Sepultura - Roots - Review
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critics' view

Too many times I have heard the same stereotypical response from all sorts of metalheads: “Roots sucked, Sepultura was never good after their thrash days!” I must say I couldn’t disagree more. To me, this album is Sepultura’s finest hour, an album where they finally discovered a unique, amazing sound that many tried to copy, but failed.

But let’s start from the beginning. Sepultura have come a long way since their “primordial evil” sound on their debut, “Bestial Devastation” (1985). They abandoned death metal for thrash, thrash for groove-metal on “Chaos AD” (1993), and finally, their search for a unique sound has come to an end on this album. Make no mistake about it – this is still HEAVY METAL, but a very different style of it indeed. The most unique thing about this album, for those that don’t know, is that Max&Co incorporated a lot of Brazilian folk influences and mixed them well with metal to create a fresh and unmatched mixture.

The guitars are down tuned quite a bit. Majority of headbangers don’t like that, but for me, it adds to the overall atmosphere pretty nicely. For the most part, songs are slow, crushingly brutal, and with a lot of “groove”. The album opens with “Roots Bloody Roots”, slow and maddening number that gets your blood boiling and gets you into the right mood for the album. My advice is to forget all critique you’ve heard about it and try to enjoy it regardless of what others say. The next track, “Attitude”, starts off with a strange sound on some Brazilian instrument, whose name escapes me at the time, it slowly turns into a crushing anthem of youth, giving a middle finger to the authority and establishment. But don’t think that sluggish and devastating numbers are the only thing Sepultura offers on this album. There are straight-up metal and punk (yes, punk) songs, fast and uncontrollable, there is an amazing classical piece, performed by Andreas Kisser on the acoustic guitar; there are tribal jams and chants, recorded while band-members were living at the Amazon jungle with Indians…. Doesn’t sound like your typical metal album, does it?

The lyrics are a separate matter entirely. Gone are the primitive “hell and brimstone” lyrics of the past, written when the band members didn’t even speak English. The lyrics strike a nostalgic chord in me every time I read them. For you see, this was the first extreme metal album I’ve ever listened to back in 1996, and for a teenager who just moved to another country and had a lot of issues to deal with it, this lyrics meant a whole lot to me. Sure, now some people dismiss, not even bothering to read them, as “another mallcore whining”, forgetting that this album was way before TV and Radio got saturated with the likes of Slipknot and Linkin Park. “Criticize me, call me negative, but you never deal with life or reality, I separate myself from the rest, what the fuck do you expect?!?!”… “Live your life not the way they taught you , do what you feel. Survive the jungle, Give me blood, Give me Pain, These scars won't heal” … And, of course “Sepultura in our hearts, Can't take it away, These Roots will always remain…” It’s ironic how a year after singing this, Max Cavalera has left Sepultura, and in another year he was fronting a mallcore band, while the rest of Sepultura without him quickly descended into hardcore mediocrity.

Highlights: Title track, “Attitude”, “Straighthate”, “Jasco”, “Born Stubborn”

Lows: “Lookaway” and “Itsari”

Final Verdict: On “Roots”, Sepultura explode with influences from every possible and impossible source. If you actually give this album a chance without prejudice, you’re in for a great listen. As for me, no matter what music I will listen to at the moment, this album will always hold a warm place in my heart for introducing me to Sepultura, and to heavy metal in general (before it my knowledge of it was limited to Metallica and Scorpions).

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