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When it comes to heavy metal music, there seems to be a growing trend in the underground. That is, to criticize bands who choose to depart from the original sound they pioneered on earlier releases. I don't really like this at all, I think regardless of whether or not a band chooses to embrace a more classic rock stance on a death metal record or a more progressive rock stance on a doom metal record, the band can still be good if they execute this new sound properly. Unfortunately, it is for that very reason I have chosen to christen this review "Wasted Potential", because Sepultura had so much potential with this new sound they pioneered, regardless of the fact that I still think nu metal is the worst metal genre of all time.
Lets start off with what they did manage to do right on this record, shall we? First off, we have a unique experimentation with ambient, folk, and industrial sounds combined with groove metal that only Korn (as mediocre as I find both them and the entire genre of groove metal) was doing at the time. I myself am an avid fan of genres outside metal such as ambient, folk, and industrial, so when these elements were used on tracks such as "Jasco", "Itsari", and the uncredited "Canyon Jam", they became the highlight of this record; and while I myself may incorporate elements of ambient, folk, and industrial into the sound of my own metal band, Purple Haze, this is unfortunately where the good news ends.
The critics of this record mostly cite the fact that it is unoriginal as the reason to dislike it. In reality, this record is very original, and had a lot of potential. Saying the riffs on this record are indistinguishable from each other should be applied to metal records you do enjoy, or maybe a hardcore record, next time you choose to write a review. The songs sound like groove metal, so naturally they're all going to sound like groove metal stylistically. However, they aren't just groove metal, they're an even worse caricature of this already loathsome genre, i.e. "nu metal".
The fact that "nu metal" alone sounds like the way the would spell something in rap music immediately raises flags for the die-hard headbanger. While I don't necessarily mind the simplicity, there's no denying that your average metal elitist wants his riffs to be complex and demanding, and that's where this record fails. There's absolutely none of it here, and instead we are left with riffs that are more rhythmic in attack, and while rhythms can certainly be complex, the songs on this record are not demanding whatsoever riff-wise. Combine that with the strained, screamo rap vocals that themselves don't have any "flow", and you have the record titled "Roots", a terminology that within itself that has since become an insult to devoted headbangers AND hip-hop fans alike.
Lets face it; even Max admitted in an interview that the band completed two songs in less than a week, which usually means it wasn't well thought-out, and this record went on to sell 2 million copies, which sounds about right for a really big "rock" record at the time. Simultaneously, it spelled the end for metal as we knew it, and thanks to the metalcore bands continuing this style of music in a largely similar and just as atrocious way, this "mallcore" genre is coming up on its twentieth anniversary as the go-to genre for washed-up metal sellouts. The riffs would've been so much better if only they were more traditional groove metal, and the vocals are soulless, like a teenager screaming at his parents for not giving him an allowance. The singles "Roots Bloody Roots", "Ratamahatta", and "Attitude" do nothing to change the pace of the record, and only continue the aforementioned infractions in an even more commercially oriented direction (as is the point of writing a "single"). Avoid if possible.
For those of you wondering why later Sepultura albums aren't talked about at all, save for about 5 reviews, it can all be traced back to this point. Soulfly's mindless droning nonsense can also be traced back to this very album. Both bands have since made a return to metal, but the fact still stands. This album killed one of the finest thrash bands to exist in the 80's, and gave the world Soulfly, in addition to its tribal jams. And the album itself is one of the worst to have Sepultura's name on it, and one of the worst albums ever.
This can basically be summed up as nu 'metal', with hints of groove and tribal influences from previous albums. What this means of course, is that there are no riffs, AT ALL. Just 2 note drones, maybe the odd groove here and there if you dig deep enough. It is incredibly uninspired in its execution- in addition to the stagnant rhythm guitar, there are no solos to break things up a bit (unless you count irritating screeches as soloing), and an incredibly overpowered bass. The drums don't help either, with no fills, no double bass, no NOTHING. There are just these tribal, hypnotic beats that just about keep time, and yet throw the songs so off-kilter that Load seems completely rigid by comparison. As a result, the instruments morph into this horrid, borderline suffocating sludge through the nu 'metal' production and downtuning, and it never speeds up, ever. All songs, save one, are played at slow to mid tempos here.
Calling the instruments 'suffocating' may seem a tad extreme, but it isn't. The further you dive into this album, the more endless it seems. By the time you reach 'Lookaway', the urge to turn this thing off and put on Beneath the Remains was overwhelming, but I persevered for the review. I was rewarded with yet more droning and badly implemented tribal experiments, in addition to some awful, awful vocals. The vocals throughout are these terrible, bitchy screams. They aren't quite at the level of screamo, or even In Flames, but my word do they suck. And they never change either, becoming extremely grating by the second song.
On the subject of stagnation, that seems to be a general theme with this album. Every song is pretty much the same, just droning sludge with crying on top, with the occasional tribal or industrial effect. The songs themselves never really change up in structure either, being 'verse-chorus-verse-chorus-screeching-pointless stagnant repetition of drone'. The sole exceptions are the twin tribal pieces 'Jasco' and 'Itsári '. They aren't quite so bad, but they are rather boring, meandering endlessly, even more than 'Kaiowás' from Chaos A.D.. The only true highlights are 'Roots Bloody Roots' and 'Dictatorshit'. The former is just as bad as any other track on here, but as it is the first, it presents all the ideas that this album has to offer, save for the tribal nonsense. It works on some level, especially in a live setting. The latter is a crossover styled song that serves as the lone up tempo song on the album. It is still marred by the sludgy instruments, which lack impact at higher tempos (or any tempo, for that matter), but it doesn't feel quite so thick and annoying. The distorted bitch cries work better on a faster, legitimately aggressive song too.
The production is typical nu 'metal', and the main reason this album sucks so hard. The guitars become so thick and down tuned that they lose any impact. They are heavy, sure, but they aren't aggressive, and certainly don't convey any feeling of oppression or doom, other than by being so transcendentally stagnant and fake. And just as some faeces flavoured icing on this rotten cake, it pushes the vocals so high in the mix that any grooves that might pop up, like the one in 'Spit', that you can't here it at all. Oh, and great use of effects to cover up any hints of metalness in the solo found in 'Dictatorshit', Ross!
This is a failure, in every sense of the word. It doesn't succeed in its tribal aspect, only having some really poorly placed effects and stagnant drum beats to show for it. It isn't a bad version of Vulgar Display of Power like Chaos A.D. was. It isn't even good by the standards of nu 'metal'. This garbage is WORSE THAN KORN. Yes, really. It is that bad. Korn at least have some anthemic quality to their music, functioning as a big, dumb but fun stomp fest. This is outright horrible to listen to, not just for the music within, but the oppressive atmosphere (and not oppressive in the way doom metal is, either). It is made even worse knowing that one of the finest deathrash bands of all time had morphed into a tribal version of every nu 'metal' act ever, before fading into irrelevancy. Goodbye Sepultura, it's been a good run.
Nu metal is probably the most loathed and despised metal subgenre of all time. Perhaps, even metalcore possesses a slightly better fame, despite having spawned an even worse amount of shit in the latest decade. So, what’s the big deal with nu metal? Essentially, this genre was born around the mid-90s just as a definitive synthesis of all the experimentations done with the original metal sound in the first half of that decade (groove metal, sludge metal, alternative metal, funk metal, rap metal, industrial metal and so on), with an even groovier edge and, often, an even vaster range of external influences such as hip-hop, reggae and easy-listening alternative rock: the result was a clearly more accessible and “commercially exploitable” genre which strayed away from the original metal roots even more than the previous experimentations of the early 90s. So, under a certain point of view, I can understand the disdain of many metalheads toward nu metal, yet I can’t fully put my finger on it.
Honestly, I think most of 90’s nu metal is pretty fucking cool, to say the least: early Korn (first four albums, more or less), Deftones, Slipknot, Soulfly, Coal Chamber and, yeah, even early Limp Bizkit (first three albums, nothing more) are really great bands, regardless of their “seriousness” or their actual “faithfulness” to the original metal sound - and even as an old school extreme metal maniac (as you can see from most of my reviews) I deliberately admit to love the shit out of albums such as “Korn”, “Adrenaline”, “Soulfly”, “Primitive”, “Slipknot”, “Iowa”, “Life is Peachy”, “Issues”, “Around the Fur”, “Follow the Leader” and, yeah, even the extremely controversial “The Burning Red”: that kind of groovy/sludgy downtuned riffing with occasional dissonant touches really drives me nuts, and I find nothing wrong with the rap influences and the mad, demented vocal lines of certain bands (on the contrary, they often make the music even tastier). Unfortunately, since 2000, nu metal tragically wimped out for the most part: Linkin Park’s “Hybrid Theory” was the album that crushed the party and turned the genre into an anonymous mess of vapid cock rock bands with utterly inconsistent heavy guitars and awful refrains, erasing most of what I like about the genre’s earlier phase. However, those old 90’s classics still remain indisputable in my book, and among them, the greatest of all belongs to a famous Brazilian band which I already love for their previous outputs: I’m referring to Sepultura’s “Roots”.
