Sepultura Roots – The Story Behind The Iconic Album & Song

How the Brazillian Thrash kings made an adventurous journey towards new metal territory.Sepultura - Roots the story behind the song

By 1996, Sepultura had established themselves as the last word in cutting edge metal. Considering they had come from the mean streets of Sao Paulo Brazil, to get there, a feat unheard of when they formed in the mid – 80’s, their success came with no small amount of genuine respect. And with Roots, the furious four returned to their own soil to add a Brazillian twist to the metal they had become kings of.

Not wanting to repeat the past with making another ‘Arise’ or the excellent ‘Chaos A.D’ they made a complete turnaround. The four piece challenged themselves by literally pushing into new Brazillian territories & expanding the frontiers of metal. They boarded a plane with battery powered sound equipment & flew deep into the rain forest to join and jam with the Xavante tribe.

Says Max Cavalera on taking inspiration for Roots.

“The concept for roots actually came from a 1991 movie called ‘ At Play In The Fields Of The Lord’ and it gave me the inspiration to take the band and go record in the Brazillian jungle. We picked the Xavante because they weren’t just in the rain forest, they were really in the middle of Brazil, in the heart. And they were excited about the prospect of working with us.”

Plans were hatched to journey deep into western Brazil to live and record with the Xavante tribe. And though the resultant recordings will be remembered as much for being the last with original frontman Max Cavalera, for their 2 million plus sales and their indelible influence on the emerging metal scene, it’s also notable for the literal expanding of metals frontiers taking it to people who had literally never heard it before and making them an integral part of it. Twenty years on it still resonates as a turning point in the band, While fall outs with managers and brothers divided the group, the album, Roots, and its inception remains a historic event.

They Knew It Had To Be Different.

Before the Brazillian thrash titans went into the studio, they knew even before they even started writing, it had to be different. Not wanting to follow on from their previous effort, Chaos A.D, the band started looking into Brazilian comics and imagery for a source of inspiration. Soon after as they began to write and record, they had a very strong idea image that they wanted to represent exactly where they came from which was most important to the finished record.

It Was Originally Going To Be Twice As Fast!

Originally the band worked on two versions of the Roots song.The first one being made at twice the tempo as you hear it now. Although sounding brutal at double time, after detuning and they knew it would sound way cooler being much slower with more groove. In fact, you may have heard the thrash version before, as they occasionally drop it into a live show which sounds absolutely killer!

They scared producer Ross Robinson.

After hearing about how uber producer Robinson threw things at Korn in the studio to make the band’s anger translate over in the mix, Sepultura was understandably wary. On the first day of the session, the band was like; “Don’t you try to pull any shit with us! We’re from Brazil, we’ll fucking kill you!” Ross, taking heed from their stern warnings actually never did. Flying objects aside, he did, in fact, get the performance they wanted, bringing the mix to a raw, dirty live sound. He also relished the idea of the band going out into the wastelands to work with the Amazonian tribe.

The songs unsung hero is…Andy Wallace.

Sepultura loved the way Robinson had a fearless nature as on the latest recording, but when they got the song back it sounded like shit. Ross is known to hardly touch anything at all, so it just sounded like it was recorded live. The band sent the tracks to Andy Wallace who beefed it up, padded it out and made it sound heavy as fuck. What makes Roots so special is the mix of Ross Robinsons live punk rock recordings and Andy Wallace’s ear for making things sound huge.

Roadrunner records thought they were crazy.

At the time the Brazillian four piece was signed to mega label Roadrunner Records who cultivated a string of successful metal artists on their roster. That said, going out into the Amazonian jungle to hook up with an uncivilized tribe was not something of the norm at the Roadrunner offices. The label thought they were nuts. They said, “you’re going to do what?!” But once they heard the song they got behind it. They actually were really cool with designing & packaging that iconic look of the record, and it was super-influential to the people when the band was wearing face paint and tribal gear. Nowadays you only have to look at Norwegian black metal with them going back to their roots.

The band don’t get bored of it.

The simplistic style of the song, along with the image and crushing heaviness has now become an iconic statement and must have song to complete their live set list. Max Cavalera says of Roots.

“I’m all about the riff, and that song has such a cool riff, it’s really simple…much more simple than anything we had done before, but it just feels good. When you see a whole field going crazy to it you can’t not want to play it. It’s kind of like our Ace Of Spades. I’ll have to play it forever!”

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