From his musical beginnings as lead singer and guitarist for Sepultura onward, Max Cavalera’s contribution to metal can’t be underestimated. Along with his brother Igor Cavalera, Sepultura’s offering of primitive drum work, ariose guitar riffs and incredible screaming vocals brought an impressive brand-new to the heavy-metal canon.
More importantly, the Cavalera brothers also brought a new authenticity to an indigenous culture’s native music. By extraordinarily blending what seemed like two opposing genres, they created some of metal’s most unique offerings; Sepultura literally put Brazil and South America on the metal map.
That superlative creativity from the Cavalera family has resurfaced in many forms, through super groups and side projects galore. Most notable for Max Cavalera is his band, Soulfly. An extension of Max's impressive talent and a gift to the metal catalog, Soulfly’s latest album, Archangel, is 36 and a half minutes of roaring lyrical work, deep melodic riffs and a thematic surprise: the Old Testament and its horror. Think divinely inspired devastation.
Speaking by phone to Max Cavalera about his band and Soulfly’s new tour wasn’t easy. Firstly, he’s an extremely busy guy. Secondly, the demands on his time are far from few. The pressure to get tasks like interviews complete can take their toll. Yet, to hear him slow his pace, his voice and his demeanor to talk about his musical passion was incredible. This is clearly a man in love with music, and for good reason.
A genuine artistic spirit radiates over the line as he describes in specific detail the effort he has poured into Archangel. His voice lifts when asked about the tour.
Houston Press: Max, so you’re coming through Houston with an interesting lineup. You’ve got Soilwork, Decapitated and Shattered Sun. Did you hand pick these bands as you’ve done for your tours in the past? Or did the label [Nuclear Blast] choose these?
Max Cavalera: These bands are all hand-picked [by me and the band]. You know, all these bands were submitted to us, we listened to them and then decided. We picked Decapitated. They’re one of my favorite metal bands. [UPDATE: According to Decapitated's Facebook page, they will not be joining the tour due to immigration issues.]
I love young metal. I listen to these young bands all the time. You know, Soilwork is very melodic metal. And, of course, [Shattered] Sun is getting lots of attention. We really wanted to create a show with a full metal package, you know? I love those kind of shows…one day, I’d really love to create something like a mini-OzzFest with lots of underground acts, like a full metal festival.
Wow. That would be very cool. So, what can we expect on this tour?
We’re going to play an hour and a half of music for the fans. I will not let them down. We will play lots of classics from across the years, some Sepultura tracks. Lots of really great stuff. We have new screens. It’s going to look like an old church. It’s going to be really great. With this tour, I just really want to thank the fans for all their support of us.
Sounds very cool. Where is Soulfly headed after the tour?
MC: A lot more touring in Europe, working on other projects like Killer Be Killed, maybe record a new album for 2017. Soulfly will do lots of support touring for Archangel all year long [of 2016].
And, there’s been a lineup change…
We’ve got Mike [Leon] from Havok on bass now. As our new bass player, he’s going to bring in fresh, new magic into Soulfly.
Right. So, with the departure of Tony [Campos], how did you decide on Mike Leon?
We had heard that Mike left Havok and we loved his thrash thing he was doing in Havok. He’s perfect for us, you know? He’s a great player and we just brought him on.
So, let’s talk more about Archangel. Can you elaborate on the Old Testament theme? What greater significance does this imagery have for you?
My mother had told me about the year of the Archangel, Michael. And I just thought it was really interesting, you know? I started reading about it and decided I wanted to make a record around that theme. You know, many of our records have covered themes in the past, so it wasn’t something new for us. Like on Savages, that was really about mankind and its hostility. Despite our evolution and progress, we still act like brutes.
As far as the Old Testament theme, I think that we [mankind] could be headed in that way. You see other bands taking up this theme too. You know, like Behemoth and “Blow Your Trumpets Gabriel.” I wanted to cover Babylonian things, to really move in that direction. I felt like it was important for us [as a band] to open that topic up — this Old Testament idea. You know, the whole thing was really great start to finish. From the cover artist to Matt Hyde [producer], I really want to repeat this entire team for another album. Everyone was amazing. I really love how it came out. It’s very compact. It’s not about time or length, but about quality. Quality not quantity, you know? I’m very proud of this record. The reviews have been really good.
It’s really an amazing piece of music. There are some unique collaborations, too.
My son, Zyon [Cavalera], did really great on the drums for this album. You know, we had Todd [Jones] from Nails help us out. We had King Parrott, too. I was so glad to have them. We also had Anahid from Master of Persia. She’s a female singer from Iran. Incredible. She helped out on “Mother of Dragons.”
How awesome was it to include not only Anahid on “Mother of Dragons” but so many family members? You’ve got Zyon, Igor and Richie Cavalera.
It was so great. It’s always great working with family. We’re all connected inside, you know? Soulfly starts with family and it extends out from there — from tribe to fans and beyond. We’re connected through the power of thrash.
I love how you’ve passed that passion on to your family. What was that beginning like? What was that moment when you knew you wanted to be a musician?
Back in Brazil, my brother and I had gone to this amphitheater to see a show. It was a Brazilian band, but they sounded like Venom from Britain, you know? It made a big impact on us. I remember I just looked at my brother and said, “They’re from Brazil!” It gave us hope and inspiration that we could do it, too. Igor started doing some samba jams. So, then he really got into drums. Then I picked up guitar and we never looked back.
What an amazing story.
It’s the most important thing we have, is our dreams. We as humans are our dreams. As a kid, I had a dream to live for music, and I’m doing it now [Laughs]. I’m just happy I get to do it. I get to live this life, you know?
Soulfly performs with Soilwork, Earthside, Shattered Sun and Houston’s own Green as Emerald Tuesday, October 27 at Scout Bar, 18307 Egret Bay Boulevard, Clear Lake. Doors open at 6 p.m.
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Kristy Loye is a writer living in Houston and has been writing for the Houston Press since July 2015. A recent Rice University graduate, when not teaching writing craft or reciting poetry, she's upsetting alt-rights on Reddit.