There’s a curious paradox about this album: after having influenced the earlier nu metal bands with the seminal “Chaos A.D.” (which, in fact, was cited by Korn and Deftones as one of their main influences), Sepultura were influenced in turn by those same bands, almost as a sort of “mutual interchange of styles”. Probably around 1994 or 1995, Max Cavalera discovered and fell in love with the amazing Korn debut, which blended the groovy/noisy/funky sound of bands like Primus, Helmet, Faith No More, Rage Against the Machine, Godflesh, Biohazard and, indeed, “Chaos A.D.”-era Sepultura with an intimate, heartfelt, personal, tortured style (which, as you may know, was the product of Jonathan Davis’ tormented childhood); so, the famous Brazilian metal god was instantly drawn to nu metal (which, at the time, was pretty much an underground phenomenon yet), discovering other bands such as Deftones and a newborn Limp Bizkit, meeting and hanging with them and even changing his own image in order to fit the “eclectic” aesthetic of this new genre (well, honestly... pink hair wasn’t a really good choice). After having archived the Nailbomb side-project, Max’s plan with Sepultura was to release a particularly experimental album, taking inspiration from bands such as Korn and Faith No More while, at the same time, pushing forward the tribal experimentations of “Arise” and “Chaos A.D.” in order to definitively reach the true “Brazilian roots”. Actually, this was the most genial choice the band could ever make, since nu metal and Brazilian tribal music revealed themselves to be a perfect mix, sounding way less forced than an hypothetical “tribal thrash” experiment.
So, after having planted some essential seeds for the birth of death and black metal with “Bestial Devastation” and “Morbid Visions”, having been one of the most famous thrash metal bands around the globe with “Schizophrenia”, “Beneath the Remains” and “Arise”, and having been one of the hottest “modern metal” names in the early 90s with “Chaos A.D.”, Sepultura became a nu metal band with “Roots” in 1996, even before the genre became mainstream (for that, we’ll have to wait until 1998). I’ll probably receive death threats after my next statement, but I even consider “Roots” to be slightly superior to “Chaos A.D.”: it always sounded more compact, more cohesive and more focused to me in comparison to its predecessor, which, if seen into the final scheme, looks more like a transitional record in Sepultura’s evolution. The famous opener “Roots Bloody Roots” leaves no doubt about the band’s new direction: extremely downtuned guitars play some damn catchy, groovy riffs which, despite their stunning simpleness and their “sludgy” nature, sound incredibly powerful and abrasive (also thanks to the addition of some dissonant guitar lines provided by Andreas Kisser). I have to confess this was also one of the songs that drove me to love this band: the “ROOOOOTS! BLOODY ROOOOOTS!” refrain is something that every Sepultura fan on Earth must know, and the lyrics (for the first time explicitly infused with tribal/spiritual traditions) send a clear message of freedom to the world:
”I believe in our fate,
we don’t need to fake,
it’s all we wanna be...
WATCH ME FREEEAAAAAAAK!”
In this regard, I should add that Max’s new vocal style is finally matured since the “Chaos A.D.” days: now, he’s finally able to deliver his anger with full power, thanks to a rough and quite deep, yet extremely vital and powerful vocal style (far from the insecure barks of the previous album) that he will keep for years and years with his future bands. Max’s angered and pained yells give the right musical dimension to almost every track, especially expressing themselves during the choruses (in the most typical nu metal fashion) - yet on this album the music itself is no less important: all of these songs are constructed in a groovy, “tribal” style, adequately supported by Igor’s drumming which has become more and more versatile as time has passed. Most of the riffs, as already stated, are very simple, being often composed of two or three notes played in a tasteful groovy fashion (with sudden breaks in the most violent parts) - but these basic chord-progressions seem to be definitely well-chosen, as they’re often able to evoke an incredibly aggressive or at least threatening feeling which sounds atypical even for most nu metal out there: an example is easily represented by the almost sinister, menacing, yet insanely groovy refrain of “Breed Apart” (upon which Max yells another pissed off chorus), the unsettling refrain of “Endangered Species” and the intimidating riffs of “Attitude”, the latter being another manifest of Sepultura’s new course:
”Live your life
not what the way they taught you:
do what you feel!”
The production provided by the “nu metal guru” Ross Robinson gives to these downtuned riffs an even muddier, sludgier vibe, making them sound as dense and gross as humanly possible, while still delivering an impactful sound when required - like on the typically nu-metallish grooves of “Dusted” or the insanely brutal refrain of “Ambush” (whose lyrics are clearly constructed in a very recognizable nu metal fashion... ”When you go down, when you go down (motherfucker), when you go down... YOU GO DOWN FIGHTING!”). However, on “Roots”, the use of palm-muted riffing is way more diffused than on most other nu metal albums you’ll ever hear: Sepultura still carries some hints of their thrashing days, which are conveyed through some mid-paced half-thrash riffs such as those of “Endangered Species” and “Straighthate”, the bridge of “Attitude” or the threatening chugging parts of “Breed Apart”, which set the right climax for the aforementioned refrain; however, even those riffs are still succubus to the groovy nature of these tracks, always in the pure nu metal fashion, and on “Cut-Throat” you can even hear a “whirling” mixture, between the downright nu metal riffing style and the more “old school” one, everything inside one single riff. Some hints of Fudge Tunnel’s sound have vaguely survived on some riffs of “Ambush”, while a more upbeat punkish vibe can be heard on “Spit”.
The tribal influences dominate the sound even in the most straightforward tracks: just think about the jungle sound at the beginning of “Roots Bloody Roots”, the exotic/tribal intro of “Attitude” or the various interludes placed in the middle of normal songs such as “Ambush” or “Endangered Species” (this habit would later become a constant in Soulfly); and even when the band won’t use any kind of tribal trick, Igor’s drumming alone will be sufficient to achieve that effect. However, the album possesses even some “100% tribal” tracks: “Jasco” is an interesting acoustic instrumental (in the same vein of “Kaiowas” on the previous album) which possesses a very gentle and exotic sound, while “Itsári” is a tribal chant recorded in the “Aldeia Pimentel Barbosa” with the Xavantes tribe, in order to enrich the album with a true taste of the “Brazilian roots”. But the album’s true experimental gem is the well-known “Ratamahatta”: Korn-like syncopated rhythms (played exactly by the former Korn drummer David Silveria) and eerie nu metal riffs are blended with an original tribal instrumentation and some other exotic chants provided by the Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown, whose vocals are alternated to Max’s angered yells; the lyrics are a mishmash of peculiar terms of the Brazilian folklore, and the product of these ingredients is an absolute masterpiece of tribal metal that will never be topped - despite some later attempts in Soulfly, whose results are great in their own way, yet inevitably inferior.
Reading many lyrics, we get the impression that Max Cavalera wanted to make a concept album about the decay of modern society, often making paragons with the old traditions and the ancient Brazilian cults. However, most of these topics are dealt in a definitely more personal way in comparison to the ”ACAB/fuck the system” spirit of “Chaos A.D.”, an album that was more explicitly focused on social protest. Conceptually speaking, “Roots” seems also to inherit something from the Nailbomb side-project, as well as from Korn’s debut: in fact, many lyrics express intimate feelings of pain, angst and hardship, and the constantly celebrated “return to the roots” sounds more like a “catharsis” than anything else; actually, the band later confirmed this wasn’t a great period for them. These negative and confused feelings are emphasized by the album’s whole atmosphere, thanks to Andreas Kisser’s masterful guitar work: at this point, he has completely abandoned his old solo style, focusing rather on utterly dissonant guitar lines which are very frequent even in nu metal, probably as Godflesh’s biggest contribution to the genre; the whole album is filled with melodies of this kind, featuring everything from abstract pseudo-solos (such as those of “Endangered Species”, which create an absurdly sinister and uncomfortable mood) to squeaky, weird guitar tricks (such as the intro of “Spit”, which is absolutely typical for nu metal).
But I think it’s no coincidence if some of the album’s most suggestive moments can be heard exactly when proper music stops and dissonance takes over the rest, ending up in long sequences which work as a counterpart to the energy of Sepultura’s sound and surely contribute to make the mood weirder, eerier, calmer and surely more “meditative” (keeping faith to the album’s “tribal” spirit): this is how a song like “Breed Apart” is able to lose itself in a totally confused and messy atmosphere, creating a disturbing pathos before launching itself into the devastating chorus. However, a track that utterly benefits of this formula is undoubtedly the experimental episode of “Lookaway”: it’s a very subtle, slow, intimate song made of downtuned palm-muted riffs, weird atmospheric dissonances, filtered screaming vocals, weird scratches provided by DJ Lethal of Limp Bizkit, and the prestigious vocal guests of Mike Patton (Faith No More) and Jonathan Davis (Korn), whose presence increases the “eerie/intimate” vibe of the track thanks to their muffled/whispered vocals. Another song that perfectly lives up to the album’s weirder ingredients while not sacrificing “in-your-face” aggression is the awesome “Born Stubborn”, with its almost “oriental” melodies, its nervous pace, its kickass chugging guitars, its ear-piercing dissonances and its “animated” vocals (enriched by some other samples of the Xavantes tribe) which carry another strong message of freedom and independence which would later continue with Soulfly:
”I got my tribe, it’s my own right,
and I don’t have to tell you why!
