Country: Brazil
Genre: Groove / Nu / Tribal Thrash Metal
Label: Roadrunner Records
Year: 1996

While being at the top of their career, with great albums succeeding one another and a huge fanbase extending to all the four points of horizon, Sepultura decided to spice things up a bit and enter a whole new era, changing their sound, their ‘traditional’ structures and their lyrical themes more than before, by releasing “Roots”. “Roots” is Sepultura’s sixth studio album and it was released on February 20th 1996 via Roadrunner Records and was in fact the band’s last studio album to feature Max Cavalera, the mastermind behind Sepultura’s legacy. Following the experimentalism of the album “Chaos A.D.”, “Roots” has more influence from Brazilian musical rhythms, and features Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown (participating in tracks like “Ratamahatta”, “Dictatorshit” and “Endangered Species”), percussionist David Silveria, turntablist DJ Lethal, and vocalists Jonathan Davis and Mike Patton.

sepultura“Members of the rock band Sepultura visit a Xavante Amazonian Tribe for upcoming album “Roots” in November 1995 in Brazil. (Photo by Michael Grecco)”

Among the elements used (taken from genres, such as Death Metal, Thrash Metal and Groove Metal), the inspiration for Sepultura’s new musical direction was drawn by two things; one was the desire to further experiment with the music of Brazil, especially the percussive type played by Salvador, Bahia samba reggae group Olodum and the other was to try and sound like Korn’s debut release, with its heavily down-tuned guitars, with chugging yet make-you-wanna-dance riffs. This unique experimentation with ambient, folk, traditional instruments and industrial sounds mixed with ‘groove’ metal brought new dynamics to the band. Sepultura incorporated all these elements into almost all songs in the album. Fun fact is that one of them (“Itsári”) was actually recorded with members of the Xavante Indians at their ancestral home. (“Itsari” means “roots” in the Xavante language. The chant included in this track is the “Datsi Wawere” healing ceremony chant.)

The concept for the album was inspired by the three hour film “At Play in the Fields of the Lord” (1991), directed by Hector Babenco (You can find more info here: The movie inspired Max Cavalera to travel to Mato Grosso, Brazil to visit the Xavante tribe. As a result, the majority of the lyrical themes presented on “Roots” re-centered on Brazilian culture and politics. The political basis of the tracks can be clearly found in the track “Dictatorshit”, which refers to the 1964 Brazilian coup d’état. Staying on the lyrical part, long-time friend Mike Patton (of alternative metal band Faith No More) and Jonathan Davis (of nu metal band Korn) provided lyrics and vocals on the song “Lookaway”. The last words in the song “Cut-Throat” are “Enslavement, Pathetic, Ignorant, Corporations”. This spells EPIC, the record company with which Sepultura had some trouble during their previous album, “Chaos A.D.”. The lyrics to “Attitude” were co-written by Dana Wells, Max Cavalera’s stepson, whose death (in part) led to the events which caused Max to leave the band. Dana also came up with the concept for the video for the song, featuring Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu experts the Gracie family. Apart from the musical / lyrical influences exercised by the tribe, the whole tribal aesthetics can be easily distinguished on the cover itself. The album cover features an indigenous woman taken from a banknote of the discontinued Brazilian cruzeiro, to which artist Michael Whelan added a locket with Sepultura’s “tribal S” logo and a background of red roots.

Despite the tornado of different approaches and the rants of the fans advocating that Sepultura reached the point of no return, “Roots” sold more than 2 million copies worldwide. The album has been identified as influential to the nu metal scene that followed in its wake, and helped lay the framework for the sound of Cavalera’s later project, Soulfly.

Videos were made for “Roots Bloody Roots”, “Attitude” and “Ratamahatta”.

sepulturaIn November 1996, Sepultura released a double-disc album, entitled “The Roots of Sepultura”. Disc 1 included the tracks of “Roots”, while Disc 2 was a collection of unreleased tracks, b-sides, alternate mixes, and live recordings. This album contains a unique cover of tracks by Motörhead, Dead Kennedys, Mutantes and Ratos de Porão paying tribute to the bands that heavily influenced Sepultura, and also includes tracks from their first live home video Under Siege (Live in Barcelona).

Listen to the entirety of “Roots” here: