Twenty years after Chaos A.D, the former Sepultura frontman discusses its anarchic global legacy
Taken from the August issue of Dazed & Confused:
The first sound you hear on Sepultura’s Chaos A.D is the heartbeat of singer Max Cavalera’s son Zyon in the womb. Opening the anarchist anthem “Refuse/Resist”, the rumbling Doppler sample segues into a clattering tribal rhythm inspired by the group’s Brazilian heritage, before breaking into an incendiary metal riff. Recorded in the peace and quiet of the Welsh countryside, Chaos A.D signalled a move away from the South American quartet’s thrash roots, focusing on slower, industrial grooves. Twenty years later, it is still considered one of most influential, aggressive albums of all time. Zyon, who was born on January 19, 1993, now plays the song live with his Dad’s new band Soulfly, pounding on the skins as his old man growls his dystopian visions to legions of cult followers.
“When we released Chaos A.D it was really hard for a metal artist to survive. Everything was grunge. Everywhere you looked was grunge. I liked Soundgarden, Nirvana, and Melvins. I didn’t really care much for Pearl Jam. A lot of the metal bands sang about satanic stuff, which was okay, but you can only sing about Satan so many times before it gets boring. I love punk bands like Bad Brains, Black Flag, Minor Threat and Dead Kennedys, and because of them I thought it would be cooler if Sepultura wrote about different issues, to make people think differently. Chaos A.D is about chaos around the world. “Territory” was about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. If you look at “Territory” now – with Syria and the situation in the Middle East – it’s more out of control than it’s ever been. So that song is even more powerful today than it was when it was first made. Some people thought, ‘Hey, they’re just another death metal band. They’ve got nothing to say.’ But beneath the surface there was a lot to be said. I created things for people to talk about. My lyrics create conversation. A song like “Refuse/Resist” is riot music. If you’re going to go on a riot, you must have that on your iPod.
When we released Chaos A.D it was really hard for a metal artist to survive. Everything was grunge. Everywhere you looked was grunge
The world has gone into even more shit since I wrote that. After 9/11 it became completely ridiculous. The Patriotic Act allows the American government to snoop around anybody’s business at any time. Nobody has privacy anymore. Everybody can hack into anybody’s system and find out everything about that person’s life because it’s all on a computer. Big Brother watching you is bigger now than it ever was. Our song “Slave New World” makes even more sense today than it did when it was first written. Everything is being filmed. Everyone is watching what you do.
A lot of my music is used in war. I have letters from people who were in Desert Storm saying, ‘I was flying over the desert with “Arise” on my headphones and I was fucking shit up!’ It’s insane. I never even imagined when I wrote those records that some people were going to use the music for stuff like that. It’s wild how my music has traveled. We even have fans in Iran, which is crazy to think about – metal is illegal there. It’s outlawed by religion and by the government. It’s an outrage. I didn’t have any idea my music spread to those parts of the world, but it did. We even got sent a picture from Iran and somebody had spray-painted “Sepultura” on a wall. It boggles my mind how it must be to be a metal kid in a world like that. I give props to fans in places like that. Those are the real fans. That’s the real shit right there. They like metal and they don’t care what the government says. They don’t care what religion says. They love their metal and they spray paint a wall in Iran, even though it could get them killed. That’s the ultimate fan right there.”