Even though “Chaos A.D.” was Sepultura’s bravest and most innovative album (because it premiered a song which was an instrumental consisting entirely of acoustic guitars and tribal drums), I still consider “Roots,” Sepultura’s sixth, their most experimental and creative work. This 1996 album was also Sepultura’s last with frontman Max Cavalera; he would leave the group and go on to front a solo band, Soulfly. And, until 2004’s “Prophecy,” “Roots” was also more experimental than anything Max would make in Soulfly.
In addition to the aforementioned tribal drums and acoustic strumming, this album also features a Jew’s harp, maracas, a Brazilian tribe, tin drums, and DJ scratching. But creativity came with a cost. “Roots” is still a heavy metal album, but the death metal is long gone, because (as was the case with “Chaos A.D.”) these riffs are tinged with punk. Plus, since Max adopted Korn’s downtuned guitars and had guest appearances, some fans think this album helped usher in nu-metal. I, however, still believe that the experimental aspects of “Roots” made it innovative. And Max may have been partially influenced by nu-metal, but he was equally as influenced by his own heritage/upbringing. (Max is from Brazil, thus explaining the Brazilian tribe, maracas, and tin drums.)
“Roots, Bloody Roots” is the first single, probably the heaviest song on “Roots,” and is one of Sepultura’s best known songs. It remains a staple of their live shows, and the success of this song has influenced some Soulfly songs (like “Prophecy.”) Plus, Max has even adopted this song as his own, and played it during some Soulfly concerts. The album opens with the sound of crickets chirping, then this song launches into heavy, de-tuned guitar bluster. These guitars, which make a heavy churning and humming noise, are a big part of why this song is so heavy and catchy (even though there are some good vocal hooks, here, too). I enjoy how the beat comes down, then Max comes out of no where to let out one of his loud, ascending yells.
“Attitude” features guitars which are at first flamenco, then punching and pounding.
“Ratamahatta” is the song with the Brazilian tribe. It begins with what sounds like maracas and tribal drums. The guitars kick in and there’s some catchy, aggressive scat in the background. The verses on this song are soft and restrained, making a good friction between the verses and heavy choruses.
“Breed Apart” has tin drums at the beginning, before turning to chunky, chug and churn guitars and vocals that alternate from supple growling to raging yells. The Jew’s harp comes aboard and plays briefly over the beat, and the song ends with some static-sounding white noise.
“Spit” starts with (what sounds like) guitar feedback and some distant yelling (of “Un, dos, tres, cua!”) The crunchy guitars eventually come to the front, and there are a few more of Max’s heavy yells.
“Lookaway” has an instrument that could be a flute and a catchy drum beat, followed by DJ scratching (compliments of DJ Lethal-a DJ who would later join Limp Bizkit). Even though there are some guitars, this song’s pace is about half as fast as the others. Two guest vocalists, Faith No More’s Mike Patton and Korn’s Jonathan Davis, make an appearance and sing/whisper over distant, dreary, ghost-like noises.
“Dusted” begins with a banging of the drum sticks, then the guitarists (Andreaas Kisser and Max Cavalera) make some of the heaviest and fastest guitar riffs since track one.
“Born Stubborn” has a beeping guitar noise which becomes increasingly fast and heavy, but some more tribal drums and Brazilian chants are tossed in near the end.
“Itsari” mixes more South American chants and maracas with acoustic guitar strums and soft hand percussion.
“Ambush” is highlighted by a nice breakdown of heavy, groove-y guitars, which comes after the song veers into soft, serene territory.
So, this album further expanded Sepultura’s innovation and it helped prove that these guys can do more than pound power chords and double bass drums. With “Roots,” Sepultura really came into their own, after stepping out of the shadows of other death metal bands, like Morbid Angel and Slayer.
If you collect everything Max Cavalera or Sepultura, “Roots” obviously needs to be apart of your collection. And you should also check this album out if you’re a diehard heavy or nu-metal fan. If you’re new to the band, even though this is a great C.D., I wouldn’t start here; I’d pick up “Chaos A.D.” and “Beneath the Remains” first.
When Max was apart of this group, Sepultura were headed in quite a curious direction. “Roots” was their least heavy album, but it was also their most imaginative and experimental. One can’t help but wonder what the next Sepultura album would have sounded like; would it have been a return to their death metal roots, or would it have been a straight forward, unapologetic nu-metal album? I don’t know the answer, but whatever the case, I think Max, Andreaas, Igor, and Paulo would have had a hard time outdoing themselves and making an even more creative album than this.