Max and Iggor Cavalera Return to Roots, with Skindred, The Forum Theatre (Melbourne) 23/09/2017

Twenty years later, Max and Iggor Cavalera 'Return to Roots' to celebrate one of the most powerful and captivating Sepultura albums.

When Sepultura released Roots in 1997 it rocked our worlds. Heavy as lead, yet infused with infectious tribal groove and beautiful instrumental pieces, Roots permanently redefined thrash metal. Never did I foresee, as a teenage headbanger consumed by Sepultura hysteria in the late 1990s, that I would witness the Cavalera brothers Max and Iggor re-perform one of their most iconic albums twenty years later in the breathtaking Forum Theatre. So it came to be, in Melbourne’s stunning, large-capacity neoclassical venue, that Max and Iggor Cavalera celebrated the twenty-year anniversary of Roots before a sold-out audience.

In preparation for the Cavalera onslaught, a curiously perfect opening act in Welsh reggae-hardcore fusion band Skindred whipped up frenzy with a bouncy, high-energy set. Skindred are difficult to pigeonhole sound-wise but the festive blend of reggae groove, hardcore rage, and metal breakdowns made for a captivating and extremely entertaining set. Vocalist Benji Webbe, dressed in flamboyant stage attire, demonstrated his impressive vocal and lyrical range from smooth melody and reggae melancholy to tough screams and low-gutteral growls. Webbe’s hilarious banter with the crowd and the effortless cool of guitarist Mikey Demus made for an energetic start to the show.

The main event of the night was of course the Return to Roots set. A deafening roar invaded the Forum as Iggor Cavalera appeared, followed by Max Cavalera and Soulfly/Cavalera Conspiracy bandmates Marc Rizzo and Johny Chow. Clearly, Roots is an album that still inspires its creators and to see it performed in entirety captivated the audience from start to finish. The standard Roots tracklist was delivered with epic and entertaining live twists, saving some surprises for the finale. Iggor Cavalera thundered into everyone’s favourite ‘Roots Bloody Roots’ with impressive ferocity, and as ‘Attitude’ began we were treated to see Max Cavalera on the berimbau. The iconic chaos of ‘Ratamahatta’ ensued to further ignite the raging audience. Although the packed out crowd was gushing well-deserved adoration at Max, it is worth noting that guitarist Rizzo levelled a fantastic performance of the intricate Roots guitar work.

Max Cavalera remains the irreplaceable face of Sepultura for many fans, and this set was a nostalgic sojourn into the crushing moshpits definitive of Roots-era thrash metal. By mid-set Max was truly in his element. The intensity of the show just accelerated into the heavy heart of the Roots album with a series of circle pits and classic hard-hitting songs.  The immersive rhythms of ‘Straighthate’ hammered the live set. ‘Spit’ and ‘Lookaway’ saw crowdsurfers flying to the barrier. It was clear that these unashamedly heavy tracks heading into ‘Dusted’ and ‘Born Stubborn’ were very much natural territoryfor the Cavalera brothers.

The shifting dynamics of the Roots album is a big part of its timeless appeal. After pulverising the audience the beautifully profound instrumental piece Itsári transported us to the primal soul of the album. What was abundantly apparent was that Iggor Cavalera is one serious powerhouse of a drummer. After a return to the later heavy tracks of Roots, to see Iggor and Max lock in immaculately in the darkly spellbinding drum instrumental ‘Canyon Jam’ was beyond special.  It reminded of how much Roots is actually about the deep tribal rhythmic sequences as well as energy and rage.

Each encore on the Return To Roots tour has been slightly different, yet all speak to the musical influences bound to the early catalogue of Sepultura. Twenty years later, Roots is still one of the most powerful thrash metal albums every released. Max and Iggor Cavalera shared this milestone album anniversary with their scores of Melbourne fans with humble sincerity, in true bone-crushing style.


Photo courtesy of Jed Burke, Sydney set