Criminally Slept-On: Sepultura (1989-1997)

Posted by on December 17, 2015

sep93In Criminally Slept-On, Schuler Benson takes a look at some of the most underrated tracks from his favorite prolific bands’ back catalogs.

Sepultura was one of the first mainstream metal bands that grabbed my attention as a kid. They were introduced to me in the same breath as Pantera, and something about the two, specifically their mid-’90’s output, will be linked together for me forever. Roots was my first Sepultura album, and I absolutely loved what they were doing; it had the groove of the more commercially-successful nu-metal bands with which, if you were in your early teens and into heavy music in that era, you’d most likely been inundated… but there was more to it. Their music was dirtier and darker, and the tribal elements gave it an exotic feel that was fresh and exciting. Working backwards through their catalog as I got older, I found even more music to love. In fact, a lot of their pre-Roots material has stood the test of time better than the album that’s widely considered to be the tentpole of their legacy.

I couldn’t follow Sepultura’s post-Max Cavalera output. It wasn’t for lack of trying; I remember spending tons of time with Against, trying to find in it the same spirit that made Roots so special, but it just wasn’t there for me. I stuck with them through Nation and Roorback, giving the new direction a shot with as open a mind as I could muster, but I always found each Derrick Green album to be more lackluster than the one that preceded it. I know the band’s earned considerable praise with Green, specifically, as I understand it, with their latest couple of releases. Maybe I’ll eventually give them a shot again, but (and I really hate to be this guy, but I am) I doubt they’ll be able to catch the “lightning-in-a-bottle” vibe of their output from 1996 back.

This week’s Criminally Slept-On takes a look at some of the lesser-known and harder-to-find songs from Max Cavalera’s tenure with Sepultura. Some have become more popular in the years since the line-up’s demise, but some still have plenty of dust on them. And some of you will be interested to learn that this band did, in fact, write songs other than “Refuse/Resist” and “Roots Bloody Roots.”


1) “Mine”


This weird-ass song from the Roots sessions represents some of the most experimental work Sepultura had ever attempted up until that time. It employs the murkier, plodding pacing characteristic of the album, but without the bouncy nu-metal leanings of songs like “Lookaway” or “Spit.” Vocals for “Mine” were contributed by Faith No More oddball Mike Patton, who definitely pushes the track further off the map than any performance Max could’ve turned in at the time. I’m not a Patton aficionado. A lot of that dude’s shit is just too bizarre in all the wrong ways. But “Mine” is a great example of just how much of a chameleon he can be. His performance fits seamlessly. This song can be found on a number of releases, but the cheapest would probably be Blood-Rooted, a compilation of post-Roots odds and ends that Roadrunner Records released when it became apparent that the Max-fueled cash crop era of Sepultura had come to a crashing conclusion.


2) “Procreation of the Wicked”


I wrote about cover songs for another publication recently, and I had to include this one on that list. Sepultura’s cover of Celtic Frost’s “Procreation (Of The Wicked)” is one of the heaviest renditions I’ve heard of a Celtic Frost song that still manages to maintain the original band’s integrity. As a kid, I thought it sounded so much like the songs on Roots that I didn’t believe it was a cover until I read the Blood-Rooted liner notes. Plus, because of this song, I kinda owe Sepultura… this was my first exposure to Celtic Frost. In addition to Blood-Rooted, this one’s also available on the Roadrunner Records 25th Anniversary Edition of Roots.


3) “Dictatorshit”


While Roots is mostly known for how far afield from tradition Sepultura took their sound, it’s not without its throwback moments. The album’s last track (or penultimate track, if you count “Canyon Jam,” which… I don’t), “Dictatorshit,” is about a minute and a half of old-school, crossover fury. It’s not as catchy as some of the better-known numbers like “Breed Apart” or “Ratamahatta,” but it’s probably the heaviest song on the record, and it’s a cool look at Sepultura standing their own ground while aping bands like Ratos de Porao, who so heavily influenced their hardcore edge.


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