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The Roots of Sepultura
Roots - Sepultura
Member Name: Jarisleif
Roots - Sepultura
Advantages: Starts off brilliant
Disadvantages: Fades way too fast
"Roots" is the 6th studio album by Brazilian thrash metal band, Sepultura. It was released in 1996 on Roadrunner Records and produced by the band with Ross Robinson. The line-up for the album was Max Cavalera (vocals/guitar), Andreas Kisser (guitar), Paulo Jr. (bass) and Igor Cavalera (drums).
This album was the turning point for Sepultura, Brazil's premier thrash metal band. It was the last to feature founding member and front man, Max Cavalera, and most would agree that the band never recover from this. Andreas and Paulo had fired the band's manager, Gloria Bujnowski, who was (and still is) Max's wife, and he felt he had no choice but to quit the band he founded. What you get with "Roots" is more experimentation of Brazilian tribal music and guest appearances from members of Faith No More, Korn and Limp Bizkit. Is it any good? Let's find out!
Roots Bloody Roots
The album starts with a song about protecting the tribes of Brazil from corporate money men who don't care what happens to them and their way of life, just as long as they can make more cash by destroying their villages and livelihoods. Sepultura is saying that we should respect people's roots and if some tribes want to be shut off from the rest of the world, then let them be. Musically, while it's not the heaviest track the band has ever put out, it's still got that classic Sep could that I just love. Max's shouty vocals are venomous throughout and though the guitars are down tuned during the majority of the song, they do still get as loud as anything I've ever heard and I love the dirty guitar solo during the bridge which brings about a monstrous riff that leads to the outro. What is most noticeable, however, is Igor's drumming which isn't as frantic as it has been on previous albums.
This is a song that was heavily inspired by Max's stepson, Dana Wells. Dana was killed in a car crash shortly after the album was released and Max never really got over that. The song begins with the sound of a berimbau, which is a Brazilian instrument that sounds a little like a sitar. There's a little bit of confused noise before the meat of the track comes into play but when it does it's done with intensely heavy guitars, and I like that a lot. The song is a perfect combination of thrash guitars and pounding drums which aren't done in the thrash metal style but you can tell Igor is hitting the skins with some force. This is one of the best songs on the album and I love the experimentation done here by the band which breathes a different life into the genre that Sepultura had been accustomed to.
This is a song which is a bit more like the band Max formed after leaving Sepultura, Soulfly. It's a groove-laden track which doesn't take its beginnings from thrash, though there are plenty of heavy signature notes in there. To be brutally honest, it's not a good song, lyrically, though musically there are some decent parts, especially in Igor's drumming which seems to be at the forefront of the production, leaving the guitars, bass and vocals in the background for the majority of its duration. There are a lot of crash cymbals which I definitely like and a couple of drum rolls here and there, but it's the guitars most people want to hear, and they're just too quiet. The song only really gets going towards the end when it speeds up in rhythm with some decent guitar work, but it's too little too late.
On to my favourite song off the album now, and with "Ratamahatta" comes an intro from the Brazilian Xavante tribe - chants and a tribal vibe make up the mainstay of this - and when the percussion kicks in (played by Korn's David Silveria) it all becomes magical and you realise that these tribes have good musical taste. The guitars on this song are excellent and I love the main riff, especially when Max is joined on the vocals by traditional Samba musician, Carlinhos Brown. This is one of Sepultura's very best songs, and I loved hearing it live the one and only time I saw the band in 1994. It's powerful for its portrayal of authentic Brazilian music, and it's powerful in the genre of thrash metal.
This song has a great percussion introduction which encapsulates the essence of traditional Brazilian music and is helped along by straight-forward guitar strum. Igor's drum fills are especially good here and for nearly a minute of the song I feel myself enjoying the vibe and I forget the main part has actually started, so I have to go back and listen again. The lyrics are pretty dismal, if I'm honest, and the verses and choruses don't really do much. If it wasn't for the drum harmony on the song, I think I would not like it at all because there's no real structure to it and it feels a little bit of a mess - almost like it's lost its way and doesn't know which path to follow.
This sounds like a continuation of the previous jumbled up nonsense for the first minute before it finds its feet and gets going for another 10 seconds or so before it drones on with a sludgy, boring riff. I can see what Sepultura is doing here; they're trying to make this song their "Leper Messiah" - Metallica's feel-dragging song off their brilliant "Master of Puppets" album - but what they've actually achieved is a garbled song that just doesn't work at all. The lyrics deal with a man who has anger issues and how the rage can continue to boil until he finally snaps and someone, anyone, gets the full force of his rage. It's not a good song, quite frankly, and I so wish it would have been left on the cutting room floor.