It’s been like that from the start,
and you can’t break it apart!
Sepultura in our hearts,
can’t take it away!
will always remain!
Born in pain,
And, wanting to pick what’s probably the most upsetting of all the album’s tracks, the choice falls on the intensely heartfelt “Straighthate”, which is another masterfully constructed hymn to individualism like “Inner Self” once was. The song contains what probably are the most disturbing and twisted dissonances you’ll ever experience in nu metal, perhaps even surpassing Slipknot under this point of view, then builds up a tormented mid-tempo which evokes an intense pathos (further empowered by other sick dissonances and filtered vocals) and then explodes spectacularly in an incisive, deflagrating, passionate sludgy riff upon which Max Cavalera screams desperately, delivering all his anger and all his pain. The lyrics even hearken back to “Inner Self” and, at the same time, introduce a motto which would later be part of Soulfly’s philosophy:
”I ask myself why I’m so hateful,
perhaps it’s just part of my nature...
people say I’m fucked in my mind,
feels like there’s nothing left inside!
Walking now on different dirty streets,
but the same old feelings still exist:
hate is like a shade that won’t never leave...
leave me alone, I don’t need sympathy!
WHAT GOES AROUND...
So, even as a nu metal band, Sepultura still seem to be able to deliver the goods and create a personal, inspired, heartfelt masterpiece - made of creative, innovative compositions and lyrics which, despite being conveyed in a stripped down nu metal fashion, are actually more meaningful than what you’d think. However, strangely enough, the album concludes in a radically different way: “Dictatorshit” is a hyper-fast, hyper-short hardcore song which sounds way more akin to “Chaos A.D.”, both lyrically and musically - if it wasn’t for the downtuned guitars and Max’s filtered vocals; I bet this was one of the first songs to be written for this record, and in fact all the energy of old Sepultura/Nailbomb-styled hardcore is flawlessly delivered in a way that Andreas Kisser alone will never be able to replicate again, despite his vapid efforts with pathetic, half-assed hardcore attempts in the form of “Against” or “Come Back Alive”.
“Roots” is an important and controversial album under many points of view: it influenced thousands of bands with its innovative use of tribal influences inside a metal pattern, it sold millions of copies around the world, it paved the way for future nu metal bands like Slipknot (which took a lot from that style, though opting for a more “industrial” vibe) and... well, it also represented the end of an era. In fact, after this last masterpiece, Max Cavalera went through several struggles which constricted him to leave Sepultura, creating a fracture that, probably, will never be repaired. Luckily enough, he found the strength to form a personal project called Soulfly with which he has been able to push forward his eclectic musical vision for many years (producing other masterpieces of tribal nu metal in the form of “Soulfly”, “Primitive”, “3” and “Prophecy”), before going back successfully to his original roots; contemporarily, his former bandmates tried in vain to fill the enormous gap he left, recruiting the awful hardcore vocalist Derrick Green and creating awful piles of feces such as “Against”, “Nation” and “Roorback”, in the desperate attempt to demonstrate everyone that ”Sepultura still existed”. Actually, I like to imagine that the band did split-up after “Roots” and the albums which came after were created by a sloppy tribute band which just had the fortune to include some original members, while Max has continued to carry the true spirit of Sepultura during the latest seventeen years. Although my absolute favourite album ever made by these Brazilian motherfuckers is still the deflagrating thrashterpiece known as “Beneath the Remains”, I literally love everything they did with Max (which clearly was the “driving genius” behind them) - from the early thrashing days of “Bestial Devastation” to the later “groovy/tribal” phase: and “Roots”, besides being an experimental masterpiece and representing the peak of an extremely controversial metal subgenre, is also the final testament of this once awesome band.
Time goes by, yet ”these roots will always remain”.
For many folks out there, the 90s were a very treacherous time in the metallic world. Thrash was fading away, shred had all but a year's worth of legitimacy, and something new was a'brewin' in the Pacific Northwest. Metal as they knew it was leaving the mainstream spotlight in favor of the "next big thing" rearing its ugly head(s) as the years wore on and certain groups who still wished to hold onto their place within the A-List spectrum had to do something Adapt or die, after all. Yet none really fell right on their fucking face with it than our one-time favorite Brazilian troublemakers Sepultura with a little thing called "Roots"...
For as heartfelt as Max and the boys made their material out to be, there's no doubting for a second that "Roots" is ultimately uninspired and lifeless. On a musical level, the group's well of collective creativity was bone dry amidst this 70+ minute mishmash. Years after being a bastion of endless riffage, we'd be lucky to get 2 or 3 riffs TOTAL song by song, with many of them mere half-step chord progressions, numbing repetition and that oh-so grating upper register dissonance so common with Korn-clone nu metal acts (the beginning of "Spit" is the worst example of the lot). Guitars that once bestowed chaotic butchery now merely shove you about, vocals that literally spat fire now mildly insult and drums that came at the listener in at least three or four different directions break down so heavily and often that it's a wonder the engine could turn over at all. And at the main forefront is Ross Robinson's shit production, which robs a lot of the body from the songs and rendering them flat, unimpressive and drudging from end to end. It almost becomes a chore to continue on the further in you go track by track, with no one song better, worse or really standing out amongst the rest; I swear at least three of the songs therein are so interchangeable that you could retitle them and no one would notice.
Things were already on the down slope for quite a few out there with "Chaos A.D.", wherein the band found themselves stylistically painting themselves into a corner, and with the release of this the corner went from being limiting to outright gone. Yet the main problem with many of the opinions placed upon this is that, more often than not, this is singled out as the one definitive moment in which "metalness" was cast asunder in favor of commercial excess. Those who would believe that aren't entirely wrong, but it's unfair to only pick on Sepultura. This decade was very unkind to metal, as we're all aware, and as I'd said before bands who were on top of the world years ago had to do whatever it took to maintain focus and attention during this time of social upheaval. Survival instinct if nothing else. For fuck's sake, your beloved Big Four of Thrash Metal weren't immune to the curse of the 90s, either! None of them! "Cryptic Writings?" "Volume 8: The Threat is Real?" "Load??" "Diabolus in Musica??" Exodus and Testament dropping off the map? Need I go on? I hope not. But, if "Chaos A.D." has taught me anything it's that, at their core, Sepultura just flat out don't care what you think; they'll do what they feel is right by them no matter the cost. And really, of all the thrash bands the 80s spat at us they seemed to have the most to say, shooting for legitimate societal woes versus "What if?" political rantings and Satanic buffoonery. Maybe their survival instinct was the result of them needing as big a podium as can be to showcase the world in all its shit glory. Yet does that absolve the band in any way given how "Roots" came out? Not a chance.
All in all "Roots" may have had some deep-rooted (heh...) concepts underneath all the high school angst and blinding blur, but the whole of the work is just too lacking to take it all in. I may have heard worse nu metal bands and albums, but I've heard far better Sepultura. We all have.
What the.....? I mean, WHAT THE...?
The previous album, Chaos AD, was a great album. Unlike some people, I'm not annoyed by the fact Sepultura changed their sound for that record - it worked. They produced a great, modern metal album with some thought-provoking lyrics and a real sense of driving, righteous anger and standing up to injustice. The tribal sounds that were introduced on a few tracks were good, lending texture and variety to the record. Overall, they made a classic of early 90s heavy music.
So for their next album Roots, they decided to keep evolving, and among other things they retained the tribal sounds and vibes. Roots features a fair amount of the tribal drumming that was present on songs like Kaiowas, and also features some traditional Brazilian instruments [the intro of "Attitude"]. The band even ventured into the jungle to record with a native Brazilian tribe ["Itsari"]. They delved into the native musical sounds and traditions of their own country, and worked them into the album. Which is fine. The tribal sounds are interesting and lend some welcome texture to the record. It's just that the music Sepultura play on here is mostly awful nu-metal.
Opener "Roots Bloody Roots" is by far the best song on the album. Despite being buried in a nasty, Korn-esque guitar tone, it's still an absolute monster of a song and is deservedly a live favourite. The percussion is heavy and worked in to the music quite well, and as a cathartic roar of rage it serves its purpose. However things go rapidly downhill from then on in. "Attitude" is kind of a half-song. It's not really got much drive to it but just seems to rage about aimlessly, in a kind of pointless, bitter way. It feels like a demo that the band forgot about. The rest of the album fails to improve. "Rattamahatta" features Carlinhos Brown on percussion and has a nice groove for a while, but then Max steps in and starts doing odd vocal lines in the chorus which just don't sound good. As the record drags on and on, it becomes increasingly claustrophobic. Good riffs are few and far between, and a lot of the songs just sit there, not really doing much.
