notes from the coast: Cavalera Conspiracy. 11.02.11

Max and Igor Cavalera, the two famed metal brothers who formed the legendary Sepultura, have been playing together for the last few years as Cavalera Conspiracy, after not even talking to each other for over 10 years when Max left the band. For those unfamiliar with Cavalera Conspiracy, their sound falls somewhere between the classic thrash of prime era Sepultura and Max‘s newer band Soulfly, and with apologies to the “newer” version of Sepultura, this is about as close as you’ll ever get to seeing the classic lineup and sound of the original Sepultura.

After having missed out on seeing the Cavalera brothers perform together twice now, I was going to make sure that, despite a long plane flight back from the east coast, I wouldn’t miss out on seeing them Wednesday night. I’ve been a fan of Max Cavalera since his days in Sepultura and followed his progress over the years with Soulfly. And even though Soulfly‘s output has been up and down in recent years, I find that Cavalera Conspiracy appeal more to me and represent more what I’m looking to hear from Max.

Part of my problem with Soulfly is that, in many ways they were a heavy influence on countless “Nu Metal” bands, most of which I personally couldn’t stand. I don’t want to get all high and mighty on Nu Metal, but let’s just say it’s never been a genre I could identify with. So wouldn’t you just know it, the supporting bands on the Blunt Force Trauma Tour happened to be more “nu” in school flavor. While that may not be a bad thing for many metal fans, and it certainly didn’t seem to be an issue for this packed Key Club crowd, it just didn’t inspire me whatsoever to get there early to see openers Earth Crisis and OTEP. I got there just late enough to miss Earth Crisis but still managed to catch the last half of OTEP. The first thing I noticed when I walked in was their sound. Normally I wear earplugs to shows but the sound was so compressed that I didn’t even use them in the small club. Lead singer Otep Shamaya was about the only impressive part of the band. She’s got a great shredding metal voice and a tough attitude that commands respect. Not being a fan though, the only thing I really remember is Otep putting some disrespectful metal head in his place and their death metal cover of the Nirvana classic Breed. Compared to some of the really bad opening acts I’ve seen recently, this was a step up, but I can’t say I was sad to see them go.

After an overly long wait, the Cavalera brothers finally took the stage, diving right into the punishing Warlord, the opening track from their latest album Blunt Force Trauma. After another new song they kept the brutality rolling with the devastating Inflikted followed by two more off their excellent first album of the same name. Unfortunately the sound on the first few songs was not mixed well and it took them until Sanctuary to get the mix right. Which thankfully, was just in time to hear the band crank out some old Sepultura tunes. Max got the crowd salivating as he went into a rant that led to a bone crushing version of Refuse/Resist that got the thrashers in the pit flailing wildly about and everyone including me, chanting the chorus in unison. This was followed up with a blistering version of classic Territory that kept the bodies piling up on the floor. With everyone delirious from the old schooling the band had just dished out, the band came right back with serious new thrashers Killing Inside and Black Ark which had a particularly inspired secondary vocal performance from third Cavalera brother, Richie, that seemed to re-energize everyone in the pit.

Now earlier I stated that one of the things I didn’t care much about with Soulfly was their unfortunate influence over many Nu Metal bands, but one of the best things the band ever did was introduce guitar shredder extraordinaire, Marc Rizzo, to the world. The guy is a bonafide guitar wizard, on par with the best of any of the old school shredders (think Brazilian version of Alex Skolnick). His contributions get lost with all the attention focused on the Cavalera brothers, but his performance on this night was exceptional. As Max is mostly limited to singing and rhythm duties now, Marc took care of all the guitar shredding and savage riffs in excellent fashion. At the end of the set Max told the crowd that if we wanted more old school songs then we were gonna have to scream louder than we’d been all show long. We did, and we were rewarded with a vicious rendition of Arise. The rabid crowd were then treated to an even older song Troops of Doom from the Morbid Visions album, which was something i think everyone was surprised by. As the brothers left the stage, the chants of “Cava-lera” rang out. And not wanting to deprive the grateful crowd of their encore, the band came back with new song I Speak Hate but it was the last song of the night that really brought the house down as the band brought the tribal beat down of Roots, Bloody Roots, closing the set in brutal fashion.

Max was in great form tonight, keeping the audience constantly riled up by getting them to scream their asses off and keeping his energy high, Igor was a beast behind the kit and Rizzo was dazzling with his fretboard gymnastics and rugged riffing. It was an extremely satisfying performance, not only did I get to see some old Sepultura performed by the originals, but Cavalera Conspiracy proved that there is still a lot of fire left in Max and that despite all the years that have gone by, he still has that thrasher mentality in him, and that’s a beautiful thing to behold. Long live the Cavaleras.

Killing Inside
Blunt Force Trauma
Black Ark
Genghis Khan
Arise / Dead Embryonic Cells
Troops of Doom

I Speak Hate
Roots Bloody Roots