Roots (Sepultura album)

Roots is the sixth studio album by Brazilian metal band Sepultura. It was released in Europe on February 20, 1996 (1996-02-20) and in the U.S. three weeks later on March 12 by Roadrunner Records. It is the band's last studio album to feature founding member and vocalist/rhythm guitarist Max Cavalera.

Studio album by
ReleasedFebruary 20, 1996 (Europe)
March 12, 1996 (U.S.)
RecordedOctober – December 1995
StudioIndigo Ranch in Malibu, California
ProducerRoss Robinson
Sepultura chronology
Chaos A.D.
Singles from Roots
  1. "Roots Bloody Roots"
    Released: February 18, 1996
  2. "Attitude"
    Released: June 1996
  3. "Ratamahatta"
    Released: October 1996

Following the shift to slower tempos and Latin-tinged rhythms on the album Chaos A.D., Roots delves even further into Brazilian musical textures and features significant contributions from iconic Brazilian musician Carlinhos Brown, who guided and arranged the sections throughout the album that feature ensemble percussion playing. Both in sound and overall aesthetic, Roots is also a conscious nod to Brazil's marginalized indigenous population and cultures. The song "Itsári" features a Xavante chant that re-appears on the song "Born Stubborn" and serves as a loose thematic thread for the whole album, which on the whole showcases the band's increased affinity for experimentation and collaboration.

"Lookaway" features guest appearances by Korn vocalist Jonathan Davis, then-Korn drummer David Silveria, House of Pain/Limp Bizkit turntablist DJ Lethal, and Faith No More/Mr. Bungle vocalist Mike Patton. Riff-wise, Roots also draws influence from the then-surging nu metal movement, specifically Korn (whose first two albums were also produced by Roots producer Ross Robinson) and Deftones.[1][2] After leaving the band, Max Cavalera would continue to pursue the nu metal and "world" stylings of Roots with his solo project Soulfly.

Since its release, Roots has sold over 2 million copies worldwide.[3]

Initial inspiration and recording

Roots is the product of a concerted effort on the band's part to embrace its Brazilian heritage. On many levels, the album reflects Sepultura's heightened focus on the music, culture, and politics of their native country.[4] The overarching concept for the album was inspired by the film At Play in the Fields of the Lord. The movie inspired Max Cavalera to want to record with an indigenous Brazilian tribe. Cavalera contacted Angela Pappiani, at the time the communications coordinator for Brazil's Núcleo de Cultura Indígena (Indigenous Culture Center). Pappiani arranged for a small party including band, herself, Robinson, and then-manager Gloria Cavalera to travel to Mato Grosso, Brazil to visit the Xavante tribe and record with them.[5][6] At the time, the members of Sepultura were only peripherally aware of the indigenous tribes residing in Brazil's interior.[6]

In a 2016 interview with Nashville Scene, Igor Cavalera remembered:

"Every second of that trip was insane in a very inspiring way. But there’s a few things that really stand out. Like when they explained to us that the only way they wrote music was if someone in the tribe dreamed of the music. They couldn’t just write a lyric or a melody. It has to be transmitted to them in a dream. From a musician’s point of view, it was like, ‘Wow, this is a completely different way of approaching music.’”[7]

University of Iowa anthropology professor Laura Graham explained the role of music in Xavante culture to PopMatters in 2016:

"For them, music functions as a medium for entering into other realms—whether they be other dimensions of existence or other cultures. Well before they had any contact with white people, part of their culture has always entailed that men engage the spirit world, especially through music. This happens in their dreams. Not all, but most of their music is inspired—you could say ‘composed’, although they say received—in their dreams through encounters with other worlds. When people come and visit the community from the outside, one of the things the Xavante ask them to do is sing them a song. Music is this medium for entering into relations with others—others meaning spiritual beings or, for example, white society or other cultures. The Xavante want to be known and they want their culture to be known. They want their music to be known because they think it’s beautiful and view it as a contribution to humanity. It’s like, ‘We have something beautiful to contribute to humanity—and, by the way, here we are suffering. We want people to know who we are and that we exist.’ And so when they got this proposal from a musical group that wanted to come jam and share music with them, they loved it.”[6]

A spokesman for the tribe looked back on the collaboration: "We had seen pictures of Sepultura and we knew that they were different, with their long hair and many tattoos. We also knew that they had been discriminated, like we were. Because of that we were very curious about them."[8]

