Sepultura's rebellious music is as articulate as it is ferocious

March 04, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

Max Cavalera says he knew Sepultura would be a success early on. "In our first year, we got to be known as the worst band in town," he says with a laugh. "Which, for us, was a big success. We achieved all we wanted to."

That was a decade ago, though, and Sepultura has since come quite a way since being considered the worst band in Belo Horizonte, Brazil. Not only does the band have a new home town -- Phoenix, Ariz. -- but it's currently considered one of the most exciting and inventive bands in thrash.

Despite such success, Cavalera feels that the band remains true to its roots, because Sepultura today is just as rebellious as it was in 1984, when he and his brother, Igor, put the band together.

"What this band is about is challenge and about breaking barriers," he explains, over the phone from a tour stop in Atlanta. Part of that, he says, stems from the friendships he and Igor made in military school. "We all thought the same," he says of his schoolmates. "We hated the military school, we hated the miliary ideology, and we liked the same kind of music."

That music, by the way, was a mixture of punk rock and metal, and it was that blend of influences that drove the Cavaleras to make Sepultura sound as ferocious as possible. "There were no bands [around then] like we wanted," he says. "There were bands like Iron Maiden, but we wanted it heavier. We wanted to go radical, we wanted to go extreme."

Cavalera adds that he and his bandmates aren't just interested in making a mighty noise. This is a band with something to say about the state of the world, and it articulates those feelings quite clearly on its current album, "Chaos A.D." From the adamant nonconformity expressed in "Refuse/Resist" to the eco-conscious anger of "Biotech is Godzilla," the music Sepultura serves here is as much food for thought as it is mosh-pit fodder.

"I think you could call 'Chaos A.D.' an X-ray of the state of the world today," he says. "That's how the songs go pretty much, from religion to politics to military issues to territorial issues.

"We were really focused on issues that mean something to us," he adds. "Because of the fact that we grew up in a Third World country, we see how things are from the outside point of view. So I think we decided to criticize a lot of stuff that is wrong in the world today."

But unlike many metal bands, who channel their anger into a kind of defeatist nihilism, Sepultura's songs argue for action and change. "See, our favorite writers are not actually metal writers, you know? I think that's the reason," says Cavalera. "They go from people like Bob Marley to stuff like New Model Army. Unfortunately, I think metal bands don't have too much to say in their lyrics, and never care about it. We just decided not to be like that."

As such, Cavalera says the typical Sepultura crowd breaks down into three distinct groups. "Some go there to go totally mad -- you know, jump and go crazy and be in the mosh pit," he says.

"Then there's the front row, who are the ones that get into the lyrics, and they want to show you that they're getting into the lyrics by kind of acting your songs. It's like New Model Army. When you watch them live, their fans go totally crazy and do acts with their hands and stuff, like an interpretation of the song, you know?

"And then there's the rest in the back who are, I think, in-between. They kind of like sing the songs, but they don't get involved really, totally up front, and they don't go to the mosh pit. So it's like we have three different attitudes going on in one same show. It doesn't get totally violent, but it doesn't get totally boring.

"Which is cool. It works for us."


When: Saturday, March 5, 8 p.m.

Where: Hammerjacks Concert Hall

Tickets: $14.50

Call: (410) 659-7625 for information, (410) 481-7328 for tickets.

Hear the eco-anger

What is the sound of "Chaos A.D."? Hear for yourself by calling Sundial, The Sun's telephone information service at (410) 783-1800. In Anne Arundel County call 268-7736; 836-5028 in Harford County; 848-0338 in Carroll County. Using a touch-tone telephone, punch in the four digit code 6124 after you hear the greeting.

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