The Roots and (A)rise of Max and Igor Cavalera's Sepultura

In a turbulent story, we delve into the journey of the Cavalera brothers as they build and rise to fame with the legendary thrash metal band, Sepultura.
Igor & Max Cavalera respectively

If you have not been living under a rock for the past few decades, then you probably know the legendary metal band Sepultura. In a journey full of precious moments, controversy, and rage, today we bring to you the roots of the rise of Sepultura.

We wrote this article with the participation of Troy Ho, the administrator of the Sepultura 1984-1996 & Soulfly Fan Club. His views and perspectives will be presented at the end of the topics.

Just like many other OG metal bands, the idea of "Sepultura" originated from rage. As Brazil emerged from a 21-year military dictatorship, things were not easy for Max and Igor Cavalera, the founding members of Sepultura. "The Brazil of girls, coconuts, and paradise beaches existed, but not in our reality," says Max Cavalera. "Our Brazil was dirty and grey, and all it offered was crime, drugs, or messed-up factory jobs. We wanted music that made sense to us as young, pissed-off Brazilian kids."


Sepultura was founded in the 80s by the Cavalera brothers, both originating from Belo Horizonte, in the state of Minas Gerais, a city that played a significant role in the development of groove metal, thrash metal, and death metal genres. The brothers, sons of Vânia (a model) and Graciliano (a prosperous Italian diplomat), faced financial hardship following their father's fatal heart attack.

In their formative years, Max and Igor drew inspiration from a diverse range of artists, including Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath, and Deep Purple, as well as heavy metal and hard rock icons from the early 1980s like Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, AC/DC, Judas Priest, Ozzy Osbourne, and V8. Their musical influences extended to hardcore punk acts such as Terveet Kädet, Rattus, and Discharge.

To stay updated on the latest releases, the brothers frequented a record shop in São Paulo known for mixing tapes of American bands. However, their musical landscape underwent a significant transformation after their introduction to Venom.

Troy Ho: "Igor and Max listened to a lot of music not just metal but metal was an inspiration for them to start playing music. Forming Sepultura was a way to channel that youthful energy and anger for all the injustice that they lived in Brazil. São Paulo wasn’t a bad place to grow up."

By 1984, the Cavalera brothers dropped out of school. After undergoing several early membership changes, Sepultura eventually solidified its lineup with Max on guitar, Igor on drums, lead vocalist Wagner Lamounier, and bassist Paulo Jr.

By 1985, the band had signed with Cogumelo Records. In August 1986, Sepultura recorded their debut full-length album, "Morbid Visions," featuring the standout track "Troops of Doom" which garnered attention for the band.

In early 1987, Jairo Guedz left the band. He was succeeded by guitarist Andreas Kisser from São Paulo, and together they released their second studio album, "Schizophrenia," later that year. The band attracted the interest of Roadrunner Records, which signed them and internationally released "Schizophrenia" before witnessing the band's live performance in person.

The third studio album of the band, "Beneath the Remains," was released in 1989. Recorded in a rustic studio in Rio de Janeiro, the band communicated with the American producer Scott Burns with the assistance of translators.

Max Cavalera in 1989


In January 1991, Sepultura performed for an audience of over 100,000 people at the Rock in Rio Festival. Having relocated from their native Brazil to Phoenix, Arizona in 1990, the band secured new management and recorded the album "Arise" at Morrisound Studios in Tampa, Florida. Following the album's release, Sepultura embarked on an extensive tour throughout 1991 and 1992 to support the album.

Even though MTV declined to broadcast the video for the title track, citing its seemingly blasphemous content featuring gas-masked Jesus characters being crucified, the band continued to thrive. They achieved milestones such as securing their first Kerrang! magazine cover in June '91, becoming the first Brazilian band to perform in Russia, and being the inaugural Brazilian act to play at both Donington and the Dynamo Festival in the Netherlands.

A point that finds consensus among (almost) everyone is that Arise stands out as their most crucial record, achieving significance in both commercial success and musical evolution.

Beginning in 1993, a drastic change unfolded for Sepultura. Their fifth album, "Chaos A.D.," was released in the same year, featuring support from the singles "Refuse/Resist," "Territory," and "Slave New World."

Troy Ho: "Chaos AD was a turning point for them. They had found their sound. That rich Brazilian beat mixed with Thrash Metal was a new sound that no one had heard before. But Beneath the Remains really was the beginning for the next step to refining the sound that began with a very raw and powerful Brazilian Thrash! With the success of Chaos AD let them create the even more powerful album Arise!"


In 1996, the band found itself reduced to a three-piece lineup, with Andreas Kisser assuming lead vocals, as Max Cavalera left the concert site earlier in the day upon learning of the death of his stepson, Dana Wells, in a car accident. After completing Dana Wells' funeral, Max returned and resumed touring with Sepultura. A few months following Wells' tragic death, the band held a meeting with Max, expressing their desire to dismiss their manager, Gloria Bujnowski, who was both Max's wife and Dana's mother, and seek new management. Their rationale was that Bujnowski was allegedly favoring Max while neglecting the rest of the band.

Still grappling with the loss of Wells, Max felt betrayed by his bandmates for wanting to replace Bujnowski and abruptly decided to quit the band.

Following the nomination of Derrick Green from Cleveland, Ohio, as the new lead singer, Max announced the formation of his new band, Soulfly.

In a huge jump on the timeline, In 2007, Igor departed from the band after the release of Dante XXI and was succeeded by Brazilian drummer Jean Dolabella, marking a significant shift as the band no longer had any of its original members. Following his departure from Sepultura, Igor and Max went on to establish Cavalera Conspiracy. Igor and Max, who had been engaged in a decade-long feud, recently reconciled.

Troy Ho: "With the death of his stepson in the horrible hit-and-run incident that still remains unsolved. Andreas and Paulo showed their true colors by putting the band and money 1st. The fact that they tried to have the Step sons remains cremated so that they could continue the tour was unforgivable! Then on top of that firing Gloria during all of this going on during her and Max’s grief. Igor stayed with Sepultura for a couple more years before he and Max reconciled and Igor eventually left Sepultura. When I heard about what happened. I was so angry and hurt!!!!! To have your brothers in the band behave that way is a shock to everyone. I was even mad at Igor for not standing by Max. This really did rock the Metal world to its core because Sepultura had been in the scene for a short time but had become pioneers in the Thrash World changing the sound forever."

In 2011, Sepultura underwent significant changes, with drummer Jean Dolabella leaving the band after Wacken Open Air, replaced by Eloy Casagrande. Various milestones followed, including the announcement of a biography, "Relentless – 30 Years of Sepultura," and the release of the thirteenth album, "The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart."

After touring for "The Mediator," Sepultura entered the studio in 2016, producing their fourteenth album, "Machine Messiah," released in 2017.

On December 8, 2023, the band revealed plans for a farewell tour in 2024, marking their 40th anniversary. This conclusive 18-month tour signifies Sepultura's disbandment in 2025.

Troy Ho: "I stopped listening to Sepultura after Max left and started Soulfly. I know a lot of people did. That’s why I started the Facebook group. Sepultura was never the same without Max. The vocals and his rhythm guitar weren’t there. Andreas had to play rhythm and solos and when he soloed there was no Max for the rhythm backbone that made Sepultura's signature sound. Andreas and Paulo destroyed the band and several lives all at once for greed and dislike of Gloria. I’m glad that Sepultura is going to retire and call it quits. It’s karma. Sepultura was very special and now it’s over. But Soulfly will continue to give us great music! Thank you, Max!"

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