Meeting the Xavante was by several accounts a life-changing experience that has continued to resonate with the members of Sepultura ever since.[7] Igor has also said that the band identified a lot with the natives: "In a certain way, I think that we, as a band, had a lot of things in common with the Xavante Indians. We also lived on the edge of society, and our music and lifestyle is a long way from being assimilated and respected by that society."[8]

After the trip, recording resumed with Robinson at Indigo Ranch, at the time Robinson's studio of choice. According to the same 2016 Nashville Scene article, by that point the band had amassed "an overabundance of material." Igor Cavalera remembered that it was a challenge to prevent the album from becoming "a gigantic jam that didn’t turn into actual songs." He added: “It was quite a difficult record to finish. We did so much recording that the amount of stuff we had going on was quite crazy. We had to make sure not to let anything really special slip by. It was tricky to go through all of it, and it took a lot of time to find out what would work with what we were already writing.”[7]

Musical style

Roots represents a significant shift in direction for Sepultura. On several levels, the album reflects a concerted effort on the band's part to embrace its Brazilian heritage, with a heightened focus on Brazilian culture that is strikingly apparent in the music.[4][6] Musically speaking, the inspiration for the shift was twofold: One was the desire to further experiment with both Latin and indigenous strains of the music of Brazil, including the percussive style of the Salvador, Bahia samba reggae group Olodum.[9] Roots was also inspired by Korn's self-titled debut, with its heavily down-tuned guitars.[10]

Roots is a groove metal album[11][12] that incorporates strong elements of nu metal,[13][14] thrash metal,[13] death metal,[15][16][17][18] world music,[17] various Brazilian musical styles (including Brazilian folk music),[19] tribal music,[19] and ambient field recordings.[6][7] All of the songs on Roots draw from these styles, with the band often blending them in unconventional ways and at times super-imposing them onto one another through creative mixing and editing in post-production.[6][7] Several songs feature Brazilian instrumentation that had up to that point never been used by a metal band (certainly not one of Sepultura's stature), and the album is peppered with ensemble percussion sections played by the band along with Carlinhos Brown.

Of the album's prominent Latin influence, Igor Cavalera told Nashville Scene:

"I’d always wanted to do a little more stuff with a Latin feel, but it took until Chaos A.D. to realize how we could make that into something that wasn’t too clichéd. That was always my fear. I’d been exposed to samba and the African Brazilian rhythms before I played the drums, and I’d always had a lot of caution about incorporating them in the right way, and not doing it for the sake of just having them there. It took us a lot of research and time to make sure that we did it in a way that felt completely natural. It wasn’t just like ‘OK, we like this and it makes sense, so let’s just do it.’ It took a lot to develop.”[7]

Lyrical and visual themes

Disparate elements of Brazilian culture permeate every aspect of Roots, from the music to the lyrics to the artwork and visuals to the videos the band made for the songs "Roots Bloody Roots," "Attitude," and "Ratamahatta." The album cover features an indigenous woman taken from a banknote of the discontinued Brazilian cruzeiro, to which artist Michael Whelan added a locket with Sepultura's "tribal S" logo and a background of red roots.[20][6]

Much of Roots references Brazilian culture, history, lore, and politics, either directly or indirectly.[6][19] According to Max Cavalera, "Roots Bloody Roots" is "about believe in yourself, about be proud of your heritage, proud of where you come from. Really powerful but simple lyrics. So it's really about just be down with your own roots and believe in your roots".[21] (In a 1996 MTV Europe clip, Max Cavalera explained the meaning behind the song as: “Don’t give in. What you believe is for life, even if people try all the time to change you. The song is about ‘don’t let the bastards grind you down.’”)[6]

"Ratamahatta" is "a celebration of life in Brazil's favela slums, sung all in Portuguese, which tells the stories of people like Ze Do Caixao (Coffin Joe) and Lampiao, the leader of an early 1900s outlaw gang from north Brazil, whose head was put on public display after he was captured".[22] "Ambush" is "a tribute to murdered South American rain-forest activist Chico Mendes".[22] "Dictatorshit" addresses the 1964 Brazilian coup d'état.[4] "Endangered Species" addresses environmental destruction.

"Cut Throat" is about Epic Records.[22] (The last words in the song are "Enslavement, Pathetic, Ignorant, Corporations". This spells EPIC, the record company with which Sepultura had some trouble during their previous album, Chaos A.D.[4])

The lyrics to "Attitude" were co-written by Dana Wells, Max Cavalera's stepson, whose death (in part) led to the events which caused Max to leave the band. Dana also came up with the concept for the video for the song, featuring Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu experts the Gracie family.

