Sepultura: Hearts and Hands
Words: Brendan Crabb
Latest release: The Mediator Between Head and Hands must be the Heart (Nuclear Blast/Riot!)
Band site: www.sepultura.com
Upon answering the call from Loud, Sepultura’s veteran guitar hero Andreas Kisser ought to be rather downbeat. Namely, the Brazilian/American metallers have just been forced to cancel their North American tour with Unearth and Kataklysm at the eleventh hour. “We were supposed to go to the United States tomorrow to do an American tour, but our work visas didn’t arrive, all the permits and everything,” he explains. “So we’re going to have to postpone the tour for next year. It sucks, but we didn’t have any other option because of the visa and all that crap,” he adds. “It’s not the first time it’s happened, but it sucks.”
Although audibly disappointed, the shredder’s friendly tone indicates he’s seemingly in about as positive spirits as feasible given the circumstances. It’s likely that the members’ satisfaction regarding new LP (and 13th overall) The Mediator Between Head and Hands must be the Heart has softened this rather cruel blow somewhat. Some of Sepultura’s previous concept albums have struggled to pique fans’ interest, and although inspired by Fritz Lang’s classic 1927 film Metropolis, the new work is not a concept piece or soundtrack ala 2006’s Dante XXI (based on The Divine Comedy) or 2009’s A-Lex (derived from A Clockwork Orange). The new album also features a guest appearance from ex-Slayer tub-thumper Dave Lombardo.
The Mediator Between Head and Hands must be the Heart (try saying that three times fast) was tracked throughout a 40-day period at producer Ross Robinson’s studio in Venice, California. Robinson has played an integral role within the band’s legacy, also overseeing 1996’s tribal-metal landmark Roots. Subsequent releases have resulted in a considerable waning of their drawing power in most territories, but Sepultura has admirably soldiered on, undeterred, even following original sticks-man Iggor Cavalera’s departure in 2006.
“The album is the first one we have with our new drummer, Eloy Casagrande,” Kisser says excitedly. “He brought a lot of new energy and new elements to the music of Sepultura. And working with Ross Robinson as the producer again; he did Roots and now we have a chance to work together again. It’s great; the music, it’s very dark, very aggressive and there’s lots of elements of our old style of thrash metal elements, and even some death metal elements. It’s just a very intense, very powerful Sepultura album. It’s very honest music; it’s what we feel today…. We never tried to copy anything that we did before, or tried to do something that we’ve done before. I think it’s another step forward in our career. It’s one of the best albums that we ever did, for sure. It’s very organic, very natural, the way we like to perform on-stage. When performing the music the best way we can, with lots of energy and passion, I think that’s what Sepultura is based on.
“The title of the album came out from the movie Metropolis. The Mediator Between Head and Hands must be the Heart is kind of a long title, but at the same time it’s a very strong, powerful name that shows the importance of our human being, you know, characteristics, not to be totally robotised by anything. (If) you receive information through your head and actions through your hands without your heart, without arguing, protesting or questioning, you’re nothing more than a robot. That (allowed) us to write about everything - religion, politics, natural phenomenon, human feelings, and the relationship we have with people all around the world, and with our friends and family. We talk about everything, but really (it’s about) not (wanting) to lose our human ability to be human, to at least have free choice and free speech, and to question things… I think that’s the biggest message of all, that it’s very important not to lose our heart, not to lose our human element.”
Aforementioned commercial and critical hit Roots was former leader Max Cavalera’s Sepultura swansong. His stint helming Soulfly has amazingly now lasted longer than the tenure fronting his original outfit. It seems unnecessary to rehash much of the latter’s history during a conversation with Kisser, though. However, with Cavalera’s autobiography – revelations featured in which promise to be explosive – already released in Brazil and receiving an English-language release next April, it’s his dramatic, yet never fully explored separation from the trail-blazing band he co-founded which will be an integral facet of said work. It will also be the aspect of greatest appeal to prospective readers. Many have seemingly accepted rumours and hearsay regarding the grunter’s split from Sepultura as fact. It remains one of metal’s pivotal events, yet one never properly documented.
The only occasion Loud references his former band-mate during our interview is to inquire whether or not Kisser has read My Bloody Roots (co-written by British author Joel McIver), or has any inkling to do so. “No, not really, man, it’s just his opinion, that’s all,” he responds. “We’re so focused on what we’re doing now, there’s no looking back. I’m not interested to get into a fight to say, who’s right, who’s wrong… Of course I don’t agree with everything, but if you have a mind and a mouth, you might as well express what you feel. It’s just what you’re feeling, that’s it. It’s nothing to do with what we’re doing now and stuff, you know?
“I didn’t read it, but of course people always comment (to me) about features of the book; ‘he said that, he said that’. That’s fine; it’s just not something that is really going to change anything of what we’re doing today. If he felt the urge to put something like that out, that’s his… We’re very focused (on) here, today. The music that Soulfly or Cavalera Conspiracy or whatever is doing is nothing to do with what Sepultura is doing. We’re so much apart. It doesn’t matter what you say, at the end of the day… There’s so many opinions around the world, and I respect them all. But we’re doing something very special. I think we’ve respected our past, but live in the present very much.”
A territory which played a significant role within said history is, of course, Australia. Surprisingly, it’s been a decade since the band (also comprising frontman Derrick Green and long-standing bassist Paulo Jr.) last ventured to our shores. Are we likely to see them Down Under in support of this record? “I hope so; it’s been a long time,” the axeman enthuses. “Of course we changed labels during this period, we moved to Nuclear Blast and changed drummers and everything. But now I think we have a really great relationship with our label Nuclear Blast, and the line-up is very strong and everything. And the album is very much getting a great response, and hopefully this next year we’re going to have the chance to go back and play in Australia. We love it very much; the country, and the people, we always have great shows there and always can’t wait to go back.
“But I mean, it’s too far, to go there and stuff,” he laughs. “Australia and Japan, it’s been a long time since we were there, and I think that now that we have a better chance to be there. So hopefully soon we’ll be able to announce dates and everything. I think the first time we went there was for (1991’s) Arise, and (then 1993’s) Chaos A.D. It’s such a passionate crowd; they really understand metal and they know the style and everything. In ‘96 we were supposed to do the Big Day Out and stuff, but then we couldn’t do it and then we had to rebuild everything, from management and producers and all that crap. Finally, I think we have the chance and conditions to go back and do a proper tour.
“Now I think we’re going to have the support from the label, and we’re talking to you guys in the press and stuff like that. And from there, hopefully we can come back and really enjoy the country. It’s a beautiful place. In lots of ways it’s very similar to Brazil; the atmosphere, the climate, the beautiful beaches and stuff. We’re very excited with this album, and hopefully soon we’re going to have the chance to go back.”
Brendan is Loud's contributing editor and also writes for Blunt and themusic.com.au.