During the 90s and early 2000s, the metal scene was beginning to resemble a Marvel saga: every kid could choose which superhero – or supervillain – to worship, and follow them on a rock adventure. JDevil from Korn, Marilyn Manson, Dani Filth of Cradle, Mike Patton, Chino Moreno from Deftones, Corey “The Sickness” Taylor and all his hooded mates in Slipknot… Whether it was the attitude, the hair-raising style, scandals, or vocal ability, every fan could find a home. Here, Max Cavalera built a mansion, entwined with vines, lost in the depths of a rich jungle.
And what sets him apart from the others? Well, unlike his colleagues, all coming from dull Californian suburbs or isolated Norwegian villages, Max Cavalera comes from Brazil.
Born on 4th August 1969 Massimiliano Antônio ‘Max’ Cavalera came from the booming city of Belo Horizonte, capital of Minas Gerais state. His mother was a model and his father an Italian diplomat, though he passed away when Max and his brother were 9 and 8 respectively. His band Sepultura, or ‘tomb’ in Portuguese, would come to life just a few years later.
His whole life, Cavalera has moved in and out of his native Brazil.
His first E.P. Bestial Devastations (1985), followed by the album Morbid Visions in ‘86 and Schizophrenia in ‘87 are pure products of Brazilian soil, recorded on location with whatever was at hand, and all with local backup singers, singing in English with very strong Portugese accents. As tradition would have it, they are a mix of Satanism and war. But a decade later, Max Cavalera had completely turned the tide. At the time of the release of their cult album Roots, the band was now based in Phoenix and being produced by the metal multinational Roadrunner Records. It was in this comfortable situation that Sepultura began to explore their roots. The percussion and rhythm sections became tribal, and the band went to record in the Amazon with the Xavantes Amerindian tribe on tracks like “Born Stubborn”, “Itsari” and “Procreation of the Wicked”. Batucada and capoeira are present in the music video for “Roots Bloody Roots”.
At the crossroads of genres and at the height of his glory, Max Cavalera’s life was again marked by death. His son in law was killed in a car crash, and the other members of the group decided to part ways with their manager Gloria, Max’s bereaved wife. The following year he left Supultura to set up the group Soulfly whose line-up changed regularly. His brother, the drummer Igor Cavalera, would remain with Supultra for a decade before leaving to join Max once more in Cavalera Conspiracy.
Personal drama has never been far from Max Cavalera, and as he’s traversed the dark and winding road of rock his reading of the world has become more and more mystical and spiritual. That and militant. His career has seen him travel to Serbia and Turkey in search of traditional sounds, entrust some of his artwork to Neville Garrick, the illustrator for Bob Marley’s albums, and enter into collaborations with Sean Lennon, Dave Grohl, the producer Junkie XL, and Roger Miret of Agnostic Front.
The founding father of mixed metal and, by choice, a world music artist but with a metallic singing style, Max Cavalera is somewhere between Tom Araya from Slayer and Lee Perry, a metal-head archetype, up for anything, with industrial production, collaborating with dozens of different groups, and often seen in the studio with upwards of fifty other artists and musicians.