11 bands who wouldn’t be here without Sepultura
Few heavy metal bands have had such a storied and fascinating career as Sepultura. The Brazilian quartet rose to fame playing furious serrated thrash with a death metal edge, before shifting their sound by incorporating tribal rhythms and nihilistic atmosphere on game-changing albums like Chaos A.D. and Roots. Credited by many as having both introducing the world to extreme metal and helping to create nu-metal, Sepultura’s seething, ritualistic influence can be felt all throughout heavy music and the bands who play it.
Here, we look at the bands who wouldn’t exist today were it not for Sepultura.
The first thing one probably associates with Hatebreed’s music is muscles – the band’s distinct sound comes off as immediately brawny. But far from being just a hardcore band, Hatebreed unique approach has always incorporated the more instant, no-nonsense side of thrash metal. That stripped-to-the-skin metallic aspect is all thanks to Sepultura, whose patented thrash sound removed a lot of the fantastical fluff in the genre and focused on the stark, primal rage behind it. One imagines Jasta and co. would be more than pleased to be included on this list.
There are so many ways in which New Zealand’s Alien Weaponry feel related to Sepultura. Both bands started making waves as teenagers; both emerged from places not commonly associated with metal; both chose to sing in the native languages of their homelands, paying homage to people who the western world often overlooks. But it’s Alien Weaponry’s music, that pounding, animalistic haymaker thrash metal, that most echoes Sep’s historic influence on metal. The kids are all right.
A key reason Kirisun owe their careers to Sepultura is pretty obvious: they’re Brazilian. One of the many things Sepultura did for heavy metal was put Brazil, and indeed South America, on the radar of many metalheads who knew little about that part of the world’s music scene. However, it’s also Krisiun’s love of their motherland’s musical legacy that echoes Sepultura – in 2011, the band worked with renowned Gaucho guitar player Marcello Caminha, showing that they valued even the less brutal fruit of Brazil’s fertile musical soil.
Make no mistake, Gojira’s approach to metal is as unique as Sepultura’s, and one doesn’t generally hear the brutal chainsaw guitars of the latter in the planet-hopping stomachache riffs of the former. But that bounce Gojira have – that pendulous bob which bends you at the waist – definitely arose out of Sepultura’s early mergings of thrash and nu-metal. Proof that even a band with a distinct identity can be vitally affected by the echoes of one of metal’s earlier titans.
Sludgy Californian hardcore act Xibalba have obvious similarities to Sepultura in their cultural focus on Latin America. Not only that, but their heavy-handed take on metallic hardcore definitely echoes that of Brazil’s most famous band. But most importantly, Xibalba touch on the same themes Sepultura did in terms of speaking for marginalised peoples who the typical British or American metalhead might not think about every day. While these guys are definitely on the front lines of modern hardcore today, it was Sepultura who paved the way for them.
Perhaps one of Sepultura’s biggest contributions to metal was their incorporation of nu-metal elements on 1996’s Roots, showing how thick seven-string riffs and throbbing breakdowns could add a thundering pulse to thrash’s sometimes-hollow sound. Among the bands pushing those boundaries even further today are Boston’s Vein.FM, who are leading the charge of reminding listeners why nu-metal became huge in the first place. The chaotic tenor of Vein.FM’s 2018 album Errorzone definitely echoes that of Roots, and their pretense-less nu-core definitely marches under the same banner as Sepultura’s roiling later output. Trends change, but true chaos always survives.
Never mind that Genocide Pact’s specific flavour of pulverising death metal has plenty of Sepultura’s influence throughout – the band literally owe Sepultura frontman Max Cavalera a favour. When he spoke to Kerrang!, Max told us that the dudes from the band apparently had a good time raging in his hot tub — while he wasn’t even there. “Igor was doing FaceTime with us,” said Max with a chuckle. “Gatecreeper and Genocide Pact hanging out in our hot tub and eating guacamole on the roof of the car!” Props to Max for not being a crotchety old man about these damn kids raging at his place while he’s not home.
For all the emphasis put on their more kinetic later work, Sepultura were also the ultimate cutthroat thrash band. Without them, Portland’s Toxic Holocaust might not even exist, and certainly wouldn’t sound as brutal as they do. The Joel Grind-led thrash trio have the same biting, salty, acid-burn guitar sound and lyrical approach as Sepultura did from ‘86’s Morbid Visions through ‘91’s crushing Arise. While Toxic Holocaust’s imagery may scream Bay Area, their sound and tone most definitely smack of Belo Horizante.
Honestly, it wouldn’t be that outlandish to name Code Orange’s signature style of music after a latter-day Sepultura song. The Pittsburgh hardcore quintet’s music, with its unstoppably ferocious riffs and radioactive nu-metal angst, is exactly the sound that drive Sepultura’s music from Chaos A.D. onwards. So to describe it as ‘Refuse/Resist music’ or ‘Endangered Species metal’ would be an accurate label. Then again, that’s always been the beauty of both Code Orange and Sepultura’s music – it defies genre, and exists purely on its own.
Realistically, without Sepultura, Puya wouldn’t have ever been signed. The Puerto Rican rap-metal act became most famous in the ‘90s for merging agro hard rock and salsa music, and for singing and rapping in Spanish. That multi-lingual and genre-less heavy metal approach was certainly something Sepultura were known for, and their tropic tribal presentation is heavily present on Puya albums like 1999’s Fundamental and 2001’s Union. One awesome side-effect of Sep’s success was record labels suddenly giving bands from nontraditional locales the attention they deserved.
While plenty of other heavy metal bands were playing out ghost-story fantasies or nuclear war scenarios, Sepultura were always just pissed the fuck off. They didn’t need to go to Hell – they were already there. Few bands get across that raw, unadulterated hostility like Californian powerviolence act Nails, whose music seems to focus on their very real, very tangible anger at all things. That Max Cavalera provided guest vocals for a song on the band’s I Don’t Want To Know You EP hammers home the place Sepultura has in frontman Todd Jones’ heart.
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