Sunday, November 12, 2017

From 'Schizophrenia' to 'Psychosis:' The Evolution of Max Cavalera

Max Cavalera (Photo courtesy of Freeman Promotions)

It was the breakup heard ’round the world.

In 1996, Brazilian Metal master Max Cavalera left Sepultura – the band he co-founded in 1984 – under acrimonious circumstances. While Max’s departure signified the end of Sepultura’s most commercially successful era, the most important element of the event was his split with his brother, Sepultura drummer Igor (a.k.a. “Iggor”). Although Max found subsequent success with Soulfly and Iggor continued on with Sepultura, the Metal world never lost hope that the brothers would someday reunite. That moment finally came in 2006, when Iggor (who quit Sepultura after the release of that year’s Dante XXI) reconciled with his estranged brother and launched Cavalera Conspiracy. Eleven years later, the brothers are still writing and performing together, proving that family comes before feuds.

Out this Friday on Napalm Records, Cavalera Conspiracy’s fourth album, Psychosis, is unquestionably one of the most savage musical statements of the year. Fueled by the same Thrash intensity that defined the best moments of Sepultura’s early years, the album showcases a connection between the brothers that continues to persevere in inspiring and ear-splitting ways.

Our relationship is great!” proclaims Max. “We just enjoy ourselves more [than in the past]. Work-wise, we really try to make the best music we can together again. Psychosis is a real cool introspective look at our career and some records we’ve made that I think are very significant, especially early [Sepultura] stuff like Schizophrenia, Beneath The Remains and Arise. That kind of mix of Death Metal and Thrash Metal [on those albums] is really cool and something I don’t think many bands delved into, but we did it; I think the results were amazing. This is kind of the continuation of that with some new elements.”

Described by Max as “a labor of love from the beginning,” Psychosis was produced by Arthur Rizk, best known for his work with Code Orange, Power Trip and Inquisition. As with past Cavalera Conspiracy releases, Psychosis features the blistering work of Soulfly/ex-Misfits guitarist Marc Rizzo.

Whatever we ask Marc to do, he does it and he doesn’t complain,” Max shares. “It’s a great quality. On this new record, we asked him to do it last. We didn’t want really big solos or anything like that, but we wanted meaningful stuff. What he did on this album was last, but it was very powerful. When he comes in, it’s great stuff, like the end of ‘Spectral War’ or the stuff that he did on ‘Insane’ or some killer solos on ‘Crom’ –  the beginning almost has like a newer Death quality to it. I like what he did on this record. It’s simple and not flashy, but very effective. He’s that kind of guy; you can count on him, and he’s very versatile.”

Left to right: Iggor Cavalera, Max Cavalera, Marc Rizzo (Photo courtesy of Freeman Promotions)

Together, Rizzo and the Cavaleras created a nine-song effort that succeeds in nailing Max’s desired Death/Thrash mix.

We wanted to do that to perfection. That’s why there are songs where there are like six Thrash riffs all combined together. ‘Impalement Execution’ was nicknamed ‘Thrasher’s Delight’ when we were writing it because it was that kind of feeling. We put six Thrash riffs in one segment of the song. That’s the attention to detail that we really love on this album. I sat down with Arthur, and I was like, ‘I want every part to count; I want every piece of music that we write for this album to be meaningful.’ When you go back and listen to stuff like Schizophrenia and Beneath The Remains, there were a lot of riff changes and tempo changes. That’s what made those songs great. We wanted to re-do some of that with the flavor and the feeling of right now. I think that’s the secret of Psychosis.”

The plan defintely paid off. The Industrialized “Hellfire” features a guest appearance by Godflesh’s Justin Broadrick, while Max compares “Spectral War” to the original vibe found on Sepultura’s 1991 track “Desperate Cry” and describes the title track as having “a bit of Prog Rock.” Elsewhere on the album, the downright sinister “Judas Pariah” will appeal to anyone shaken by the recent passing of underground legend Martin Eric Ain.

It’s almost Morbid Visions territory with a bit of Celtic Frost and Hellhammer on top of it.”

Max’s favorite Psychosis track, “Terror Tactics,” captures the feel of the Hardcore/Metal crossover scene of the mid-to-late ’80s.

It’s kind of like an homage to New York Hardcore. There’s a real Cro-Mags, Leeway feeling on that one all the way… Agnostic Front… with Iggor ruling on the D-beat all the way through. When you make a D-Beat song and you play that perfect like Iggor does, it’s fantastic. It’s just fun and so cool to do a song like that.”

Not surprisingly, Max went deep into his record collection for inspiration when composing the tracks that comprise Psychosis.  

[Leeway’s] Born To Expire is one of my favorite records of all time. [Their second album] Desperate Measurers was really good, too. I like a lot of that stuff from that era. I’ve been listening to a lot of that lately, like Agnostic Front, Warzone and C.O.C.’s Technocracy. There’s some great shit from that time that you listen to right now, and it’s amazing.

I was listening to Pestilence the other day; it was so cool, man,” he adds. “That’s one band that made [a Death/Thrash Metal mix] work. I love the old stuff. It’s good to go back and listen to some of those records from time to time; I get a kick out of it. Sometimes you get influenced to make songs out of it. ‘Terror Tactics’ is pure love of that mix and that crossover era with a bit of the sound of right now that we listen to with the heavier bands like Homewrecker, Gatecreeper, Full of Hell and stuff like that.”

