Max Cavalera's musical roots lie in the thrash genre, roots that are particularly audible on Sepultura's second and third albums, namely 1987's "Schizophrenia" and 1989's "Beneath The Remains". While such roots haven't been as audible on some of Cavalera's material over the years, those thrash ingredients have returned on latter day Cavalera material in the form of the likes of Soulfly's "Conquer" (2008) and "Omen" (2010).
Issued in May 2010 through Roadrunner Records, Soulfly's seventh studio album - "Omen" - charted at position seventy-three on the Billboard 200 during its inaugural week of release. The album was recorded with producer Logan Mader at Edge of the Earth Studios in Hollywood, and Prong frontman Tommy Victor supplies guest vocals to "Lethal Injection", whereas The Dillinger Escape Plan vocalist Greg Puciato provides guest vocals to "Rise Of The Fallen".
"Lethal Injection" deals with the execution method of the same name, whereas "Rise Of The Fallen" tackles the topic of those who've fallen picking themselves up off their feet and getting back up again. "Jeffrey Dahmer", meanwhile, was inspired by the Wisconsin cannibal serial killer.
"Omen"'s cover art was handled by California's David Ho, given the fact that Soulfly vocalist Max Cavalera had enjoyed an artwork the man had created for Lucasfilm that depicted a Tusken Raider, the Tusken Raiders being a fictional group from 1977 sci-fi movie "Star Wars". As B-sides, Soulfly laid down cover interpretations of Sepultura's "Refuse / Resist" (originally on 1993's 'Chaos A.D.') and Excel's "Your Life, My Life" (originally on Excel's 1987 debut 'Split Image'), respectively boasting drummers Zyon Cavalera and Igor Cavalera, sons of Soulfly singer Max.
Hit The Lights' Robert Gray telephoned Soulfly frontman Max Cavalera to discuss "Omen".
Max Cavalera: Hello?
UG: Hello. This is Robert Gray from Ultimate-Guitar.com. How are you Max?
I'm good. How are you doing?
I'm ok. Would it be alright if I began the interview?
Yeah. No problem, man.
You said that Soulfly "entered a heavier and more aggressive phase with 'Dark Ages' and 'Conquer'", so in what ways is 'Omen' a continuation of that "heavier and more aggressive phase"?
'Omen' continues that by using more aggression in some parts, and more of a thrash influence, a lot of thrash stuff. It's an album made by a fan, and is the music I like to play. I'm a fan of the music, so what I like to play is pretty much on the 'Omen' album.
Does 'Omen''s thrash elements hearken back to Sepultura's early days?
Yeah. There's a lot of that involved, because I like that kind of music a lot. I think that since 'Dark Ages' I've been doing that, and I feel very strong about it - I think it's a really good direction the band's going in.
In terms of its lyrics, you said that 'Omen''s lyrics are "really violent". What type of violent topics did you write about?
There's some songs about murder, and various other topics. I really like violent topics, and I think 'Omen' is more of an aggressive album in terms of its lyrics. There's a song called "Jeffrey Dahmer", which is about the serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer. A lot of stuff like that.
You referenced the track "Jeffrey Dahmer". Is there a reason why you chose him in particular to write about? There've obviously been many different serial killers over the years.
The way I say his name fits with the chorus of the song, so it became easy from that point on to make the song about him. I already thought he was one of the most interesting serial killers that've appeared in the last couple of years, actually, and wanted to write about him, so I went ahead and did it.
Besides murder and violence, did you write about any other lyrical topics for 'Omen''s tracks?
There are some quite uplifting moments on 'Omen' too, like "Kingdom", which has a little bit of a spiritual message to it. Also, "Rise of the Fallen" is about the rise of the people; they get beat up all the time, so the underdog comes back, and they can control things. That kind of stuff.
"Rise of the Fallen" features Greg Puciato, vocalist for The Dillinger Escape Plan. How did Greg become involved?
