, “Chaos A.D. ranks as one of the greatest heavy metal albums of all time.” In 1994, Max and Igor, aided by Alex Newport of Fudge Tunnel, released an even more industrial-oriented album, Point Blank, under the group name Nailbomb. The group performed only one full live gig, and the performance was released as Proud to Commit Commercial Suicide.
Sepultura’s departure from death and thrash metal continued with their sixth album, Roots, which was released in 1996. On this album the band experimented with elements of the music of Brazil’s indigenous peoples, and adopted a slower, down-tuned sound. The album was hailed as a modern day heavy metal classic. Allmusicgave it 4.5 stars out of 5 and said, “Roots consolidates Sepultura’s position as perhaps the most distinctive, original heavy metal band of the 1990s.”
Departure of Max Cavalera (1996–1997)
In 1996, Sepultura played on the Castle Donington Monsters of Rock main stage alongside Ozzy Osbourne, Paradise Lost, Type O Negative, Biohazard and Fear Factory. The band was suddenly a three-piece with Andreas Kisser taking over on lead vocals, after Max Cavalera left the concert site earlier in the day upon learning of the murder of his stepson Dana Wells. Meanwhile, just after the release of Roots the band decided to fire their manager Gloria Bujnowski, who was Max’s wife and Dana’s mother. These events resulted in Max’s departure from the band. For many years, the true reasons behind his departure remained unknown. Max ultimately left the band after a performance at Brixton Academy in England on December 16, 1996, and later formed a new band, Soulfly. The remaining members of Sepultura announced that they would continue with a new lead vocalist. In 1996, Sepultura performed “War (Guerra)” for the AIDS benefit album Silencio=Muerte: Red Hot + Latin produced by the Red Hot Organization.
In an interview with Faceculture in 2010, Max Cavelera explains that one of the reasons why he left Sepultura was because Andreas Kisser’s wife attempted to arrange Dana Wells’s funeral before Max and his wife Gloria Bujnowski could return home from England. Max later offered to allow Kisser and Paulo Jr. to be managed by someone else, while Max and Igor would retain Bujnowski as their manager, but Kisser rejected the plan. Max claimed in the interview that he regrets these events but a reunion is unlikely due to lingering disputes between him and Kisser.
Derrick Green era
Against, Nation and Roorback (1998–2005)
Sepultura chose American singer Derrick Green from Cleveland, Ohio as their new front man. The first album with the new lineup was Against, which was released in 1998. The album was critically and commercially less successful than previous albums and sold considerably fewer copies than the debut album by Max Cavalera’s new band Soulfly. Allmusic gave the album 3 stars out of 5, stating that “…there are enough flashes of the old Sepultura brilliance to suggest that great things are still to come.”
The band’s eighth album, Nation, released in 2001, sold poorly. It would be their last studio album with Roadrunner Records. Allmusic gave the album 3 stars out of 5 and said, “As Green scrapes the lining of his vocal chords through the brash, impassioned tracks, he’s singing about more than just ‘one nation, Sepulnation’; he’s suggesting something bigger, something worth shouting about and fighting for.” In an interview, Derrick Green said that, “Every song will be related to the idea of building this nation. We will have our own flags, our own anthem.” A recording of Max Cavalera’s last live show with Sepultura, titled Under A Pale Grey Sky, was released in 2002 by Roadrunner Records, against the wishes of the band.
After recording Revolusongs, an EP of covers in 2002, the band released their ninth studio album, Roorback, in 2003. Despite receiving greater critical acclaim than its predecessors, sales remained low. It was their first album with SPV Records. Allmusic gave the album 4 stars out of 5 and said, “…if there are still any lingering doubts about the Green/Sepultura match, 2003’s excellent Roorback should put them to rest for good. Green is passionate and focused throughout the album — he has no problem going that extra mile — and the writing is consistently strong.” In 2005, the band played in Dubai for the annual Dubai Desert Rock Festival. In November of that year, a live double DVD/double CD package, Live in São Paulo, was released. This was the first official live album from the band.
Dante XXI and A-Lex (2006–2010)
Sepultura’s tenth album, Dante XXI, was released on March 14, 2006. It is a concept album based on Dante‘s The Divine Comedy. Music videos were recorded for the songs “Convicted in Life” and “Ostia”. Allmusic gave the album 3.5 stars out of 5 and said that, “Overall, Dante XXI is easily one of Sepultura’s strongest releases to feature Green on vocals.”
In a 2007 interview with Revolver Magazine, Max Cavalera stated that he and Igor would reunite with the original Sepultura lineup. There were also rumors that the reunited line up would play on the main stage at Ozzfest 2007. However, this was denied by Kisser and the reunion did not occur. Instead, Igor Cavalera left the band after the release of Dante XXI and was replaced by Brazilian drummer Jean Dolabella. Igor left and formed Cavalera Conspiracy with his brother.