Critical reception

Professional ratings
Review scores
Chicago Tribune[23]
Entertainment WeeklyC−[24]
Houston Chronicle[25]
Los Angeles Times[26]
Robert Christgau[29]
Rolling Stone[30]

American newspapers like The New Times, the Daily News and the Los Angeles Times reviewed the Brazilian band: "The mixture of the dense metal of Sepultura and the Brazilian music has a intoxicating effect", wrote a Los Angeles Times reviewer.[8] The Daily News praised the album saying: "Sepultura reinvented the wheel. By mixing metal with native instruments, the band resuscitates the tired genre, reminding of Led Zeppelin times. But while Zeppelin mixed English metal with African beats, it's still more moving to hear a band that uses elements of its own country. By extracting the sounds of the past, Sepultura determines the future direction of metal".[32]

Specialized heavy metal critics also reviewed the album positively. Martin Popoff, author of the book The Collector's Guide to Heavy Metal, ranked Roots as the 11th best metal record of all time. "This is a spectacular metal and futurist hardcore LP", wrote Popoff, "a masterpiece, accomplished by a band with an enormous heart and an even larger intellect". Kerrang! magazine awarded Roots second place in the list of "100 records that you have to hear before dying".[32] In 2001 Q magazine named Roots as one of the 50 Heaviest Albums Of All Time.[33] Rolling Stone Brasil named it the 57th best Brazilian music album.[34] Rolling Stone contributor Jon Wiederhorn gave the album three stars out of five and said, "Sepultura play a violent game of sonic overload... the band uses its catharsis as a creative force, funneling torrents of noise into a tunnel of hate" and called the album "a refreshing step forward in a genre full of bands that are creatively bankrupt."[30] Music critic Robert Christgau gave the album a negative "dud" rating.[29] Looking back on the album 20 years later, PopMatters contributor Saby Reyes-Kulkarni described Roots as "inarguably one of the most radical [stylistic] departures from convention in heavy metal history," an album that "blew the doors open on our perceptions of metal and so-called 'world music,'" adding that "we haven't heard anything quite like it since."[6] In April 2005, Decibel inducted Roots into the Decibel Magazine Hall of Fame, becoming the third album overall to receive a coveted spot in their Hall of Fame.[35]


Since the release of Roots, there have been cases where other metal bands who are not of Western (i.e.: European or American) origin have combined metal with musics from their own native regions, though none of those bands has reached the same level of visibility or commercial success that Sepultura achieved with Roots. Chthonic, for example, blend symphonic death metal with traditional Taiwanese music and mythology; Melechesh play black metal while drawing from Assyrian/Babylonian/Middle Eastern mythology and symbology; Tengger Cavalry combine metal with Mongolian throat singing and classical Chinese instrumentation in both electric and acoustic settings.

Speaking to Kerrang! in 2008, Max Cavalera looked back on Roots:

"Roots came from a blurry dream I had about going to the rainforest. Wine may have been involved. In the end, when we actually went into the forest to record, it was unbelievable. The whole album was a huge personal journey for me, and as a Brazilian, it felt as an incredible achievement. Everyone was inspired and Igor was at the top of his game. The percussion was crazy and we worked with so many great musicians, in the end coming out with a 15-minutes drum jam that someone likened to a crazy Brazilian Pink Floyd. When we took the album to Roadrunner they loved it except for the title. They thought it would sound like a Bob Marley tribute album. We explained it to them, and thankfully they got it."[36]

Track listing

All lyrics are written by Max Cavalera, except where noted; all music is composed by Sepultura, except where noted.

1."Roots Bloody Roots"  3:32
2."Attitude"Max Cavalera, Dana Wells 4:15
3."Cut-Throat"  2:44
4."Ratamahatta" (featuring David Silveria & Carlinhos Brown)Sepultura, Carlinhos BrownSepultura, Carlinhos Brown4:30
5."Breed Apart"Andreas Kisser, Max Cavalera 4:01
6."Straighthate"  5:21
7."Spit"  2:45
8."Lookaway" (featuring Jonathan Davis, Mike Patton & DJ Lethal)Jonathan DavisSepultura, DJ Lethal5:26
9."Dusted"Andreas KisserAndreas Kisser4:03
10."Born Stubborn"  4:07
11."Jasco"(instrumental)Andreas Kisser1:57
12."Itsári"(instrumental)Xavante Tribe, Sepultura4:48
13."Ambush"  4:39
14."Endangered Species"  5:19
15."Dictatorshit"  1:26
16."Canyon Jam" (unlisted hidden track)(instrumental) 13:16
Total length:72:08

The Roots of Sepultura

The Roots of Sepultura
Compilation album by
Released29 November 1996
GenreThrash metal, death metal
LanguageEnglish, Portuguese
CompilerMonte Conner, Borivoj Krgin
Sepultura chronology
The Roots of Sepultura

The Roots of Sepultura is a double-disc album by Sepultura, released in November 1996. It was a collection of unreleased tracks, b-sides, alternate mixes, and live recordings.[37] This release differs from Roots and the 2005 25th Anniversary Roots album as the B-Sides disc has a different series of tracks. This album includes covers of tracks by Motörhead, Dead Kennedys, Os Mutantes and Ratos de Porão and also includes tracks from their first live home video, Under Siege (Live in Barcelona).

