Max Cavalera is one of metal’s most prolific and enduring frontmen and has released music for three decades.
The 46-year-old formed Sepultura with his brother, drummer Igor and the band issued their debut EP Bestial Devastation as part of a split release with Overdose.
He fronted the band on six full length albums – Morbid Visions (1986), Schizophrenia (1987), Beneath The Remains (1989), Arise (1991), Chaos AD (1993) and Roots (1996) – before quitting the band following an internal dispute. His final show with the band was at London’s Brixton Academy on December 16, 1996.
He quickly formed Soulfly, then Nailbomb with Fudge Tunnel’s Alex Newport, Cavalera Conspiracy with Igor and, most recently, Killer Be Killed with members of Mastodon and Dillinger Escape Plan.
Next month, Soulfly will release Archangel, their 10th full-length studio album, so we challenged Max to pick the 11 songs that he feels defines his 30-year recording career…
SEPULTURA – Troops Of Doom (Morbid Visions, 1986) Max Cavalera: “This was an out of tune record that we did back in 1986 that a lot of death metal fans like. I actually just did an interview with Phil Anselmo and he told he this was his favourite Sepultura record, which was a total surprise to me. But then, coming from Phil it wasn’t really a surprise because Phil likes everything fucked up. I think the finest thing that came out of this record was Troops of Doom, and the melody for the riff was really inspired by Black Sabbath and Celtic Frost. The lyrics are very Satanic but it was cool for that time, and I still like to play it.”
SEPULTURA – Inner Self (Beneath the Remains, 1989) “This was the first Sepultura song that had its own identity. It was about my own life and those days living in São Paulo, so when I sing the opening line ‘Walking these dirty streets, with hate in my mind’, it’s really almost like an autobiography of my life and my experiences living in Brazil at that time. The Brazilian streets were dirty back then, and there was trash and bombs and shit everywhere. We actually did a video for this one too and in it you can see me taking a shot of Pinga – a Brazilian liquor – with two bums on the side of the street. So it was fun, but really it was the first song that forged my musical identity and for the rest of my life I ended up doing this kind of song. Even on the new Soulfly record (Archangel) there’s a song called Live Life Hard!, and you can trace what we’re doing there back to Inner Self.”
SEPULTURA – Arise (Arise, 1991) “I really love the energy of this song. It’s about war, and it’s really powerful. It’s still to this day one of my favourite songs to play live. And I love the chorus: ‘Under the pale grey sky / We shall arise.’ Of course it came from U2’s Under a Blood Red Sky. I totally rip off U2 there. But don’t tell anyone.”
SEPULTURA – Refuse/Resist (Chaos AD, 1993) “I call this riot music. It’s almost like a form of music on its own. The song had the riot riff, which was the inspiration that started it, and Igor (Cavalera) put some tribal stuff on top of it that made it even cooler. Again, the lyrics are very political but very simple like a lot of my lyrics, which are very to the point. The inspiration for the name actually came from a subway ride I took in New York a long time ago. There was a Black Panther guy in the subway, and he had a leather jacket on with all this political stuff written on the back of it. At the bottom it said the words ‘Refuse and Resist’ and I thought, ‘Hmm, that sounds like a cool song title, I’m gonna use that.’ So thanks guy from the subway, for giving me inspiration for the song.”
SEPULTURA – Territory (Chaos AD, 1993) “I think this song was very clever in the way it was structured because it wasn’t just about one thing. It was about territorial gangs; it was about Israel and Palestine; it was about America and Russia. I really like the video as well because we got to shoot it in Israel and it was one of my favourite videos that we ever did. You see us in the Red Sea with mud all over our faces, and that was a lot of fun.”