Sepultura appeared in a successful ad campaign for Volkswagen motors commercial that aired nationally throughout Brazil in 2008. The spot said that “it’s the first time you’ve seen Sepultura like this. And a Sedan like this one too”. The Volkswagen TV spot shows Sepultura playing bossa nova, the opposite of its heavy metal style, to say that “you never saw something like this, as you never saw a car like the new Voyage”.
Sepultura released the album A-Lex on 26 January 2009. This was the first Sepultura album to include neither of the Cavalera brothers, with bassist Paulo Jr. as the sole remaining member from the band’s debut album. A-Lex is a concept album based on the book A Clockwork Orange. The album was recorded at Trama Studios in São Paulo, Brazil, with producer Stanley Soares. Allmusic gave the album 4 stars out of 5 and said, “Personnel changes can have a very negative effect on a band, but Sepultura have maintained their vitality all these years — and that vitality is alive and well on the superb A-Lex.”
The band was one of the featured musical guests at the Latin Grammy Awards of 2008 on November 13. They performed a cover of “The Girl from Ipanema“, and “We’ve Lost You” from the album A-Lex. The 9th annual Latin Grammy Awards ceremony was held at the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas and aired on Univision.Sepultura supported Metallica on January 30 and January 31, 2010 at Morumbi Stadium in São Paulo, Brazil. The two concerts were attended by 100,000 people. The band filmed a concert DVD in 2010. Sepultura played at Kucukciftlik Park, Istanbul, on April 27, 2010. On August 8, 2010 visited the UK to play at the Hevy Music Festival near Folkestone.
On July 6, 2010, it was announced that Sepultura were signed with Nuclear Blast Records, and would release their first album for the label in 2011. The band confirmed that there would be no reunion of the classic lineup. By the end of 2010, the band began writing new material and entered the studio to begin recording their 12th album with producer Roy Z (Judas Priest, Halford, Iron Maiden‘s Bruce Dickinson, Helloween and Andre Matos). On March 1, 2011, Sepultura had completed recording their new album, entitled Kairos, which was released in June 2011. 
The album includes cover versions of Ministry‘s “Just One Fix” and The Prodigy‘s “Firestarter“, both of which are available as bonus tracks on various special-edition releases. Sepultura played on the Kairos World Tour and at Wacken Open Air 2011. Drummer Jean Dolabella left the band and was replaced by 20 year old Eloy Casagrande in November 2011, who had already played in Brazilian heavy metal singer Andre Matos‘ solo band. In November and December 2011 Sepultura participated the Thrashfest Classics 2011 tour alongside thrash metal bands like Exodus, Destruction, Heathen and Mortal Sin.
In May 2012, guitarist Andreas Kisser told Metal Underground that Sepultura will soon “start working on something new with Eloy” and see if they “can get ready for new music early next year.”
MTV has called Sepultura the most successful Brazilian heavy metal band in history and “perhaps the most important heavy metal band of the ’90s”. In 1993, one reporter wrote that the band played “machine-gun-tempo mayhem” but that the members “love to attack organized religion and repressive government”.
Sepultura’s music has been described as death metal, thrash metal, groove metal, alternative metal, black metal, speed metal and doom metal. The group have been credited by some and praised by others for setting the blueprints for metalcore and nu metal.
- Paulo Jr. – bass (1984–present), backing vocals (1985–1987; 2011–present)
- Andreas Kisser – lead guitar, backing vocals (1987–present)
- Derrick Green – lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1997–present)
- Eloy Casagrande – drums, percussion (2011–present)
- Max Cavalera – lead vocals, rhythm guitar (1985–1997), lead guitar, backing vocals (1984–1985)
- Igor Cavalera – drums, percussion (1984–2006)
- Jairo Guedes – lead guitar (1985–1987), rhythm guitar (1984–1985)
- Wagner Lamounier – lead vocals (1984–1985)
- Jean Dolabella – drums, percussion (2006–2011)
- Roy Mayorga – drums, percussion (2006)
- Almilcar Cristófaro – drums (2011)
• 1985 – Bestial Devastation (EP)
• 1986 – Morbid Visions
• 1987 – Schizophrenia
• 1989 – Beneath the Remains
• 1991 – Arise
• 1993 – Chaos A.D.
• 1996 – Roots
• 1998 – Against
• 2001 – Nation
• 2003 – Roorback
• 2006 – Dante XXI
• 2009 – A-Lex
• 2011 – Kairos