1995: The year that broke Sepultura
In 1995, Sepultura made the album that should've cemented their legacy. A year later, their career was in tatters. Max, Iggor, Andreas and Paulo discuss a story which has raged on for decades
Sepultura were the greatest success story of the mid-90s. Four kids from the cultural backwater of Belo Horizonte, Brazil, they journeyed from sub-underground death metal no-hopers into global ambassadors for their home country, and for metal as a whole.
The band’s still-explosive 1989 album Beneath The Remains served notice of their impending genius, but it was their fifth full-length record, 1993’s Chaos AD, that found Sepultura jumping several gears, pushing them far beyond their contemporaries. Its groundbreaking mix of jagged noise and South American influences sounded like nothing that came before it, while frontman Max Cavalera raged against corruption and stupidity with the conviction of a man who had nothing left to lose.
The album connected instantly, smashing into the UK Top 20 and the US Top 40 like a Molotov cocktail. Successful tours with the likes of Pantera and Ministry followed.
“During the making of Chaos AD, we were very focused, very organised, very connected,” says guitarist Andreas Kisser today. “We were together, it was a very special moment in Sepultura’s career.”
But there were downsides. The pressures of success, and the responsibilities of being flagbearers for a new generation of metal bands soon began to have an effect on the ‘classic Seps’ line-up of Max, Andreas, bassist Paulo ‘Jr’ Pinto and drummer, Max’s brother Iggor Cavalera.
“All of a sudden we’re this really big machine and we couldn’t really comprehend it,” says Max now. “We didn’t know how to deal with it.”
In October 1995, Sepultura entered Indigo Ranch Studio in Malibu to record the follow-up to Chaos AD with rising nu metal producer Ross Robinson. The album built on the indigenous Brazilian influences of its predecessor, simultaneously taking them further away from their death metal past towards an incendiary, groove-driven battery.
Max: “There was no pressure on the music side. We’d proved that we could take this thing in any direction we wanted, and it was great.”
Iggor: “It was very early where Max came up with the Roots song, and from then on we were building, thinking about what would be the ‘roots’ of our music. We did a lot of crazy experimenting.”
Andreas: “Ross Robinson had a whole new perspective. He came and showed a lot of new possibilities for us. He really brought that idea of the ‘Brazilianness’: the jams, the free approach to everything.”