I met Greg at the Deftones show they were doing in L.A.; I went to sing "Headup" (from 1997's 'Around the Fur') with the Deftones, and he was there, also singing with them. Backstage, I invited Greg to come to the studio and sing some stuff on 'Omen'. I then decided that he would be good on the song "Rise of the Fallen", so I told him about my lyrics and my ideas that I had for the song. He then wrote his own lyrics in the studio and his own ideas, which became really cool. I think he did a great job, and the song turned out really killer.
How would you musically describe Greg's vocal performance on "Rise of the Fallen"?
I think it's very typical of The Dillinger Escape Plan's vocal range; Greg's got that high-pitched voice, and then he's got some melodic stuff in the end that sounds like the stuff that he does with The Dillinger Escape Plan. I think he did a great job on "Rise of the Fallen".
Has Soulfly been performing tracks from 'Omen' live?
Yeah. We have done the song "Lethal Injection" that has Tommy from Prong; he's sung that a couple of nights with us as he's on tour with us, and is in the opening band for the tour. Every other night, he comes up onstage and we do "Lethal Injection" live from 'Omen'. The song gathers a great reaction from the crowd, and it's really cool to play with him.
Have you known Tommy for a good few years then?
Yeah. I met Tommy back in the Sepultura days; I toured with him when Sepultura opened for Pantera and Prong back in the nineties, so I've known Tommy for years more or less. We kept our friendship, and then I invited him to come to the studio to be a part of a song. We then wrote the song "Lethal Injection" that's on the 'Omen' album.
So you co-wrote "Lethal Injection" with Tommy?
Yeah, we did it together. It was really cool.
I'm assuming "Lethal Injection" is about those on death row who're executed via lethal injection?
That's right. Yeah. The song is about what goes through your mind when you're being lethally injected, when your life flashes before your eyes, and just the brutality of lethal injection.
How would you describe Tommy's vocal contributions to "Lethal Injection"?
Typical Prong style. He sings like old school Prong, like 'Beg to Differ' (1990) and 'Prove You Wrong' (1991) era, which is the stuff that Prong did that I like the best - from the nineties. He sang with that kind of voice, so it turned out really, really good I think. "Lethal Injection" sounds like a mix of Soulfly and Prong together - the riff is really like a Prong type riff, so it's a good combination.
Also, Soulfly recorded several B-sides in the form of Sepultura's "Refuse / Resist" and Excel's "Your Life, My Life", which respectively feature your sons Zyon and Igor.
Yeah. Both of my kids - Igor and Zyon - are drummers, so each one picked a different song. Zyon picked "Refuse / Resist" from 'Chaos A.D.' and Igor picked an Excel song called "Your Life, My Life", as you said - Excel is a hardcore band from Venice. So yeah, it was great playing with them. Really good atmosphere. I felt really cool playing with my kids, keeping the family alive. It was really great in the studio.
Do your two sons Zyon and Igor look up to their uncle Iggor a lot, considering they've chosen to be drummers?
Yeah. They really love Iggor's style, and they've learnt a lot from Iggor when he's been around. He gives tips and ideas, and tells them things to do with the drums, and things like that. They have a really cool relationship with Iggor, and love their uncle as a drummer.
Is Soulfly's rendition of "Refuse / Resist" a faithful one, or did you decide to change things up a little?
Our version of "Refuse / Resist" is pretty straightforward, very similar to the original, but just with the sound of the 'Omen' album in terms of the guitars - more aggressive. Also, the drums sound a little bigger, but the version itself is closer to the live version of "Refuse / Resist" I think.
Do you generally prefer cutting a rawer, more live type of take then?
I think the live one has more energy; there's more adrenaline, so it's better.
"'Omen' is using more aggression in some parts, and more of a thrash influence, a lot of thrash stuff."
Soulfly chose former guitarist Logan Mader to produce 'Omen'. Why did the group choose Logan to produce?
Because of the stuff Logan did in the past. He worked on the Gojira album 'The Way of All Fresh', and he produced DevilDriver's 'Pray for Villains'. They're two really good albums that've come out lately - he's become a very good producer. I gave him a chance to co-produce the Soulfly album with me; I produced the album and he co-produced, and we did a great job. He's a great guy, and has a really good sound, a really good drum sound, a really good guitar sound. He did very good. It was killer.