Some respite comes through the gloom with "Spit" which at least has some kind of oomph to it and an anthemic chorus, but after that it's back to the Korn style downtuned guitars, two-note riffs and no hooks or exciting moments. "Lookaway" features Jon Davis in a guest spot, as well as Mike Patton [why did Patton get involved with such mediocre product?], and it's an absolute nadir, or maybe the low point is "Dusted" with an unbelievably bad, lame riff which just sounds completely flat and uninspired. And so it drags on and on, until the closing "Dictatorshit" a two-minute punkish blast with some very simplistic and obvious lyrics.
What happened here? The get angry and fight vibe of Chaos AD has been replaced with an atmosphere of "we're being wiped out, we'll go down, this is an outrage but we're probably screwed" which doesn't make for a very inspiring listen. The whole record doesn't sound defiant, it sounds desperate, frightened, despairing. I mentioned the general claustrophobia of the record earlier - listening to this album is like going on an expedition into the jungle and getting hopelessly lost in the trees with no idea how to find one's way out. The whole vibe of the record is like that and it's not a happy or rewarding or invigorating listen, just dreary and oppressive. The terrible production job by Ross Robinson doesn't help in this regard either, awful guitar tones, weak sounding instruments, everything sounds muddy and crap, which is I guess what you will get from hiring the man who was behind the mixing desk for Korn's albums.
The main problem around this era is that Max Cavalera seems to have had some kind of breakdown. Look at him during the Chaos AD years, then onstage around 1996, and he seems a completely different person. Taking cues from Jon Davis, hanging out with nu-metal bands, changing his image and most of all seemingly letting his songwriting skills degenerate rapidly into a mess of Korn riffs and simplistic lyrics. I have no idea what caused this but the change is alarming, and it's reflected in this absolute mess of an album, lacking ideas, energy, and songwriting in general. It's always sad to see a great band go into decline, it's even more shocking when that decline happens in under three years. An abysmal, claustrophobic and depressing record.
After reading several reviews of this album (both positive ones and negative ones) I can conclude that several things of this release are quite overlook. Be it repetitive riffs or lack of virtuoso soloing or conventional "metalness" if you will, this does not take away from the sound at all. This album is indeed overwhelmingly metal.
If you are indifferent about sounds from other countries, be it the folk music of those nations or the tribal music of those nations, stay away from this album at all costs. Obviously you're gonna get the sound of Sepultura's origin. And goddamn is it a great sound. Sepultura explicitly mark their territory when it comes to the uniqueness of their brand in metal. What's definitely one of the best aspects of this album is the percussion. Igor Cavalera did an exceptionally superb job with his percussive delivery and the combination of tribal percussive instruments along with his own drum kit. "Roots Bloody Roots", "Rattamahatta", "Breed Apart", and "Attitude" are among the greatest percussive tracks of this album. If you're a drummer and you enjoy multiple brands of metal, never hesitate in buying this album or listening to it anyway you can.
Andreas Kisser's soloing or exceptional guitar work does not exactly become a focus or an outstanding aspect of this release but it is definitely consistent and it blends well with the rest of the album's sound. Yes, while Max's lyrics aren't optimal, his vocal delivery impresses regardless. "Jasco" is definitely a track where Andreas' guitar playing stands out the most. It is definitely a song that stands out and gives a nice extra acoustic flavor to the album.
Something that I really loved, being a bassist, is the production of this album. The bass is pretty damn loud! this really made the album all the more enjoyable for me. "Lookaway" for me is the with the best bass groove in it. Ross Robinson as well as the rest of the staff involving the album's production definitely deserve a thumbs up.
Something that I found absolutely laughable was the way that so many complained about this album being "nu-metal" influenced. From what I hear, Max didn't quite write douchebaggy lyrics and not every track in this album had turntables other than "lookaway". Sure, you can definitely see some korn influence when you talk about the downtuning, but damn it's nowhere near being a important focus of the album. The percussion is definitely much more of a focus in this album rather than any nu-metal or metal specific influence. This album takes a little bit of everything and pretty much combines it with Sepultura's roots.
Overall: An underrated album among thrashers and extreme metal fans. Definitely deserves different perspectives and extra listens.
This album is incredibly hard to sit through for even one song. The mixture of tribal percussion, angsty harsh yelling, groove-laced riffs, jumpdafuckup rhythms, and tough-guy attitude culminates in one of the worst assaults on the ears ever created. It's such a bad combination of the worst nu-metal posturing and least appealing type of metal aggression. On the other end of the album there's the worst execution of tribal elements on a metal album (even with a concluding track to sum up the band's wasted ambition). Sepultura's movement away from the realm of heavy metal left this shitstain - Roots - an overly long, super repetitive, ridiculously boring, and pathetically retarded musical product.
Everyone sucks, from the band members to the accomplices that helped create such a whirlwind of muddy, monotonous songs. "Roots Bloody Roots" - a vanguard that represents the fat, polished grime defining almost every song thereafter - kicks off such an unnecessarily long album. There's no point in having this many tracks of mostly the exact same bland, coarse guitar tone messing with the same downtuned riffs in different variations. Under all of them is this backwash bass guitar tone that's massive. It serves not to play anything memorable (this album is devoid of competent riffs or solos), but to add a heavy layering. Everything is clear and fat like any modern album today would strive to be, so such bass support would work out. Despite a need to nail this particular sound so badly, the album causes this support to backfire by sounding quirky and unorthodox at times as it shifts identities over and over.
Forget the fact that this album has moved away from metal and represents a Sepultura transitioning into other genres. Why in the hell does the music end up so poorly? Even by the standards of a nu-metal / rock album, Roots is an embarrassment. Nothing intellectual was required, but to have lackluster experimentation push simplistic, sterile riffs into the most lifeless of uninteresting proportions with asinine lyrics to back it up is a complete failure. Max's awful caveman yells going in and out of distortion saying the stupidest shit gets annoying, as does every bit of this album's duration. The other Cavalera and his drumming sounds fine tone-wise, but the plainness of the beats and fills is a far cry from the relentless bashing of old.
Don't expect anything catchy as much as something unproductive, aggravating, and derivative. Even the tribal elements or the "folk" aspect of this album (awkward to mix with such music to begin with) is executed in a disappointing way. There's no cohesion, nor is there any real identity or direction for the album. Just a bad concept of too many shitty ideas making their way onto one artifact.
When Roots was released in 1996, I remember being truly excited. Chaos A.D. had been one of my favorite albums, maintaining a steady rotation in my car's cassette deck for well over a year. When a friend handed me a dubbed copy of their latest album, I was stoked. Popping it in the deck, I was immediately confused. Had this been mislabeled? Was this the new Korn album? Nope, that's Max. But seriously, what's up with this derivative sound? Whereas Chaos A.D. had nicely coupled stomping grooves with tribal polyrhythms and hardcore punk and thrash, Roots tipped that sound obscenely over into the groove category, with all the welcome diversity of their previous record snuffed out as well. What had been a perfected thin line of a new sound was now a blurry, muddy mess and Roots would prove to be a record from which Sepultura (and by association Soulfly) would never recover from.
The first major problem I have with this record is the production. The thickness of the sound, the guitar and bass tone, the drum placement -- all of it is a straight xerox of the production job Ross Robinson did for the first Korn album. People went crazy for that sound at the time but it was never a perfect fit for Sepultura as the nuances of the music are lost beneath an artifical glaze of assumed heaviness. The second problem I have is with the lazy, tired musical cliches that surface up from this ugly, over-produced muck.
Now I have no real issue with the tasteful use of groove, and the incorporation of tribal elements into the Sepultura sound makes sense and should've been refreshing. But the songwriting here is tepid at best. When a track works, like the double-bass frenzy of "Attitude" or the menacing headbanger "Roots Bloody Roots," the results impress. But those tracks are front-loaded for a reason. By the time the A-Side gives way to the B-Side, the well has run dry. Whatever interesting ideas the band had are irksomely re-hashed and recycled and this enervating sense of redundancy has kept me from ever listening to Roots all the way through. It just gets boring.
What's worse is that the band experiments in ways that just get too far away from their core sound. A track like "Lookaway" with turntable scratches, hip-hop samples, and a Mike Patton/Jonathan Davis tag team is just blatant pandering at its worst. For a band once as innovative as Sepultura to hop the faddish bandwagon is just saddening. There's also an unflattering strain of angst-driven hardcore tough-guy emoting on the lyrical end that further demonstrates Sep ranging away from their basic metal templates. And while I think there's room for brief acoustic tribal jams, the back-to-back boredom of "Jasco" and "Istari" just sucks the life out of the record. These elements combine with the bad production and limpid songwriting to just drag Roots further down from disappointment to near-disaster. What's left is a mere handful of decent songs and a wrecked legacy that out-right ruined one of metal's most interesting and powerful creations.
First of all lets get a few things straight.
Sepultura DID NOT record this album in the Amazon! In fact the Amazon had very little influence on this album. So seriously, when people talk of all this "Amazon" stuff, they clearly don't know what they are talking about. The album was mostly recorded in the eastern part of the state of Mato Grosso which may not mean a lot to most people outside of Brazil but trust me, it's not the Amazon.
