Released February 20th, 1996
(all music by M. Cavalera, I. Cavalera, A. Kisser, P. Pinto; all words by M. Cavalera, except where noted)
Roots Bloody Roots
Ratamahatta (words by C. Brown)
Breed Apart (words by M. Cavalera, A. Kisser)
Lookaway (words by J. Davis, M. Patton, L. Dimants)
Dusted (words by A. Kisser)
Canyon Jam (instrumental)Who Did What:
Max Cavalera - vox, guitar, percussion
Igor Cavalera - drums, percussion
Paulo Jr. - bass, percussion
Andreas Kisser - lead guitar, sitar, backing voxOthers:
Mike Patton - vox (Lookaway)
David Silveria - drums (Ratamahatta)
Carlinhos Brown - vox, percussion (Ratamahatta)
Jonathan Davis - vox (Lookwaay)
DJ Lethal - scratching, programming (Lookaway)
Xavante Tribe - percussion, chanting (Itsari)Roots
was one of those 'what the fuck' moments in the mid-90s. It kind of came out of nowhere for a lot of people, myself included. I'd previously only heard 1993's Chaos A.D.
and that album, while stylistically a departure from their previous albums, was fairly straightforward and comprehensible upon first hearing it.Roots
, though, was different. It was a sprawling mess of sludgy guitar, and sloppy-in-a-good-way grooves. Woven throughout were sounds that no one in my part of the world had ever heard before. The percussion and other elements drawn from the band's South American culture were like an organic counterpart to the industrial music I was listening to at the time. Many of the textures on Roots
related to what I was hearing on Front Line Assembly, Ministry, or Fear Factory records.Roots
became a sort of rite of passage in the local music scene when I was in high school.
"Have you heard Roots
"Dude, you're a drummer, you'll love it."
And I sort of did, at first.Roots
is kind of a sprawling, incoherent mess. That's not to criticize, however. It's a fascinating listen. I was 17 when this record came out, and I had never in my life heard anything like it. I took it apart a track at a time over the following years, and tried to figure out what Igor Cavalera was doing on that drum set. I played in several metal bands at the time, and songs like "Roots Bloody Roots" and "Straighthate" were standards. If you could play those, you moved on to stuff from Fear Factory, Pantera, and Slayer. It was sort of like a checklist for any audition that you might attend in 1996. More significantly, those songs were damn satisfying to play on the drums. Just a full-on caution to the wind assault that was both physically and emotionally satisfying.
I don't listen to Roots
very often. In fact, today is probably the first time I've sat through the whole thing in years. Shortly after discovering Sepultura, I gravitated towards their earlier records like 1991's Arise
and 1989's Beneath the Remains
, both of which are in my frequently listened to pile next to my
stereo.While I never fell in love with Roots
, I have always respected it. Sepultura took the childish minimalism of Korn and combined with the hi-art terror of Enemy of the Sun
-era Neurosis and made something entirely new with it.
Part of the turn off is due not to the record, but to what happened after the record.
Nu metal happened.
Remember nu metal?
Unfortunately, so do I. Nu metal was like a second coming of punk, at least form a musician's standpoint. You didn't have to be particularly talented to be able to play it. Nu metal basically took what bands like Sepultura, Helmet, and Pantera were doing, and conveniently left out the musicianship that made those bands great. Like, if you took all the jazz chords out of Helmet songs, and basically just played the bass line, you'd have the kind of lazy mentality that gave rise to nu metal.
I'm not implying that nu metal and punk are in any way similar beyond that though. I see punk as a reactionary cultural movement born form the justified angst and frustration felt by young people living in a seemingly hopeless time (I'm speaking largely of the UK punk here). Granted, one could make the argument that nu metal was also a reactionary cultural movement born out of an entirely different sort change, that being the rise of the 'sensitive male', which, in the 1990s, kind of blew a lot of people's minds for some reason. I suspect the need among white people to assimilate black culture played a role, as white kids who grew up listening to hip hop began to incorporate it into awkward white metal grooves, in much the same way their forebears did with the blues.
I always sort of categorized nu metal as a movement that was comprised entirely of white bros drunk on machismo needing to beat their chests in the face of encroaching feminization.
I suppose that's not entirely fair.
It was simply a movement I couldn't relate to. Except for the hip hop part. I did listen to a lot of that as a kid, and it lead me to seek out industrial music. I don't know what happened to all the kids that grew up and formed bands like Soil, or Dope, or whatever. I guess I dodged a genre-sized bullet.
And none of that has anything to do with Roots
, so I'll set that discussion aside for another time (though feel free to comment on it).
Basically, whether you like it or not, Roots
is a benchmark album. It just has to be taken on its own, apart from the tsunami of bullshit that followed it. Roots
shows a band that was taking chances, and you have to admire and respect that. It would've been easy for them to go back to Arise
from Chaos A.D.
, but they didn't.
It's unfortunate that neither Sepultura, nor Max with Soulfly, grew beyond Roots
. Both bands have been revisiting the same ground with mixed results for nearly twenty years. Between that and the nu metal movement, Roots
kind of gets lost in the haze of 'what were we thinking' that crops up whenever the mid-90s are talked about in metal circles.
All that being said, even twenty years later, every single time I hear "Roots Bloody Roots", I can't help but notice my heart beating just a little faster, so that has to count for something.