Roots is an album from and of a foreign land. The album art consists of ghoulish tribal ornaments, an Amazonian tribe dancing in a forest clearing, and the Sepultura ‘S’ logo, which with its spikes looks like some kind of exotic thorn.
Much has been said of this album, but I think its most interesting feature is that Sepultura went to Brazil’s Xavante tribe to gather recordings of their music and for some primal inspiration. Mixed with Sepultura’s ferocity and political anger, this is the sound of a band given over to a frenzy underneath the sun, gone native with a charging blood pulse. Every other riff is a headbanger and a pit–starter, and combined with chattering percussion (Breed Apart), the twanging of a berimbau (Attitude at 1.20), and tribal chanting (Ratamahatta), it creates the intensity of what I imagine a rain forest to sound like. The closing track, Canyon Jam, is a field recording of a valley, with a few added percussive noises. Despite its spacious and relaxed manner, in this way it is a microcosm of the whole album; ambient, percussive, elemental, uncompromising.
This is not an album to kick back to. Intensity is Roots’ strongest sensation. This is music best enjoyed, and at its best use, sweating under an unblinking sun, in a foreign land, dancing in a forest clearing.