Next, This is not thrash. It goes without saying right? No one is disputing this but apparently this causes a lot of distress for Sepultura fans who only like the "real" Sepultura i.e. pre Chaos era. OK so after "Arise" they could've taken one of two roads. One, continue down the thrash road and end up like AC/DC or Slayer in that they never change their sound. Or two, do what they did and venture in a different direction. So there lies the argument between fans and no one will ever agree. Personally, I'm glad they changed. Sure I love AC/DC and Slayer but their lack of direction makes me a bit bored sometimes and I find myself only listening to their older stuff anyway. A change in direction can be the best, worst or most indifferent thing that can happen to a band. In Sepultura's case I think it was the best. So when people say "well it doesn't compare to Arise". Of course it doesn't, they are completely different. They changed, get over it.
So lets talk about the album itself.
"Roots Bloody Roots" kicks in and straight away there is a different vibe. It's slower, heavier and deeper than all Sepultura's material that preceeded it. Still a live staple today, "Roots Bloody Roots" is certianly a killer track and I guess one of those songs that is a lot more accessible to the mainstream.
"Attitude" follows it up, begining with the unmistakable sound of the Berimbau. A uniquely Brazilian one stringed instrument that compliments Sepultura's sound perfectly and is the perfect introduction to one of the heaviest tracks on the album.
When it comes to change of sound, the examples dont get more fitting than "Ratamahatta". With the Brazilian beats and assistance from the Xavante tribe, Sepultura create a track that certainly doesn't have an equal anywhere outside this album. One could almost argue that this is the archetypal "Roots" song. Metal guitar heavily interlaced with Brazilian influences and lyrics in Portuguese.
Later sees the least metal part of the album in the form of "Jasco" and "Itsári". "Jasco" is a lone little guitar piece that shouldn't be a surprise to Sepultura fans as they'd already dabbled with this type of track with "The Abyss". Yet this one is much different in that the scale Andreas uses is much more different and exotic than most used to hearing. It's a fantastic little ditty that, for guitarists, is a great joy to master and play. "Itsári" is a pleasant track that is mainly light acoustic guitar with chanting and other contributions again from the Xavante tribe.
The album finishes (unless of course you have the Digipak version) with perhaps their most intense moment in "Dictatorshit". Heavily distorted and lightning fast, it's probably the only track that would satisfy the fans of "real" Sepultura.
The guitars are tuned low and are heavily distorted. Igor's drumming is at it's best and while replacing the sometimes monotonous thrash drumming style with a more groove orientated sound, it's no less impressive. OK so the lyrics are, well, not the most poetic or sophisticated but that's Max and in my opinion his passion when singing them makes up for the lack of sophistication.
Above all else, though, what makes this album so amazing is that it really is the most Brazilian any Brazilian band has sounded. Heavy metal is not a Brazilian invention but of course metal is for everyone worldwide and like the world itself, it is varied and unique depending on where it comes from, or at least it should be. America had the bay area thrash, Britain had NWOBHM, Sweden has Gothenburg metal but what about Brazil? Sure Brazil isn't exactly the most influential country when it comes to metal. Brazilian bands such as Angra, Korzus, Sarcófago, Torture Squad and Eminence are all playing heavy music but if you just listened to the music and you didn't know, it could think it was from anywhere. I consider myself lucky to be living in Brazil and while most Brazilians will sit there and tell you about the horrible aspects of their country such as violence, poverty and corruption, in the same breath they'll tell you they wouldn't live anywhere else. They have a right to be proud of their country and its amazing and varied culture. However, when it comes to metal, that culture never comes out in the music and personally I think it's a shame. When you listen to "Roots", there is little doubt where this album originates from. Some may call it a cheap attempt to cash in on some exotic sound but I strongly disagree. I think Sepultura was the only band to have the balls to heavily lace their music with sounds and language of their native country and I think bands should do it more often. Why do we expect bands from different places to all sound the same? Why do we expect them to all sing in English? There are so many fascinating sounds from so many different cultures around the world and many of those would fit into metal so well, for me it's a shame it isn't exploited more often.
So love it or hate it, I still maintain that while it certainly isn't the fastest or thrashiest of Sepultura's albums, it's the most interesting, dynamic, coolest sounding and in my opinion, their best.
It seems as if everything that can be said about this album has already been said. But then why should I write this review and would want anyone to read it? Because I feel like there are aspects of this album that have been barely discussed, if any at all.
This is a dangerous album to review, because it's a touchy subject among metal fans. With this album Sepultura hurt many old fans and delighted many others that cared less. But, in my personal view, here's other ways how this album is/was dangerous...
#1: Musical fusion - brilliance or cheap exploitation of tribal music?
I've heard many opinions about Sepultura and Roots, but no one has seemed to have questioned this before, because too many people are hung up on how "nu-metal" the album sounds. When I first heard about Roots, I immediately wondered if this is some stupid attempt to be exotic, where it was more about novelty than the substance. We've seen that happen many times in popular music. A prime example was when Paul Simon wrote "Graceland" and did some shows in Africa; I couldn't help but to feel that the album ultimately served as just another way for the "intelligent" white man to gain more glory and praise by using the music of "tribal" black men.
Thank god that's not exactly the case here. Max Cavalera and the band seems to be really in touch with the frustration that Xavante Indians possess. While the Xavantes are the political and social weaklings of Brazil, Sepultura was also an outcast of society in their early existence, being a bunch of scary metalheads. Sepultura also knows the difficulty of being the weak people in politics, since they are from a somewhat struggling third-world country (Brazil) that's been trying to gain more presence in international politics and economy. Sepultura approached the Indians for collaborations for the right reasons. It was the commonality they shared - social weakness, passion to refuse and resist oppression, and use of music as a weapon to guard their identity, that made this fusion of Xavante's music and sepultura's aggression work so well. By keeping lyrical content strictly to hymns of resistance that both camps relate to, Sepultura really justifies the musical experiment of the album.
#2: Alternative/nu-metal sound - Is this the first time the band sold out?
I think this just depends on your perspective. Obviously many people see the abandonment of technical guitar work as an act of sell-out. Lack of solos piss me off too - yes, you hear one brief solo on "Endangered Species," but that's 14th track for fuck's sake - having one brief solo at the end of an album is really half-assed to me.
But wait a minute. Couldn't you call their transition from their early Morbid/Schizo sound to Beneath/Arise sound an act of "selling out" too? Sure, a shift away from satanist metal to thrash metal is a relatively small shift, but thrash was hot in the late 80s. It was marketable. It was the cool shit. Even Slayer stopped being blatantly satanic by the time Seasons in the Abyss came out in 1990. Isn't getting rid of Satanist metal for "thrash" in late 80s not that different as getting rid of thrash for newer, $$$ sound of alternative?
In Sepultura's defense though, Roots is clearly one of the best alternative/nu-metal albums. Period. No questions asked, and I'm not going to debate this with anyone. Even though Beneath and Arise weren't innovative, they were amazing albums good enough to be considered classic for the thrash genre. Likewise, Roots is an album that should be considered essential for nu-metal genre. But unlike Beneath/Arise, Roots was an genre-starting album rather than carrying the torch. And even though it's got a large element of nu-metal, remember folks, Sepultura did it with just 6 string guitars - no 7-string guitar Ibanez bullshit like everyone else.
#3: "Don't fuck with me" vibe of the album - a true sense of danger or just childish rants?
Earlier I mentioned lyrics being relevant to political and social resistance. We all know well that nu-metal generally has horrible lyrics and a lot of personal anger that lacks purpose and offers no closure or solution. Here, it sounds like aimless rants too, at first. However, on this album the primal expression of anger is carried out with a clear objective. Pick any lyrics, and you'll see that they're simplistic, rhymes here and there but not really, etc. These lyrics individually might not impress you, but when it's striking at a same issue so consistently from "Roots Bloody Roots" to "Dictatorshit," it inevitably breeds a solid sense of purpose and inspiration to care about justice.
As far as vocals go, this is Max's best work ever. His screams on this album is a style all on its own. It's sincere and full of indignation, and Roots is more dependent on Max's vocal talent than anything else, even though the same could not be said of the band's previous albums. Particularly on "Roots Bloody Roots" does Max really shine - he is so intense on it that every single live performance I have seen pales to the recorded vocals.
The best part of it all is that the message of the album is political while being devoid of political ideals - it's easier to listen to Roots as music than the music of Rage Against the Machine or System of a Down where dogmatic politics can get really annoying. It's also aggressive only as much as it is necessary - like a desperate cry out of self-defense. The simple vocal delivery that taps mankind's primal instincts added to the thematic consistency, and ultimately made the album personal and political yet easy to digest and relate to without being excessive in violence. The lyrics and vocals on this album is probably why "Sepultura=Max" to many people, regardless of their opinion on Roots or even Chaos A.D. Max's vocals is really memorable.
