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Sepultura - Rekindling the Inferno

By Dr. Abner Mality


Heaven, Hell, and Purgatory...those three words sum up the major works of the medieval Italian poet Dante Aligheri. Each mystical realm is visited and described by Dante himself in his towering works "Paradiso", "Inferno" and "Purgatorio". So powerful were the allegorical descriptions of the afterlife that they still influence our thinking centuries later.

One man definitely influenced by Dante and his works is Derrick Green, the imposing singer of the Brazillian thrash masters Sepultura. In fact, Heaven, Hell and Purgatory are terms that can be used to describe the twisting career of Sepultura. The "Heaven" would refer to their days of dazzling success with former singer Max Cavalera, creating such classic efforts as "Chaos A.D.", "Beneath the Remains" and "Roots. "Hell" would be a good way to refer to the traumatic break-up between Max and the rest of the band, including his brother Igor on drums. Few groups in musical history suffered such an acrimonious split. And "Purgatory" may be a fair description of Sepultura's recent years, as they struggled to find a new identity without Max and reclaim their former position as one of extreme metal's most influential bands.

Thanks to Dante's inspiration, that time may have come around at last. The latest Sepultura CD "Dante XXI" sees the band more focused and ferocious than they have been at years. The words of the ancient poet have lit a blazing fire in the Brazilians and "Dante XXI" is the engulfing smoke rising from that blaze.

I recently had a chance to touch base with Derrick about the relevancy of Dante's Inferno to today's world and about the resurgent charge of Sepultura...


WORMWOOD CHRONICLES: What made you decide that now was the time for Sepultura to do a concept album and was the idea to adapt "Dante's Inferno" something the band discussed for a long time?

DERRICK GREEN: We had worked in Brazil on a few soundtracks for movies and we wanted to approach the new album this way, but writing a soundtrack more for a book than a movie.


WC: How closely does the album follow the "Inferno" story? Is it a very strict and literal adaptation or is the story adhered to loosely?

DG: The book is broken down into three main areas of Dante's journey: Hell, Purgatory and Paradise. On the CD, the first 5 songs represent Hell, the next 4 songs represent Purgatory and then the last song represents Paradise. We loosely took parts from the book and updated them to our time of the 21st century. There were many things happening in Dante's time that are still taking place today.

WC: Is the central character or main "point of view" character Dante or does the narrator shift depending on the song?

DG: The point of view switches back and forth with most of the songs, I feel. There are many times when we are strictly referring to certain parts of the book and then we switch back to a more modern point of view.

WC: How strongly does the "Inferno" relate to modern times? Do you think things really changed that much since Dante's time?

DG: I don't think that many things have changed at all. That's what we found was very interesting about the book. We could see the things happening here in the 21st century that were very clearly happening then in Dante's time. The sexually promiscuous (the amount of people now that end up in divorce due to cheating), gluttonous people eating more than they need (the amount of overweight people in the US seems to be 50% if not more), violent criminals who cause violence towards others and their property (the Oklahoma City bombing, the World Trade Center bombings), people committing suicide ("Dr. Death" Jack Kevorkian, the amount of people in Scandanavia and Japan that kill themselves every day over work and stress),people causing violence against nature (big oil companies), instigators of scandal and schism (George W. Bush)...these are all examples of our "modern" times and yet they are part of "The Inferno".

WC: Do you have a concern that the "Inferno" concept might be over the heads of a lot of listeners? It would seem a lot of fans will get the record just for its aggression and not the concept.

DG: Yes, I'm sure that it might be over the heads of some fans but all we really wanted to do is present people with an option. Let them make their own choices if they want to investigate more about Dante or if they just want to enjoy the music. I like to think that we have a lot of intelligent, open-minded fans and they have already proven it by starting a special website devoted to "Dante XXI". It provides some short synopses of the story of "The Divine Comedy". You can check it out at this web address and the album is not even out yet! http://www.sepularmy.net/dante

WC: Even though the idea of the album is very epic, the music itself seems really compact and focused...not "bloated" like some concept albums are. Did this just happen naturally or was it a conscious decision?

DG: We had to make a definite decision not to go overboard because it would be easy to keep writing with all the energy this book was projecting. We looked around our surrounding and felt that in the 21st century, it's a straight to the point type of world we live in. Everyone wants everything right away with no delay.

WC: One thing I noticed was that the various intros seemed out of numerical sequence, at least on my copy. Was there a
reason for this?


DG: There is no mystery there. We didn't have the names for the intros at the time the label printed the promo CDs, so they used numbers. When the album comes out, the intros will have their proper names.

WC: Is there one song in particular on "Dante XXI" that stands out for you?

DG: "False" is a track that moves me very much when I hear it because it brings out many deep emotions in me. I think of the people who have stabbed me in the back, talked behind my back, and have misrepresented themselves with who they really are. I use all this anger to help build my focus before going back on the road to tour. I mentally need to prepare myself before touring and this song helps me get motivated to show them all what the truth is, and to keep my mind strong.

WC: Do you feel that this is a "make or break" album for the band? It seems like a lot is riding on it.

DG: No, not at all. I think we only have the ability to make or break ourselves at this point in our career. I remember hearing the same things with "Against" and here we are 8 years later, still here.

WC: You've been with the band for a long time now. Are the band relationships at their peak right now and how have they changed over your tenure?

DG: We're at a peak, alright, and it took some time to get here. I think you can hear and see how the structure of the band has grown tighter.

WC: Do you feel Sepultura is getting the respect they are due for staying in the game so long in a changing market?

DG: No, because the music market today has a lot to learn about respect. As far as I can see and from what I have learned, they're lacking it big time. They just seem to be missing the whole point to everything on every level. Will they ever learn? I'm not holding my breath

WC: Are there any touring plans for America and who would be ideal touring partners for the band in your opinion?

DG: We hope to be in the States in the fall and I would like to tour with Sick Of It All, our old friends, or maybe a newer band like Hatesphere.

WC: If you could invite any three musicians from history to dinner, who would they be?

DG: Jimi, John & Dimebag.


WC: What was the last CD/tape/record you bought just for your own pleasure?

DG: The new Fantomas.

WC: What was the last gig you saw just for your own enjoyment?

DG: Soil. They were playing in London while I was doing promo for the new album and I went to check them out.

WC: Have you got any memorable "Spinal Tap" stories from your time with Sepultura?

DG: A record signing in Chicago. "Kick my ass, please, just kick my ass!

WC: Any final words for the Sepul-maniacs out there?

DG: "Dante XXI", check it out. Your support is appreciated more than you know!


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