By Greg PrattIt's tough to imagine that a group of clueless Brazilian kids who, in the mid-'80s, worshipped at the altar of pseudo-Satanist thrash metallers Venom would later achieve commercial success with an album that bordered on nu-metal. But so it goes: from their early raw death metal discs, to a streamlined death-meets-hardcore approach, to a huge emphasis on groove and traditional percussion elements, the journey ― linear and logical as it may be ― is certainly a tough one to wrap the longhair-enveloped noggins around. But Sepultura ― who, for a long time, were anchored by brothers Max and Igor Cavalera ― have had their share of tough and confusing times, like the tragedy and family issues that ended up tearing the Cavalera brothers apart, rending the core of the band, and dividing their fan base, a division that remains until this day: few subjects in the realm of metal get people as riled up as the "old Sepultura vs. new Sepultura" debate. Now, after approximately 20 million albums sold worldwide (although guitarist Andreas Kisser admits he doesn't know the exact numbers and says he doesn't trust the record labels anyway), the band ― classic line-up splintered, with the Cavaleras playing together in the Cavalera Conspiracy and Max also playing in his band Soulfly while Sepultura continues with a strong new line-up ― are set to release their 12th album, Kairos, which is actually a concept album about the band's own history, rife with strife, poverty, and family feuds.
1984 Sepultura are formed in Belo Horizonte, Brazil by brothers Max and Igor Cavalera, both teenagers. The two had grown up listening to classic rock staples, but once they are introduced to the ultra-raw underground metal of Venom, the high-speed thrash of bands like Kreator and Exodus, the two decide that's what they want to play. Max plays guitar and Igor is on drums, while Paulo Xisto Pinto Jr. (who goes by Paulo Jr.) is on bass and Wagner Lamounier is the vocalist; he doesn't last, and splits on less than great terms with the band. Lamounier goes on to form cult black metal group Sarcófago. Many years later, after Lamounier makes comments about the Cavalera brothers in the media, Max writes "Bumbklatt," a less-than-flattering song about him ("So fuck you and your friends/'Cause they still are the same/and your bullshit remains") for his band Soulfly. (Curiously, Lamounier is now a professor of economic science at a Belo Horizonte university.) Max takes over vocals and Jairo Guedes steps in as guitarist. The band's name (Portuguese for "Grave"), is suggested by Max after he translates the lyrics to Motörhead's "Dancing on your Grave." The band play their first show on December 4.
1985 Sepultura release Bestial Devastation, a split EP with now-forgotten Brazilian band Overdose on Brazilian indie Cogumelo. Sepultura's five songs are an incredibly raw and haphazard take on death and thrash metal, equal parts Venom, Celtic Frost and Slayer, with a naďve Satanic lyrical approach. While the album doesn't even begin to hint at how the band would improve as songwriters later on, it is impressive in its one-dimensional brutality. In later years, the band will take the EP's "Antichrist" and rechristen it "Anticop" to reflect their changing lyrical priorities.
1986 Morbid Visions, Sepultura's debut full-length, is released on Cogumelo; in the U.S. it's released on metal indie New Renaissance (more recently, the album has been available, with the debut EP, on one CD on Roadrunner). Taking the EP's horrible production values and perhaps making it sound worse (the band recorded with guitars that weren't tuned), the album features "Troops of Doom," which becomes a live staple. It also features sloppy drumming and totally incomprehensible vocal work, both of which add to the youthful charm. The band struggle to write lyrics in English, resulting in some unintentionally hilarious and so-not-evil "evil" imagery.