My final verdict:
Roots is inconsistent compared to albums up to Arise, or the recent masterpiece like A-Lex. Songs after the great instrumentals "Jasco" and "Itsari" just feels misplaced, because those two songs totally chills out the mood and kills the momentum (it's exacerbated by the middle-part of "Ambush" as well). That's too bad because the entire album up to that point is perfect - even "Lookaway," which might come across as aimless to some, provoked an image of a dense Amazon jungle and maintained that dangerous feel. No songs on this album is a "filler," but if Roots was meant to be a true battle cry of personal and political fury, then it should have left a couple tracks out or have tracklist arranged better. If I could've, I would've suggested to Sepultura to cut "Itsari" a little shorter too in order to not kill the momentum of the punk-like aggression.
I am neither the type to think that this was an utter piece of shit, nor the type to praise this as "Sepultura's best album ever," although I do lean towards the latter than the former. No matter how flawed it is and how frustrating it is at times, this album is a classic. Why? Because nothing sounded like this before or after. Not even Sepultura, Soulfly, or Cavalera Conspiracy could sound dangerous like that since. No wonder no one has played "Ratamahatta" and many other songs off Roots.
There is a certain class of albums that are, by their very nature, utterly repulsive to anyone who loves heavy metal, particularly the brand that existed before 1992. It isn’t so much a matter of the music contained within not being aggressive enough, technically proficient enough, or that the lyrics aren’t conducive to the multifaceted nature of the style per say. If those were the standard, this band’s classic debut “Morbid Visions” wouldn’t be lauded as a grand pioneering effort by many fans of thrash, death, and black metal respectively. The ultimate issue is what the culture it represents holds in opposition to metal culture, and consequently the manner in which the music is presented in the sum of all its various parts.
Sepultura’s “Roots” doesn’t really qualify as groove metal or industrial metal in the general sense as its predecessor did, nor is it fully in the realm of avant-garde music or nu-metal. It’s sort of stuck in between all of those, and basically functioned as a template that greatly influenced all of those various off-shoots in certain respects after its release. It was itself heavily influenced by newer sounds such as Korn’s mallcore creation, Faith No More’s experimental material, as well as the slowly emerging rap/rock scene known today as nu-metal, underscored by the fact that central figures in all 3 scenes provided guest work on here. To a zombie-like adherent of pop culture, this is the perfect stew of every dumb assed form of pop/rock that was burning up the top 200 at the time with a hodgepodge of artsy nonsense which had slightly less of a following, but to someone who expects metal in their speakers, it's nothing more than a random mess of decrepit mainstream dribble. If there were an actual school where one learned to trade in their metal credentials for a diploma/stamp of approval in the fine art of crappy rock music (which I have dubbed The Royal Seal of Gayness), this release would be its valedictorian.
The complete departure from anything resembling a recognizable form of metal covers every second of sonic diarrhea splashed upon this piece of toilet paper that happens to be shaped like a CD and playable in a CD player. Evil sounding death barks are nowhere to be found, as good old Max Cavalera has decided that imitating Jonathan Davis’ whinny yells and incoherent mumbles is the way to go here. Fast and fun drum beats have been traded in for hypnotic drum beats and random tribal percussive interludes, both of which clash with each other completely and sound as if someone is playing two different songs simultaneously through the same stereo system. The guitars are as muddy as a swamp of coccidian infested elephant excrement that listen about as sour as the actual condition would smell in reality, and the riffs consist mostly of 2 note/chord dribble that is repetitive enough to make “Chaos A.D.” sound like “Beneath The Remains”. Throw in a few really comical sounding effects such as record scratches; overly present vocal distortion, dissonant 2 note tremolo leads with effects that make them sound even more out of tune, and a whole bunch of other crap that should never be mixed in together.
Although differentiating each individual song is not extremely difficult due to the wide variety of elements at play, nothing on here can really be enjoyed if you liked any of this band’s past work, particularly their 80s albums. Anyone suggesting as such is not doing so because they listen to music on the merits, but because they are subject to the indoctrination of mainstream music via the radio. “Roots Bloody Roots” introduces us to the 2 note goodness of modern mallcore riffing, borrowing heavily from Korn’s debut both musically and vocally. There are probably 4 actual riffs to this whole song, but if you cancel out distinctions between riffs consisting of single notes versus ones that follow the same pattern and rhythm but use power chords, there are only 2. This form of non-variation is bolstered a little by annoying high end guitar screeches loaded with processed flanger effects and a slight change in beat to give the illusion of variation, but really what you get is 3 and ½ minutes of Cavalera crying like a sodomized bitch overtop of an extremely annoying, one-dimensional, droning background.
From here on in, we get various regurgitations of this simpleton approach to song creation, making one wonder if this entire album was written over a weekend with Patton and Davis coaching the band on what will get them radio play. “Attitude” and “Cut” have a little more variation to them; the latter actually has a little guitar solo that would be good if it wasn’t drowned in maxed out flanger effects, but the vocals are so high in the mix you can hardly make out what’s going on beneath them, not that you’d actually want to. “Ramatahatta” takes the same 2 or 3 note droning, mud stomping, guitar groove style and loads it up with weird percussive tribal lingo out of some guest vocalist and Cavalera in a question and response style that sounds more like someone beating on a plastic bucket than an actual person talking. “Breed Apart” ratchets up the gayness further still with a complete imitation of both Davis’ bitchy yells and his homoerotic whisper/speak. Parts of this have riffs consisting of one note, so of course we need to mask it with more Brazilian percussion and studio gimmicks, like pouring a gallon jug of perfume on a mud drenched warthog.
On and on this thing plods through the sewage drenched seas of groovy sludge, occasionally morphing into something tribal sounding, while at others just loading up on the rap and ambient guitar nonsense and being even more unlistenable. “Straighthate” starts off with this really annoying one note bass drone loaded with feedback drenched guitar harmonics that sound like a tiger mauling a chalk board with its front claws. At about the 1:15 mark we get about 10 seconds of pure groove metal where we have a unified arrangement and an actual guitar riff to speak of, but what little enjoyment might be gotten from it is utterly destroyed by the mess that follows it. That’s basically how the album functions, every now and then, they’ll revisit their groove/thrash past here and there as if to remind the listener that this used to be a metal band and torture him further. “Spit” annoys the listener further still by actually taking out a lot of the studio gimmicks and putting in 3 or 4 half-decent groove riffs, but compensates for this obvious positive by making Cavalera’s distortion steeped voice so ridiculously loud in the mix that you can’t hear it half of the time.
If one were to ignore the 13 minute jam session at the end of this and focus on the 15 actual songs (I use this term loosely of course), at this point we come to the center and the trough of this seemingly endless valley of garbage in “Lookaway”. If you ignore the 3 way vocal gimp festival going on and just focus on the guitars, what you have are verse sections that literally sound like an extended fart sample. The lyrics on this literally sound like they are referring to a vagina being violated, although superimposing the vocalists themselves into the picture, 3 vaginas would be the actuality of it. Hearing Cavalera and Davis at the same time, it is definitely clear that the former is a little manlier in sound, but that’s not saying much. Patton is basically just blurting out gibberish at random, serving only to throw off any sense of rhythmic cohesion that this fudge dragon of a song actually possesses. As a whole, this monstrosity is the worst thing ever to be put to music; the world’s largest brontosaurus enema couldn’t clean this thing up.
In keeping with the capricious nature of mainstream taste, some acoustic stuff highlighting some false sense of versatility becomes obligatory, so let us proceed to the twin odes to the primitive in “Iasco” and “Itsari”. I’m not fully opposed to the idea of meshing Brazilian tribal chant and percussion with metal music, as Angra actually did a decent job of it on “Holy Land”, but this is just utterly boring. “Itsari” is basically a near carbon copy of “Kaiowos” with sampled chants in the background, while “Iasco” is similar sounding to the same “Chaos A.D.” song but is about half as long yet meanders twice as much. If you put both of these songs on a continued loop and subjected every environmental activist on the planet to it for 30 minutes, you’d likely see the world singing in unison for the final solution to the rainforest question and could then make a killing in the chainsaw and torch business once slash and burn policies began to commence.
If you’ve managed to suffer through the entire duration of the first 14 songs, we are greeted with one song that actually passes for metal, albeit something along the lines of thrash/crossover with pretty poor vocals. For all of its lyrical stupidity and horribly over-distorted vocals, “Dictatorshit” has a good riff or two buried in the arrangement and a guitar solo that would be good if it wasn’t buried under too many effects. Unfortunately, being just over a minute in time length, the song presents itself not so much as a breath of fresh air after nearly an hour of torturous suffocation, but as an insult to the listener by reminding them that this band is capable of rocking out, but utterly refuses to do so. Why the fuck would you put one decent little ditty right at the end of a mountain of dog shit? It makes zero sense logically, although given the influences at work here; it actually makes perfect sense nonetheless.