Max’s love of Punk and Hardcore was clear all the way back in 1986, when he played bass in the short-lived band Guerrilha, which featured Iggor, then-Sepultura guitarist Jairo T. and Mutilator singer Silvio SDN. The band’s brief existence produced a scorching five-song demo that diehards are encouraged to sift through the internet to find.

It was kind of like a Punk/Crossover project,” he remembers. “Silvio had a Mohawk at the time, so he looked really Punk. Jairo kind of looked like a skinhead. We were listening to a lot of Discharge, Sex Pistols, Doom and Crust stuff. I know that we did a photo shoot on train tracks. I haven’t seen those photos surfacing around. [Editor’s Note: See below!] It should be surfacing around, because it was a big photo shoot with a good friend of ours, a Brazilian photographer. It was really cool; it kind of reminded me of photos The Clash did on the train tracks for Combat Rock. We did a demo, but there’s also some recording of a live [show] that we did at some kind of Metal festival in our city, Belo [Horizonte]. Somebody probably recorded right from the board. We did couple of shows with Guerrilha. It was pure Punk Rock fun. We never took it too serious; we knew it was not going to get signed. We could have done a record; it actually would have been cool. I wish we would have, because the stuff was heavy Punk/Metal.”

Photo source:

Recently, Max revisited another chapter from his past when he took Soulfly on the road to perform Point Blank, the explosive 1994 album by Nailbomb – his project with Fudge Tunnel’s Alex Newport and a revolving cast of associates including D.H. Peligro of Dead Kennedys – in its entirety. Although Newport was unavailable to tour, Max saw a unique opportunity to marry the rage of Nailbomb with the power of his full-time act on stage.

I thought Point Blank was going to sound really cool with the weight of a real band like Soulfly behind it. It has a powerhouse sound already, and it translated into the songs. Playing Point Blank was like the coolest thing for me as a musician. The heaviness of Soulfly on top of Point Blank was perfect, and I had a lot of fun every night.”

Point Blank isn’t the only album from Max’s storied past earning considerable attention these days. A landmark release, Sepultura’s second album, Schizophrenia, hit the 30th anniversary mark this year. The singer/guitarist continues to hold the record in high esteem.

I think it’s a real important record. That’s where we started the combination of Death and Thrash. We listened to both styles all the time. Morbid Visions would be more Black Metal; a lot of the Black Metal guys like that album a lot. We were listening to a lot of Black Metal stuff at the time like Hellhammer and Bathory. Schizophrenia was where we welcomed a little more Thrash stuff. We were listening to stuff like Dark Angel, Possessed, Death, Exodus and Voivod. We let all those influences go throughout the whole record, and it was fun. I love the title track and ‘From The Past Comes The Storms;’ it’s one of my favorite tracks still today because it’s kind of insane. It’s a relentless Thrash attack that just hits you in the face; you don’t know where it comes from. It comes out of nowhere; it’s just great. There’s a lot of cool stuff on the record, like ‘Escape To The Void’ and ‘To The Wall.’ ‘Inquisition Symphony,’ the instrumental, is great. It was definitely a cool record for the time and set the ground for Beneath The Remains. Without Schizophrenia, we wouldn’t have been able to make Beneath The Remains.”

While Schizophrenia and Beneath The Remains are undisputed Thrash classics, it was 1991’s incendiary Arise that truly broke Sepultura in America. That summer, the band took to the road as part of the New Titans on the Block tour alongside Sacred Reich, Napalm Death and Sick Of It All.  

It was a lot of fun, man,” Max recalls. “Napalm, Sick Of It All and Sacred Reich are all killer guys. It was a powerhouse package. It was actually out of revenge, because we couldn’t get on Clash of the Titans [the 1991 tour featuring Anthrax, Megadeth, Slayer and Alice In Chains]. We were actually offered to be on that tour, but we got kicked out. [My wife/manager] Gloria said, ‘Fuck it; I’ll make my own package and call it ‘New Titans on the Block.’ It was so killer. We were playing great stuff at that time. I loved that tour; to this day, it’s one of my favorite ones that we ever did. There was a lot of paryting on the bus – a lot of drinking and a lot of Metal!”

Nearly 35 years after forming the first incarnation of Sepultura, Max Cavalera is still producing some of the most brutal sounds you’re ever likely to hear. In his mind, keeping the fires burnings comes down to simply honoring and maintaining his love of extreme music – not by seeking any of the acclaim that his efforts often achieve.  

It’s not for the awards or the materialistic side of it; I don’t give a shit about that at all. It’s for the love of Metal and to hear the fans says they really like what we’re doing. Some of them go as far as to say it’s saved their lives, and that my stuff plays a big part in their lives. To me, that’s the coolest thing I can hear from a fan. It’s what keeps me going. Also, for me, I need it as much as they need it. I use Metal in my daily life. When I’m depressed or something, I always put on some good, heavy stuff and feel better about it right away. Metal is the best therapy in the world.”

Photo courtesy of Freeman Promotions


No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.