Our Top 10 Sepultura list takes a look at a band who are without a doubt Brazil’s most famous popular music export. The band first formed in 1984 by brothers Max and Igor Cavalera. They started off as a death metal band but after a couple of albums they evolved more into thrash and were one of the key bands of the 1990’s groove metal scene with the likes of Pantera and Machine Head. Over time, they incorporated elements of world music into their sound which was particularly evident of their 1996 album Roots.
The band’s first phase came to an end in 1996 when Max left due to the rest of the band firing their manager who was his wife. He was replaced by Derek Green who has been the vocalist ever since. Igor left ten years later in 2006, which left no original members, with bassist Paulo Jnr being the only one to have played on every single release. The current line-up consists of him, Green, long serving guitarist Andreas Kisser and drummer Elroy Casagrande.
The band have had a long and consistent recording career, still making albums today. Many fans consider their golden period to be the Max era with albums such as Beneath the Remains and Chaos AD. Despite this, they have continued to be one of the most successful and popular bands in modern metal. Here is a list of ten of their best songs.
# 10 – Vox Populi
Kicking off this list is a song from 2001’s Nation which saw the band getting better with Derek Green after a bit of a rocky start following Max’s departure. The title translated into English means “voice for the people” which was a rallying cry for their fans as this track lyrically rails against the corrupt political establishment (something that has often been a key subject throughout most of their work) and signifies their comeback as a group.
# 9 – Territory
Next is a single from 1993’s Chaos Ad, an album that is often considered a transitional one for the band in the sense that it started to incorporate the band’s world music influence that would become very prominent with the next album Roots. The song is a favorite with fans and is known for its music video which sees the band performing in the desert interspersed with imagery from the Israel/Palestine conflict, which is what the song’s title refers to.
# 8 – Meaningless Movements
Here we have one of the band’s more underrated songs from 1991’s Arise. The song is a prime example of classic early 90’s death/thrash. Upon the album’s release, it was met with universally positive reviews from much of the metal press. For many fans, it would be their favorite. It showed a further evolution in the band’s sound, moving further away from their early death metal roots and into more groove-orientated territory.
# 7 – Ratamahatta
Here we have the third and final single to be taken from Roots released in 1996. That makes it the last single to feature Max on vocals. The song is definitely a standout in the band’s catalog and as far as metal singles go, it takes a very daring move, being a cross between thrash and Brazilian tribal music. It features guest vocals from Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown and percussion from Korn drummer David Silveira.
# 6 – Antichrist
With this track we go all the way back to the band’s very first album Bestial Devastation released in 1985 and it is safe to say that this is a very different sounding band, a fact perhaps due to much rawer production than what would be found on the band’s later and more well-known releases. The track is very reminiscent of early Slayer (who during this time were also in their early phase) although Max’s vocals are more akin to the likes of Chuck Schnuldiner from Death.
# 5 – Slave New World
Here is a single taken from Sepultura’s fourth album Chaos Ad released in 1994. The song’s lyrics were co-written by Evan Seinfeld from New York hardcore band Biohazard and the track itself has a somewhat similar sound to that band. Upon its release, it failed to chart in the US but did reach the UK charts, although only at number forty-six. Like many of their singles, it is a live favorite with fans.
# 4 – Born Stubborn
Here is another from Roots that is one their lesser known and more underrated. Roots is often considered to be quite a ground-breaking album in many ways, as it has inspired several other band’s from outside of the Western world to make albums that incorporated elements of traditional music from their respective countries. This, however, is one of the more straightforward tracks on the record which recalls the band’s earlier days.
# 3 – Sarcastic Existence
And here we have one of the more overlooked tracks from Beneath the Remains. Although it is on an album that does contain several all-time classics, as a piece of pure aggressive thrash, this track is a hidden gem. A very unfortunate fact about this track is that it has barely ever been played since its release in 1989, with the live environment surely being a place where it would flourish.
# 2 – Roots Bloody Roots
Just off the top spot is the partial title track from Roots which I am sure if you pressed it to most fans, they would widely agree to consider it to be the band’s signature track. As the album’s first track it is a classic metal album opener. The album was produced by Ross Robinson who was something of a nu-metal guru, known for his work with the likes of Korn, Limp Bizkit and Slipknot. As this album was released during that era, this track has quite a lot of elements of the sound of those bands, pre-dating the Slipknot sound by three years.
# 1 – Arise
At the number one spot is the band’s debut single from Arise. This track is among the best known of the band’s early thrash period and is generally considered to be a classic of both the genre and era. The video that was produced caused some controversy when it came out, featuring the band playing in Death Valley, with a Christ-like figure in the background on a crucifix and wearing a gas mask. Due to its supposed blasphemous nature, it was banned from MTV.