It’s one thing to be a pioneer of something as terrible as mallcore like Korn was, it is quite another to be a well established thrash act from the 80s who pioneered the death metal style, and then jumped on board the latest fad like a whore onto her next customer. The fact that this new customer (genre) is ugly as hell only further adds insult to injury. You can get a level of enjoyment out of Pantera’s and Machine Head’s music from this time period, regardless how inferior the music is, but this just has nothing redeeming to speak of. It has rightfully earned not only the honor of being stamped with The Royal Seal of Gayness, but the top status as valedictorian of the class for its helping spread the mallcore virus through the classrooms of crappy core high school, where all metal ceases to be.
Originally submitted to (www.metal-observer.com) on October 11, 2008.
You know what the really funny thing is. When someone just doesn’t like a transitional album, frantic fans will always use the same argument: “You would have liked it if you were ‘open minded’ ”. The 1996 album ‘Roots’ is a classic example of an album that devides us all and a lot had been said on here already. I for one hope to have an opinion that is slighty different.
The album of course has gone down in history as the most important album to mix Brazilian music with metal. So far I really like the idea. Nothing wrong with those great rhythms and what a marvellous thought to introduce these into the metalscene. I’m always up for some really new ideas or innitialy crazy approaches. A lot of songs on this album are pretty good and do a good job of blending these styles. The titletrack is amazingly powerful and so was its video. More powerful actually than their previous album in terms of aggression and intensity. In essence it is a midtempo metal song with additional Brazilian elements. Second really superb song is ‘Ratamahatta’. The blend is perfect here since neither one of the styles takes the upper hand and the lead mixed vocals are simply great.
Third place really goes to 'Born Stubborn' which is heavy, catchy and even danceable! great rhythms here and quite some happy riffs. Once again this is a song in which both styles blend perfectly. Fourth place will definately be 'Dusted' which is the missling link between the average sound of this album and its predecessor 'Chaos A.D.' with the emphasis on the latter.
Also worth mentioning is my personal fifth place 'Spit' which is actually a midpaced punksong reminiscent of Amebix and the slower works of Discharge. Okay, so there also was a short uptempo song for all those fans who had liked ‘Biotech is Godzilla’ and all the punk-covers Sepultura had recorded throughout the years but ‘Dictatorshit’ was no old thrasher yet still an entertaining song.
But really, how much I tried, all the other songs didn't really do it for me. not even 'Jasco' and 'Istari' because one ‘Kaiowas’ is enough for me and a chanting village doesn't change the fact that these acoustic intermezzos of Cavalera and Kisser all sound the same. Most of the other songs are midpaced and slowpaced nu-metal with incidental use of extra instruments like Berimbau on intros and in middlesections. Not really a blending of the styles you see but more of a contrived copy/paste approach compositionally. Real low points are ‘Attitued’ and ‘Lookaway’. The songs in essence are simply bad, boring, dull and the use of extra instruments doesn’t change that.
Still, after 11 years the album has some material that I wouldn't want to miss in my collection but also a lot of songs I must skip or else I'll go mad. For the originality, heavy sound and those mentioned 6 great songs I really must give them 85 points. All those other songs however take it down to 65 points.
Roadrunner Records 1995
Reviewed: Special edition 2005
Brazilian metallists retreat into the Brazilian jungle and re-emerge with this lovingly repackaged masterwork.
It’s not every day that you happen upon a truly original album. An album where the musicians immerse themselves in the very elements of their heritage, and allow it to change them into an artistic force the likes of which will never be seen again. An album that is as much about a country and a civilization as a band. But then, it’s not every day that you hear an album like “Roots”.
Brazilian thrash metal monsters Sepultura’s sixth album was always going to be a challenge. How could a band possibly improve on the brilliance that was the legendary “Chaos AD”? One thing was for sure; they could only fail by walking the same path they had successfully journeyed five times before. So they decided to extract their patented take on crushingly heavy thrash/death metal, a hint of the at-the-time cutting edge nu-metal sound, and most importantly, their Brazilian musical culture, and create something monumental. The result is "Roots". From working alongside the famous percussionist Carlinhos Brown on the landmark song “Ratamahatta” to performing with the Xavantes Tribe, the true music of Brazil, an exclusive club which Sepultura must surely now belong to, is explored and incorporated. And it works perfectly.
From the opening echoes that introduce the metal anthem “Roots Bloody Roots” to the end, the intriguing, initially untitled “Canyon Jam”, this is so heavy you can feel it pressing from inside you outwards. However, it is unquestionably the balance that this record achieves that makes it so essential. For every few guitar-heavy thrash masterwork there is a mild-mannered acoustic track or samba-groove piece. However, it is the songs which sound so integrally “Brazilian” that work the best. While the aforementioned “Ratamahatta” is spectacular, and obviously of this criterion, it is the excellent "Itsari", a track recorded at the traditional home of the Xavantes tribe, with the tribe’s people chanting in the background that truly realizes the goal of this album .Also notable is the obvious Nu-metal influence. But of course, this is the grimy, grinding, painful nu-metal KoRn were successfully peddling before Linkin Park and company introduced a new generation to heavy music, thus defining the Mallcore label that is now used by anyone looking to incriminate anything more melodic than Anal Cunt. Indeed, KoRn singer Jonathon Davis and future Limp Bizkit member DJ Lethal contribute to the song “Lookaway".
However, despite this indigenous, acoustic twist, this is an extreme metal album and this is an extreme metal band, and throughout the majority of the album, this shows. The tracks, even through their progressive ideas, are still packed with enough metal brilliance to remind people; this is Sepultura, one of the main innovators of death/thrash, perhaps proving themselves the equals of legends like Slayer, Kreator or Death Angel. The enthusiastic passion for music that these men show is infectious, and the guitars still grind, the drums still pound and the vocals are still as raw, hostile and ferocious as they were when this band were still playing songs with names like “Dead Embryonic Cells”. Of course, they mellow out when performing with the indigenous people - they would probably otherwise be mistaken for demons - but tracks such as “Roots Bloody Roots”, “Attitude” and “Endangered Species” all chug along superbly, and leave you full, happy and satisfied by the time the sixteen tracks are over.
And what sixteen tracks they are. We are taken from a grinding manifesto of the album via an anti-deforestation song, among others, to what a Brazilian carnival may sound like if a bouncier Slayer tribute band was playing. From there, we are bought through the dark, heavy world of aggression to a sudden clearing. An acoustic piece followed by the mighty “Itsari”, and, following a few last songs, the conclusion a strangely haunting thirteen-minute instrumental - of sorts – which consists of them throwing rocks or playing strange instruments in a cleverly microphoned canyon. The sounds, initially weird, paint a haunting soundscape progressive bands like Opeth, Coheed and Cambria, and Sunn 0))) still struggle to create.
The only criticisms that the more metal-y tracks have a tenancy to meld into one another; there's only so much you can do with downtuned guitars. The album is also overlong; at over 72 minutes, it seems like the kind of challenge you just can’t be bothered with. However, it is a suitably heavy, and surprisingly progressively-minded, release from a band who completely deserve all of their success. “Roots” is earthy, organic, deep, and indigenous; primitive, yet compelling.
This is an album which gives so much, and only asks that you allow it to unravel itself .While not as good as “Chaos AD”, this is clearly a great album that, even in retrospect, deserved every bit of praise it got. Even though Roadrunner Records themselves told Sepultura this concept was “commercial suicide”, that the album saw such critical and commercial mass worship speaks for itself; originality isn’t as loathed as was previously thought. This is the reason Breed 77 included their native flamenco music into their style, of why System of a Down were given a chance to sound so strangely Serbian. This is an outstanding work of sonic art that still seems new and exiting to those of us who only discover it now.
Only repetition and length problems stop this being on par with the metal greats, but hey, you can’t fault their artistic integrity.
I first heard about this band when this album came out back in '96. I heard 'Roots Bloody Roots' and I thought it was an okay song. I decided to buy the album and I believe that after listening to the entire album about 3 times I just put it away in the corner assuming that I would listen to it again someday. About 5 years later it collected dust and eventually was sold with other used cd's that didn't cut the mustard either.
I had a friend who swore that Sepultura was fucking lengendary and I had looked at him like "what's so legendary about these guys?". He lent me two cd's, 'Schizophrenia' and Beneath The Remains'. Those two releases alongside 'Arise' and yeah even 'Chaos AD' is what made them the best metal band from Brazil, ever. Roots is just a sellout atrocity. With Chaos AD it was a step in a different direction into Tribal Metal which was new at the time and not a bad idea, especially when its executed right. It was a really good album in my eyes, but little did I know what monsters it would create just 3 years later. The mistake Sepultura or Max made was to keep going in the same direction. These guys were the fucking shit at making true thrash metal. They drifted away from it with Chaos AD which was okay as long as it was a "one-off" thing. Kind of like giving them time to think up some good thrash riffs and to decompress from it as well.