Track listing
2."C.I.U. (Criminals in Uniform)"4:17
3."Orgasmatron" (Motörhead cover)4:15
4."Dead Embryonic Cells" (original mix)4:31
5."Desperate Cry" (original mix)6:42
6."Murder" (original mix)3:25
7."Under Siege (Regnum Irae)" (original mix)4:44
8."Necromancer" (demo)3:59
9."The Past Reborns the Storms"5:08
10."A Hora e a Vez do Cabelo Nascer" (Os Mutantes cover)2:21
11."Drug Me" (Dead Kennedys cover)1:53
12."Crucificados Pelo Sistema" (Ratos de Porão cover, Slave New World 1994 B-Side)1:03
13."Anticop" (live)3:02
14."Intro" (live)1:30
15."Arise" (live)2:51
16."Inner Self" (live)4:42
17."Mass Hypnosis" (live)4:25
18."Escape to the Void" (live)5:03
19."Troops of Doom" (live)2:53
20."Altered State" (live)5:20

Chart positions and award certifications

Album - Billboard (North America)

Year Chart Position
1996 The Billboard 200 27[38]
1996 UK Albums Chart 4[39]

Year-end charts

Chart (1996) Position
German Albums Chart[40] 73

Album - Music recording sales certifications

Year Country Award Number sold
1996 UK Silver 60,000[41]
1997 Australia Gold 35,000[42]
1997 Canada Gold 50,000[43]
1997 France Gold 100,000[44]
1997 Brazil Gold 100,000[45]
1998 Austria Gold 10,000[46]
1999 UK Gold 100,000[41]
2005 USA Gold 500,000[47]
Unknown Netherlands Gold 30,000[48]