Distortion is the key word here, and lots of it. The production of the sound is purely awful and Max's vocals are barely audible at the best of times, but I guess that's the influence Ross Robinson had on the band with his previous work being with bands such as Limp Bizkit, Korn and Slipknot, all who like to use different angles in recording techniques. After the album's excellent start, it's starting to roll down the hill backwards and that's never a good thing. I'm sure those that have experienced that will know exactly what I'm talking about here! I do like the groove-based riff on the song but it just isn't enough to save the song from being a disaster, unfortunately.
Here is a song which features Jonathan Davis of Korn and Faith No More's Mike Patton on vocals. It gets off to a slow start before the turntable scratching from Davis' band mate DJ Lethal begins. Personally, I really don't think this belongs on a Sepultura record but that's my own personal preference for what the band should sound like. And then you have the Patton/Davis duet which is basic and dull, and even Max can't save it whenever he chimes in. This is quite clearly the worst song on the album and it doesn't help matters when you see the above-mentioned singers stooping so low to be included on it.
The song starts out pretty decent with a good and heavy guitar riff and some nice drum fills from Igor but then comes the awful production sound again and that disgustingly reverberated tinny sound of the steel drum, made infamous years later by Metallica's Lars Ulrich on their woeful 2003 offering, "St. Anger". We really do have another contender for worst song on the album here but nothing can beat the previous song, and as much as it pains me to carry on listening, I must for the sake of the review. This song is, unfortunately, basic Sepultura with not much thought going into the creation of the song.
Finally, after four or five lacklustre tracks, here's one with guts! It doesn't get off to the best of starts with a monotonous guitar sound but the first riff is a killer and one of the best Sepultura has produced. The song has a good pace to it and reminds me of earlier Sep - something which a lot of songs on this album fail to do. This is a song about the roots of Sepultura and how they're too stubborn to change, but I don't see it that way because in my view the band has changed too much since their debut album, and not much of it is for the good.
Here we get an acoustic instrumental song on which the guitar work really shines and stands out. Andreas Kisser is a very talented musician and something like this is a joy to listen to, even though it does seem a little out of place on an album that is, so far, more miss than hit. Still, it's a telling piece that could be played to someone who likes any genre of music so that it can be said that metal musicians really can play - they just need to be heard in a different light to appreciate it.
Here is another sort of instrumental and bizarrely, two together which is unheard of on a lot of metal records - or if it has happened before, I've never heard of it. About the only thing on the record which doesn't completely make it a full instrumental is the Xavante tribe's chanting over a backdrop of acoustic guitars and percussion. It's too much like "Kaiowas" from their 1993 album, "Chaos A.D." for my liking - too much like it, if I have to be perfectly honest.
Igor's drums are angry on this song and timely too, but I don't think anything can pull the album out of the gutter and since track five it's been pretty dour. Again, the production is terrible and Max's once venomous vocals just sound a little too distorted now, which is a real shame. There's a little bit of hardcore metal on the gang vocals for the chorus thrown in for good measure and the bridge is strangely calm. Just when you want the band to push the pedal down, Sepultura takes the foot completely off for a bit, until the last few sections where it's distortion all the way.
This song is too little, too late, and I wish Sepultura would have listened to what they've created and thrown some of it away and possibly even put this song in the middle. This is infused with a little groove metal and some of Sep's early days - their 'roots' if you like - and we even get a guitar solo, though I don't remember when the last time on the album was when we got that treat, and it's possible that this is the first. There is some great drumming from Igor and this song pushes the early three or four to be the best on the album but doesn't quite make it.
This song is only 86 seconds in length but it's massively frantic from start to beginning, and on it you finally get some classic thrash drumming, thrash guitars and thrash vocals. It's a pretty good end to the album but by this time I'm resigned to the fact that the album as a whole is a failure. Once the end comes, I'm sort of relieved and can finally breathe again, safe in the knowledge that I won't ever listen to it in its entirety again.
When I got to "Rattamahatta", four songs in, I thought "Yeah, this album is going to seriously do some damage to a lot of other thrash metal albums out there. Then when the next song plays - and subsequent songs - I begin to get a little disheartened. This is not Sepultura at their best and I'm thinking that if those early songs had been on "Chaos A.D." it would have been an even better album than what it was. But as it is, they're on this one and they've been let down by some songs which I can guarantee would be left on the cutting room floor by a lot of thrash metal bands. The only reason I'm giving it the score I am is because of those outstanding songs. Otherwise, I don't think I'd even rate it a 2.
1. Roots Bloody Roots
5. Breed Apart
10. Born Stubborn
14. Endangered Species
My rating: 4/10
Summary: It had so much promise, but fails to deliver as a whole.