So three years later they embrace their new style and completely make a half-assed album. The guitars are downtuned too much, the lyrics are something that an angry high school teen may have written while listening to Shitknot. I'm not sure if this was Max's idea to make this type of music of the entire band, but if indeed it was Max who thought up this garbage it makes sense he's no longer with the band. With his new band 'Soulfly' he can do all the Tribal/Nu/Groove Metal he wants without conflict of interest since he IS the band. Roots marked the "end" of Sepultura in many fans eyes. It was the last album with the original lineup of Max and Igor Cavalera with A.Kisser and Paulo Jr. Also a huge chunk of their fanbase went away knowing that this was it for them. In a way this album is so fucking terrible that the band 10-11 years on still haven't recovered from it.
Even though the last two albums Roorback and Dante XXI are actually better than Roots and some of the most listenable material from them since 1993 the damage has been done. A big thing that Roots did was spawn bands like Korn, Shitknot, all the other Nu-Metal/Groove bands that occupy people's ipods now. The teenagers of today think this is metal music, if only they could hear some of this bands material from 85-91 along with Sextrash, Sarcofago, Massacra, Kreator, Death and Possessed. Music today would benefit from people listening to the real music from that era. Maybe even Speultura themselves.
As for the album Roots, I am required to actually review this thing. The music takes the idea initially used on 'Chaos AD' and goes further into it. But using more of a South American rhythm and tribal sound while completely sacrificing any real guitar rhythm or solos that was in abundance just a few years prior. It seems like this was released just to make a buck, it was their most commercially successful release and very visible to the average joe, unfortunately people formed bands to this style of music. The first song 'Roots Bloody Roots' is listenable for a couple of minutes when you realize that the lyrics really have no depth or actual thought behind them and without riffs your attention drifts away. 'Ratamahatta' sounds like Korn went on a trip to the Amazon jungle and made a song about it, just mumbling and screaming gibberish. The rest of the album doesn't offer anything different or nor does it give you hope of rekindling the past. It's so bad it's depressing, mainly because this was the same band that made classic songs like; Mass Hypnosis, Dead Embryonic Cells, Septic Schizo, Troops Of Doom, etc. Pick anything from 85-93. It blows this away by miles.
I give this a fifteen because some songs do grab your attention and in some way it's like a car accident, you can't help but look away. With this you can't help but listen to what all the negativity is about. People familar with the old stuff will cry after hearing this album. Shame on you guys for making this album.
What's left to say about Sepultura? That it's probably the best selling third world band ever? That they're going facedown to the ground since the leaving of Max "I am the Soulfly-Ego" Cavalera? "Chaos A.D." went golden and "Roots" went double gold in Holland (trust me, that's a good thing). That the difference between their first and last records is so huge that even the development of a butterfly contains more radical changes? That "Roots" was the first piece of metal I bought? Nah, I think the band-name speaks for itself. The style on this first piece of Sepultura is totally different from "Roots". They started as a full-on death metal band, finding their roots on "Beneath The Remains' (1989) and re-discovered 'em in 1991, with the release of "Arise". And then, five years later, one of the finest works of the 90's is released.
Simply called "Roots", the album shows more tribal influences than a reggae-bar. Songs like "Jasco" and "Itsari" are nothing more than the drumming on a Brazilian bongo, the total opposition of the album opener, "Roots Bloody Roots" (who's the sinner that doesn't know this song?). "Roots" is a turning point in history, and possiblly the reason why other Brazilian bands (like Agresion and Retturn) decide to put a coin in the thrash-metal bag. And they can't be blamed. There is not a band which can equal the quality of a Sepultura record. Just because of the simple fact that songs like "Attitude", "Spit" and "Breed Apart" are so good, they'd ought tp give Max a medal!! His 'straight-in-your-face'-voice sets the tone on "Roots Bloody Roots" (ROOOOTS BLOODY ROOOOTS!!!!!!!) and "Attitude" ('Can you take it? / I won't take it!'). Then, after bursting through "Cut-Throat", there's a 20-second warm-up for "Ratamahatta". Enough time to take a glass of water and then roar along with Max and Carlinhos Brown. Following songs, "Breed Apart" and "Straigthate" are pressure-building songs, as I'd like to call them. Long songs, starting off slowly and eventually turn into a metal assault, with which you'd get your grandma deaf (that is, if she has survived the first 3 tracks). The production of "Spit" and "Dusted" could have been better. Not really surprising, not with the likes of Ross Robinson (Slipknot, Korn) working with Sepultura.
The following 2 tracks, "Jasco" and "Itsari" could have been produced by either me, you or Ross, since they're nothing more then some drumming on tribal drums, allowing you some time to get back to breath. And you'll need it, since "Dictatorshit" and "Endangered Species" are Sepultura as we known them: furious, fast metal with even more furious vocals (or should I say; screams?). Album closer, and hidden track "Canyon Jam" is based on the intro, but develops into some drumming that could have been recorded in some canyon, bouncing nicely away through your walls, they'll have your neighbours screaming to stop. Like with every good record.
If I wrote this review in '96, when it was released, I'd predict something like world domination, but with the loss of a mighty fine frontman in the shape of Max Cavalera, I'm sorry to say that "Roots" was the last Sepultura album that still proves some of the hidden quality that Sepultura had to show, since 12 years weren't enough. The world is falling apart, just several months after it's found his roots. I'm sorry.
While trekking the Amazon in search of inspiration for their newfound tribal gimmick, it seems that once-great Brazilian thrashers Sepultura caught some sort of tropical virus. Symptoms of this mysterious plague were showing themselves in the band’s previous few releases, but the disease finally surfaced with the release of ‘Roots’, and has persisted in their releases ever since, showing no signs of recovery. These symptoms include thinking down-tuning is cool, and that writing suitably threatening lyrics makes up for an absence of riffs.
Though having clung on to the last threads of riff sanity for the previous few years, the band was finally defeated by their condition and succumbed to the full horrors of their fate. Simplistic, ape-like groove riffs began to emerge from their once blistering amplifiers, Max Cavalera’s vocals horrifically morphed into an amalgam of angsty socio-political lyrics and unconvincing anger, and they even consorted with fellow sufferers Jonathan Davies from the terminally-ill Korn and DJ Lethal of pestilent Limp Bizkit fame. Seemingly gone was Igor Cavalera’s competence as a percussive force to be reckoned with, and no amount of “tribal” gimmicks could disguise the severity of Sepultura’s decline.
Bafflingly, many in the wider music community hailed this release as a classic of heavy riffage and aggression, and the jewel of the band’s catalogue, suggesting firstly that they have not had the pleasure of encountering any of the band’s previous albums, and also that this disease is more widespread than first thought. It has been suggested that this plague is spread by such avenues as MTV and Kerrang.
This band is not the only one affected by this worrying contamination, but the common reason for its spread is thought to be DISTINCT LACK OF RIFF IDEAS. If you are in a thrash band and have been suffering from a lack of riffs – perhaps you have even started down-tuning and writing lyrics about “motherfuckers”? – then don’t panic, see your doctor and get him to prescribe you a liberal dosage of Kreator, Dark Angel, or other approved thrash remedies and you will be well on your way to recovery.
Let Sepultura be a warning to others – if the symptoms are there, don’t let the disease grow, or you will be another victim of MALLCOROSIS!
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).
So Sepultura wakes up one day, realising that they've competely shat on their thrash careers by releasing the abortion known as "Chaos AD" so they figure, what the fuck, they haven't go t much to lose... "let's try to cram as many really fucking retarded ideas into one album as is humanly possible!"
Remember kids, they ran out of riffs halfway through the Beneath the Remains tour, and just barely had enough left over for Arise, so don't expect to suddenly find any on this album. What there is, however, is a whole fucking lot of shitty, shitty mallcore. And groove - oh yes, when you're missing riffs, you gotta go for the groove. Songs like "Attitude" and "Born Stubborn" are the best examples of silly modern rock with dumbassed guitar work, played slowly-to-midpace with no conviction. Even Chaos AD sounded better than this, it's that bad.
Oh there's the tribal angle too... yes, they really fucking play this one up - because something's gotta come in now that all the riffs have gone. There's one song here ("Itsari") that's all tribal chanting, and I don't think the band even is featured on this track!! The silly shit props up in a bunch of other songs, including "Roots Bloody Roots" and more... I mean, in and of itself, "Itsari" is okay for what it is, but when you try to combine that sort of thing with guitars, it just ... doesn't ... work ... AT ALL!! It's like having yourself a nice refreshing slice of pizza, and washing it down with some tasty, delicious anti-freeze!!!
Then you've got the really amazing lyrics. I mean, Sepultura never really had great lyrics, but at least they were never this overtly prominent in the mix where you were forced to listen to their sheer monstrosity. "When you go down! When you go down motherfucker!" Oh yes, I'm really feeling the intelligence now.
Oh yeah and there's the guest vocals and shit. "Look Away" has two of our favourite characters, none other than Jonathan Davis and Fred Durst. Such a shame that the Air Force wasn't conducting maneuvers in the area and "accidentally" dropped a thousand-pound munition on that room when this was taking place.
My God, this album is so fucking atrocious. It's the equivalent of shitting on the ceiling. Sure, it's different, and takes some effort, but in the end, it's just shit all the same.