  1. "IGOR CAVALERA Admits KORN Influence On SEPULTURA's 'Roots' But Says 'There Was A Lot More Going On'". BLABBERMOUTH.NET. 2016-10-09. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
  2. "JONATHAN DAVIS Recalls Thinking SEPULTURA's 'Roots' Album Was 'Blatant KORN Rip-Off'". BLABBERMOUTH.NET. 2016-10-07. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
  3. "Max & Iggor Cavalera to Perform Sepultura's 'Roots' Album in Full on North American Tour".
  4. Barcinski & Gomes 1999, page 150.
  5. Chirazi, Steffan (2005). "The Roots of Sepultura". Roots (CD booklet). Sepultura. New York, NY: Roadrunner Records. p. 15.
  6. "Greetings From the Third World: Revisiting Sepultura's Genre-Changing 'Roots'". PopMatters. Retrieved 2017-01-22.
  7. "Roots Run Deep: Twenty Years Later, Sepultura Founders Max and Iggor Cavalera Perform Their Former Band's Pinnacle Album in Full". Nashville Scene. Retrieved 2017-10-03.
  8. "Sepultura: Chapter 9: The Calm Before the Storm". Archived from the original on October 5, 2011. Retrieved October 27, 2010.
  9. Barcinski & Gomes 1999, pages 113 & 150.
  10. Chirazi, Steffan (2005). "Closing Thoughts on Roots". Roots (CD booklet). Sepultura. New York, NY: Roadrunner Records. p. 22.
  11. "Roots by Sepultura on Apple Music". iTunes.
  12. Plymouth, Shane (May 5, 2011). "Sepultura - Roots". HMV.
  13. Dimery 2006 pg 782, "Drawing on Brazilian Latin and tribal music, nu-metal, and Sepultura's own thrash/death style, the results were unique"
  14. Distefano, Alex (April 29, 2015). "The 10 Best Brazilian Metal Bands". OC Weekly.
  15. Huey, Steve. "Roots – Sepultura". AllMusic. Retrieved November 16, 2011.
  16. Bukszpan 2003 pg 226, "In 1996, they released Roots, whose down-tuned death metal aggression was tempered by the incorporation of Brazilian musical and precussion instruments,"
  17. Rivadavia, Eduardo. "Sepultura - Music Biography, Credits and Discography". AllMusic. Retrieved 2012-10-28.
  18. "Sepultura is coming". Philstar. Archived from the original on 2013-01-31. Retrieved 2012-10-28.
  19. Epstein, Dan (September 9, 2016). "Max and Iggor Cavalera Talk Revisiting Sepultura's 'Roots' for Tour". Rolling Stone.
  20. SEPULTURA's 'Roots' Is One Of 'Ten Greatest Covers In Roadrunner History', Blabbermouth
  21. Prato, Greg (February 20, 2014). "Max Cavalera of Soulfly (ex-Sepultura)". Songfacts.
  22. Holthouse, David (October 24, 1996). "Boys From Brazil". Phoenix New Times.
  23. Golemis, Dean (March 21, 1996). "Sepultura: Roots (Roadrunner)". Chicago Tribune. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
  24. Eddy, Chuck (May 10, 1996). "Roots". Entertainment Weekly. Retrieved December 3, 2012.
  25. Chirazi, Steffan (March 24, 1996). "Digging for 'Roots' of Brazilian Metal". Houston Chronicle. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
  26. Masuo, Sandy (March 10, 1996). "Sepultura, 'Roots,' Roadrunner". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
  27. "Sepultura: Roots". NME: 46. February 24, 1996.
  28. "Sepultura: Roots". Q (114): 103. March 1996.
  29. Christgau, Robert. "Sepultura". Retrieved June 7, 2019.
  30. Wiederhorn, Jon (March 21, 1996). "Sepultura: Roots". Rolling Stone: 98. Archived from the original on December 29, 2007. Retrieved December 3, 2012.
  31. Hermes, Will (April 1996). "Sepultura: Roots". Spin. 12 (1): 110. Retrieved June 10, 2018.
  32. Barcinski & Gomes, page 153.
  33. "Q 50 Heaviest Albums Of All Time". Retrieved November 16, 2011.
  34. "Os 100 maiores discos da música brasileira" (in Portuguese). Umas Linhas. 2007-12-20. Archived from the original on 2010-07-02. Retrieved 2009-04-20.
  35. Chase, Jesse. "Sepultura – "Roots"". Decibel. Retrieved 2018-05-11.
  36. Cavalera, Max / Beebee, Steve. Kerrang! Magazine. #1213, June 07, 2008. Treasure Chest. An Intimate Portrait Of A Life in Rock. P. 52
  37. Prato, Greg. "The Roots of Sepultura review". AllMusic. Retrieved 20 December 2011.
  38. "Top Music Charts - Hot 100 - Billboard 200 - Music Genre Sales". [Billboard Music Charts]. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
  39. "SEPULTURA: Discography: Career Albums". [MusicMight: The World's Biggest Rock Resource on the Web]. Retrieved 2008-05-24.
  40. "Top 100 Album-Jahrescharts" (in German). GfK Entertainment. Retrieved September 8, 2016.
  41. "Certified awards". THE BPI. Archived from the original on 2008-04-09. Retrieved 2008-05-03.
  42. "ARIA Charts - Accreditations - 1997 Albums". [Australian Recording Industry Association]. Retrieved 2008-05-23.
  43. "Search Certification Database". [Canadian Recording Industry Association (CRIA)]. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
  44. "Les certifications Albums - Année 1997". [Musique sur Disque en France (SNEP)]. Archived from the original on 2007-12-17. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
  45. Barcinski & Gomes 1999, page 143.
  46. "Gold und Platin Datenbank". [IFPI Austria, Verband der Österreichischen Musik Wirstchaft]. Archived from the original on September 28, 2007. Retrieved 2008-04-27.
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  48. "Goud/Platina Muziek". [nvpi]. Archived from the original on 2009-02-21. Retrieved 2008-04-27.

Further reading

  • Barcinski, André & Gomes, Silvio (1999). Sepultura: Toda a História. São Paulo: Ed. 34. ISBN 85-7326-156-0
  • Sepultura (1996). Roots. [CD]. New York, NY: Roadrunner Records. The 25th Anniversary Series (2-CD Reissue, 2005).
  • Thoroddsen, Arnar (2006). Dimery, Robert (ed.). 1001 Albums You Must Hear Before You Die. Quintet Publishing Limited. ISBN 0-7893-1371-5.
  • Bukszpan, Daniel; James Dio, Ronnie (2003). The Encyclopedia of Heavy Metal. Barnes & Noble Publishing Inc. ISBN 0-7607-4218-9.
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