NAILBOMB – Sum Of Your Achievements (Point Blank, 1994) “This is my favourite Nailbomb track. It’s so heavy; it’s almost industrial. We were listening to a lot of Ministry, Black Flag and Big Black, and me and Alex (Newport) from Fudge Tunnel got really inspired together and did this project, which a lot of people lost their shit when they heard about it. It was a really fun record to make – especially this song because there’s something about it that’s so brutal and the same riff just repeats over and over again. When we were done with the record I flew to England to work on Chaos AD. I still had to sing on Sum of Your Achievements as I hadn’t laid down the vocals yet, so Alex called me and my vocals to that song were all recorded over the phone from the studio in England. But we got it done and it’s a killer song.”
SOULFLY – Eye For An Eye (Soulfly, 1998) “This was the first Soulfly song I ever wrote. It was a great exercise because I was very depressed at that time from leaving Sepultura. I didn’t want to play any music and I was doing tons of drugs and drinking; my life was a mess, basically. I needed something to bring me back to music and this song Eye For An Eye was what did it. It was an instant classic and I think when all the fans heard it for the first time they were like, ‘Yeah, Max is back, man. Max is back. We love it.’ For me, it was huge to have their respect back, and to get that level of appreciation from this song was a huge, huge thing. It lifted the weight from off my back. I didn’t know whether there was going to be life after Sepultura, and this song showed me that there was. It’s a testament to believing in yourself and making shit happen.”
**SOULFLY – Under The Sun **(3 limited edition, 2002) “This was my second Sabbath cover, and I did it with Soulfly. I did Symptom Of The Universe with Sepultura, and I worked a lot on this song to make it the best recording possible. It came out really good but the best thing out of it was I got a letter from Ozzy saying that he’d heard it and it blew him away, and he really loved it. For me, it doesn’t get any better than that. I was walking around with the letter all day showing it to everybody. I even went to my neighbour’s house and went to show it to him. My neighbour was like, ‘I don’t care, get outta here!‘. I think cover songs are really important and I always like making them, and it’s really cool when your cover gets good feedback from the guy that wrote it.”
CAVALERA CONSPIRACY – Sanctuary (Inflikted, 2008) “When I first got back together with Igor it was a huge thing after 10 years without talking to him – there’d been all this pressure and stress for so long. We were in the studio and the first song I ended up writing for the first Cavalera Conspiracy album was Sanctuary. I was so happy about being back with Igor, the first lyrics that came out were, ‘Everybody dies tonight’, which was like my own warped way of finding happiness in dark topics. I still remember walking out of the vocal booth after I’d got done singing and Gloria (Cavalera, Max’s wife) had this look in her face like, ‘What the fuck just happened there?’ There was a strong feeling in the studio that we’d created this insane, killer song and accomplished something huge and awesome. This song is so metal!”
KILLER BE KILLED – Wings Of Feather And Wax (Killer Be Killed, 2014) “I have to pick something from Killer Be Killed. This song kind of came from out of nowhere. I came up with the opening riff and Greg (Puciato) really liked it. I knew he could sing melodies, so I wrote a melodic riff. After he recorded the vocals, the song just blew up, man. The transformation was amazing and it came out of nowhere – from a stupid riff that was just kind of lying around the studio. It turned into a huge song right in front of our eyes. That’s the amazing thing about the magic of music. I always get overwhelmed with how incredible it is. I love everything about it.”
SOULFLY – We Sold Our Souls To Metal (Archangel, 2015) “This song is my declaration of being a proud metal head. I finally wrote a song about that. It’s a two-minute blast thrash attack with very simple lyrics, just about the passion of metal and the idea that we sold our souls to this kind of music when we were very young. Of course we didn’t have a pact with the devil or go out to the crossroads, but it’s about being involved with this kind of music forever, from a little kid until the day you die. I think a lot of fans feel the same way all over the world. Once you become a metal head, it’s forever. I hope it becomes some sort of anthem for metal heads around the world, about being proud to be a metal head. I love being a metal head and I embrace the whole culture, from the black shirts to the camouflage pants, tattoos and long hair. I love living outside of society on the edge, and I love when people look at us weird and almost with disgust. It’s thrilling for me when that happens – I love it.”
Soulfly’s new album Archangel will be released on August 14 through Nuclear Blast.