Savage Messiah

16 October 2013 | 1:20 pm | Simon Holland

“I mean, we didn’t have any money, no promotion, no support or anything and we really had to do a lot of stuff on our own."

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It wasn't too hard to tap into rage in the mid-to-late '80s. Greed dripped from corporate America like a molten saturated fat and had begun to seep into the rest of the world. Those not fortunate enough to make a killing were left for dead yet were delivered the message of excess via MTV and targeted advertising. These conditions formed the ideal primordial requirements for heavy metal and the raw anger at a variety of institutions now had a soundtrack. A new, heavier rebellious movement began to take root in all corners of the globe. In the passionate land of Brazil a band named Sepultura, fronted by the furious Max Cavalera, sparked a passionate response, laying the foundations for a new style of detuned heavy music laced with equal parts culture and venom. Despite the glut of new opportunities for musicians in the US, forging metal in the mean streets of Brazil was tough as hell.

“It was hard, man, y'know,” reflects Cavalera down the line from his studio in downtown LA. “I mean, we didn't have any money, no promotion, no support or anything and we really had to do a lot of stuff on our own. It was difficult to find gigs, TV, media didn't have no support for us at all so it was really a battle. But it was cool because we had our gang of people and all the people that hang out with us and did stuff with us together, kind of our own little gang, a little metal gang and y'know, it was cool like that. It was Sepultura against the world when we were very young and probably it was like that. For a long time it felt like that but it was cool because it was exciting and some really cool things happened like finding our name on a [Chuck Schuldiner's] Death album. We were so excited, we were jumping up and down. When we got signed with Roadrunner in '89 to do Beneath The Remains, it was such a cool thing. No one had ever been signed by an American label and things were looking up. Little by little things were happening and my life has been a big journey.

“I experienced a lot of success with Sepultura and I experienced a lot of tragedy. Then I had to leave that band behind and start something new and start over again and reinvent myself, but I did it, man, and I had a good taste in my mouth when you do it, and you know you can do it. A lot of musicians fail when they go out on their own after they separate from their main band; a lot of them can't continue. I was blessed with a second chance in metal, in the rock world. My fans gave me a second chance with Soulfly. They understand Soulfly, they get it, they know what it's all about. They love Soulfly. I see the tattoos every night. Thousands of tattoos all around the world and to me that is approval. I've been in Soulfly longer than I was in Sepultura – more albums with Soulfly than with Sepultura, so it's quite exciting and quite amazing to be a part of something so big like this.”

The detuned riffing had taken a battering after being coined 'nu-metal', repackaged and milked for all it was worth by the increasingly parasitic late '90s music industry, yet even as that phase peaked and faded Soulfly arrived and survived. Last year's Enslaved marked the biggest deviation to date – in lyrical content and concepts as well sound – with the collaborative track, Plata O Plomo, a fury-filled beast spat out in a combination of Spanish and Cavalera's native Portuguese. “I don't think too much; I let the records take their own form and it's always something different,” Cavalera explains enthusiastically. “I never make the same record and even rarely make a record that sounds like another – it's always something different and something special about the record. Savages is going to be different from everything else I've done and it's a lot of fun not trying to repeat yourself and search for all those different ways to outdo yourself. We have a new track on the new album called El Comegente which means 'The People Eater' that's a continuation of Plata O Plomo. It's really Plata O Plomo Part Two and it's really cool.

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“On the new Savages album we have a few different things: Cannibal Holocaust, Ayatollah Of Rock N' Rolla, from Mad Max. KCS is about the Indians so it's different. You find different ideas, different topics to make different records. You cannot sing about the same things all the time; you've got to find different ideas all the time.”