Did the fact that Logan was a part of Soulfly at one point help at all?
Yeah, but I look up to him now more as a producer and not as a band member. The fact that he was in Soulfly didn't really affect things that much, because I look at him as a producer these days more than a band member.
Could you see Logan co-producing Soulfly's next album with you?
Yeah. It can become a good relationship from this point on, and he can produce more stuff for me for sure.
How would you compare Soulfly's musical style to Cavalera Conspiracy's musical style?
I think we're pretty different; Cavalera Conspiracy has its own style, and Soulfly has its own style. They're different from each other. The way I play with Iggor is one way, and the way I play with Soulfly is a different way, so there's definitely a difference between both bands.
How would you compare the style on Cavalera Conspiracy's forthcoming second album to the style on 'Inflikted'?
I think it's better material, and that it's gonna be a better record, because I got to spend more time writing. It's less hurried. Iggor is very excited too, and wants to make a really good album.
Will Cavalera Conspiracy's forthcoming second album be heavier, more aggressive or mellower than 'Inflikted'?
'Inflikted''s follow-up will probably be more aggressive and faster; Iggor is down to play some fast shit now, so there's gonna be a lot of fast stuff on it. The album should be really cool.
Can you see yourself writing about topics which'll suit that aggression? As you said, since 'Omen' was a more aggressive album, you felt the need to write about more aggressive topics.
To probably fit the music, yeah. If the music is really violent, then singing about violent topics fits the music better - it goes more hand in hand with that.
When you formed Cavalera Conspiracy with your brother Iggor, was it important to get him onboard, and mend bridges with him?
Yeah. It was really a perfect time because he had just left Sepultura, and was looking for something to do because he likes to play drums, and I like to play with him. As brothers, we grew up playing together, so it was really special that we formed this band. I really like to play with him. I've done some touring with him already, and it's going killer. We're gonna do some more of that, and having a new album is gonna make us tour and play even more.
Would it be ok if we spoke a little about Sepultura, or is that something you don't wish to discuss?
I'd prefer not to.
Ok. Is there a reason for that?
I just get tired of being asked. It's the past, you know? I like to move on into the future.
So you get annoyed by being asked about the old days a lot?
No, because normally people know I don't like to talk about it. People already know that, so they don't ask.
Alright - I wasn't going to ask about the old days anyway. The inevitable question, which every person asks, is whether you'll eventually take part in any reunion performances with Sepultura?
I have no idea. Yes, and no; it can happen, but at the moment there's nothing concrete. I will leave it at that. It is possible, but there's no negotiations going on right now.
"It's an album made by a fan, and is the music I like to play. I'm a fan of the music, so what I like to play is pretty much on the 'Omen' album."
What are your feelings on the current incarnation of Sepultura?
I don't know. I don't follow what they do.
Some fans say that due to the fact that the Cavalera brothers are no longer a part of Sepultura, it isn't really Sepultura. Would you agree with that, or not?
Yeah. We're Sepultura's founding members; we're the people that started the band, and we were a huge part of it because we were the vocals, rhythm guitars, and drums. That was half of the band. We started Sepultura, so yeah, I agree. Sepultura is just a cover band now.
Are there any plans to tour with Dillinger Escape Plan?
Yeah. Greg talked to me about that. He'd like to at some point, so I hope our paths cross in the future and we can do something together. Dillinger opened for Cavalera Conspiracy on a US tour when 'Inflikted' came out, and it was a great tour. Hopefully we can do that with Soulfly as well. Having Dillinger Escape Plan play with us should be great - then we can play "Rise of the Fallen" every night.
And finally, do you have a message for those who've supported you over the years?
Just thanks a lot for the great support, and I hope to see everybody on tour.
Ok. Thanks for the interview Max - it's really appreciated.
All the best.
Interview by Robert Gray
"I really like violent topics, and I think 'Omen' is more of an aggressive album in terms of its lyrics."