Sepultura: A Taste of Brazil in New Hampshire

“We can really feel that the interest in Sepultura is stronger than ever…” - Andreas Kisser

Three decades into an illustrious career that has seen them cross the globe more times than an ocean storm, Sepultura shows no signs of slowing down. And all these years after forming in a Brazilian city most people have never heard of, the band is still seeking out new places to play; on May 31, Sepultura comes to the Jewel Nightclub in Manchester for their first ever show in New Hampshire, and the only New England date on this celebratory anniversary tour.

“Wow…after thirty years, we’re finally here,” guitarist Andreas Kisser says, laughing. “Thanks for the patience!”

Through the years, Sepultura—rounded out by Derrick Green (vocals), Paulo Xisto (bass), and Eloy Casagrande (drums)—has built a reputation as one of the busiest bands around, touring Europe multiple times with every new album release, throwing in a trip to Cuba here and a stadium sellout in Indonesia there. China. India. Numerous treks across Russia. Sepultura thrives on finding metalheads wherever they may live and rocking them into euphoric submission. Even during relative downtime in Brazil, the band books regular weekend gigs for their homegrown faithfuls. But this tour is something special, marking an anniversary few bands ever get to see, as well as supporting a newish studio album—The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart—the band’s thirteenth, another milestone most bands will never reach.

Sepultura and Steve Vai

Photo by Dedé Moreira

And what better way to kick off the US tour than with a globally broadcast performance at a massive festival in Las Vegas?

Rock In Rio has been an institution in Brazil since 1985, a celebration of freedom and musical expression initiated by the fall of the country’s military dictatorship. Sepultura, in fact, received their first major break at Rock In Rio in 1991, playing a furious set under a tropical summer sun that has become something of legend. This year, the festival made its American debut, bringing Brazil’s best known international act with it.

“It was beautiful,” Kisser says, reflecting on a performance that saw guitar magician Steve Vai join the band onstage for two songs. “It was one of the most important shows ever for us. It paved the way for the tour, and we could feel the impact that happened [as a result].”

The performance heightened a buzz that had already been palpable with the release of The Mediator at the tail-end of 2013. Vicious and uncompromising, the album woke up many who had been caught sleeping on Sepultura. “It was really well accepted,” Kisser says, admitting that the band members themselves can still sense the growing buzz. “Especially here in the States,” he continues, “because we’re not here as much as we are in Europe or Brazil. This kind of trust the fans are having in Sepultura again…we can feel it coming back now in the States. It’s great that we have a tour now that takes advantage, as much as we can, of this momentum, and hopefully people will leave all that bullshit aside—the reunion, the what ifs—and really come to see where we’re going and celebrate this thirty years of history.”

The what ifs Kisser speaks of involve a highly publicized split in the mid-nineties, a split that is naturally a big part of the band’s history, but much better left in the past (and, for the curious, the pages of Relentless - Thirty Years of Sepultura).

In April, the band announced the imminent release of a special new song, “Sepultura Under My Skin,” a tribute to the fans, which features on its cover their iconic logo as a mosaic constructed with fan tattoos. Kisser comments on how smoothly the monstrous tune fits into a setlist made up of songs spanning the band’s career.

“People are really responding. Some of them are hearing it for the first time, some of them already know a bit of it. I can’t wait for it to come out so people can really know the song by heart and stuff. And ‘From the Past Comes the Storms’ [from 1987’s Schizophrenia]…it sounds like today! The thrash element, it’s really fresh, and even ‘Bestial Devastation’ [from the 1985 debut EP of the same name], which we are playing for the first time ever—only Paulo played the song a long time ago [with the original incarnation of the band]. We just never played that song, and it feels good to bring it back and mix it in with the new stuff.”

And circling around to the show in Manchester, Kisser has a final message for the fans: “We’re excited to be here, very happy to celebrate thirty years with you all. We’re gonna play a very complete setlist, as much as we can from every album, and we wanna thank everyone for the support!”

[Originally published in Cider Mag, 2015]