Beneath the Remains (1989) was the Brazilian band’s first major breakthrough, a lethal combination of raw and primitive thrash and death metal. Arise (1991) was more straightforward death metal—faster, heavier and even more bleak. But 1993’s Chaos A.D. is the band’s pinnacle album of their career.
The album was also Sepultura’s first and only release on a major label. Roadrunner Records joined forces with Epic for the release with an exclusive distribution deal.
From the outside it seemed as if all greatly benefited from the partnership. However, Sepultura addressed their short-lived major label stint later on the song, “Cut-Throat,” from Roots (1996). Cavalera’s lyrics are the tell all;
“Enslavement/Pathetic/Ignorant/Corporate!” Whatever the reasons, Chaos A.D. saw the band expanding and diversifying their sound for the first time. The new style was stripped down, slower and crunchier, helping to give birth to the term “groove-metal.”
The album’s lyrical themes are more relevant today than ever before. War over religion, massacre, and censorship are the themes for the mammoth trifecta of opening songs on the album – “Refuse/Resist,” “Territory” and “Slave New World.”
“Refuse/Resist” opens with “Zyon”’s pulsating heartbeat leading us into the Brazilian tribal opening. From here, Sepultura turned Chaos A.D. and extreme music into a modern metal battlefield—a wasteland of which no one knows who or why they are even fighting. Tanks roll through protestors and clouds of tear gas on streets, while religion causes people to violently kill in the name of their faith. Innocent people are being killed, suffering and going hungry. Barren deserts and crumbling cities are fought for as if they were golden temples and Sepultura is at the heart of this third-world hell. These are the images that were provoked during my first few listens and they’ve remained with me to this day.
Much like Megadeth’s “Holy Wars … The Punishment Due,” “Territory” addresses the conflict between Palestinians and Israelis. After the groundbreaking openers, Chaos A.D. never really regains as strong of a momentum, yet the diversity makes up for it. “Kaiowas”—recorded in an abandoned castle—is a tribal and acoustic jam. It’s the first of many future songs that would pay tribute to the band’s Brazilian heritage and roots. We all knew that Max Cavalera’s brother, Igor was an awesome drummer, but his performance throughout this album cemented himself as one of metal’s elite.
“Propaganda” tackles just that—the misinformation released in the media, whether through pictures or print. The anger Cavalera expresses in this song makes it seem personal. Guitarist Andreas Kisser is still here as well. His heavy, downtuned riffs and crazy distorted solos add to the primitive nature of this new “groove-metal,” a style that was later a great influence on Korn and other fledgling metal bands at the time.
“Biotech Is Godzilla” was a collaboration with ex-Dead Kennedys vocalist Jello Biafra, a wacky hardcore metal song about the dangers of technology. The end results, though positive, probably weren’t what anyone was expecting.
And that can be said for the entire Chaos A.D. album—metal fans expected it to be good, but not on a groundbreaking level like it was. When a band today cites Sepultura as an influence, you can be sure that Chaos A.D. is their reference. The lyrical content and “reality” of the album was something not too common up until this point. Thrash and death metal had become notorious for their fantasy inspired lyrics dealing with Satan and the occult. Sepultura’s Chaos A.D. brought us to the third world, and most of us still haven’t made our way back.