Breaking Bonds: The Story Behind Max Cavalera Leaving Sepultura

Max Cavalera's split from Sepultura, a band he co-founded, was a turning point in metal history. It was a story of fame, personal struggles, and the hard choices that come with artistic integrity in the face of internal band conflicts.

A portrait of Max Cavalera, identifiable by his prominent red-dyed dreadlocks and a yellow jacket with green trim. He is smiling and flashing a peace sign with both hands, his fingers showing tattooed letters. His arms are also tattooed, and he wears several colorful wristbands, emphasizing his vibrant personality and style typical of his musical persona. The background is dimly lit, with a red curtain suggesting an indoor setting, possibly backstage or at a music venue.
Max Cavalera (1996)
Key Takeaways
  • Max Cavalera’s departure from Sepultura in 1996 was fueled by internal conflicts within the band, escalating tensions, and Max’s personal struggles, including substance abuse.
  • A critical point of contention was the band’s management by Gloria Cavalera, Max’s wife. The band members’ differing opinions on her management style and perceived favoritism towards Max contributed significantly to the rift.
  • Faced with the band’s ultimatum to terminate Gloria’s contract, Max chose to leave Sepultura to maintain his integrity, marking the end of his era with the band and the beginning of his new venture with Soulfly.

Max Cavalera’s Departure from Sepultura

Max Cavalera‘s final performance with Sepultura on December 16, 1996, at the Brixton Academy in England, marked more than just the end of a concert. It symbolized the culmination of tumultuous events and internal strife that led to his departure from the band. This period was characterized by a deteriorating relationship within Sepultura, rooted in issues of trust, respect, and personal challenges.

Over time, the band’s dynamics had shifted, leading to an increasingly dysfunctional environment. Max felt a growing sense of alienation, perceiving that the other members were ganging up against him and his wife, Gloria, who was also their manager. This sense of isolation within the band was compounded by the overwhelming fame Sepultura experienced, particularly following the success of their album “Roots.” In Brazil, their popularity soared to extraordinary heights, likened to that of The Beatles, a level of celebrity that Max found difficult to navigate.

Amidst soaring fame and internal strife, Max Cavalera’s journey with Sepultura reached a tipping point, overshadowed by personal and professional challenges.

The pressures of constant public scrutiny and the weight of expectations that came with their success added to Max’s personal struggles. He faced the challenge of balancing the evolving dynamics of Sepultura, his public persona, and his private turmoil, including a battle with substance abuse. Max described himself during this period as a “total wildman,” often engaging in excessive drinking and drug use. This behavior not only affected his personal life but also strained his professional relationships within the band.

Max’s brother Igor often found himself in the position of caretaker during these episodes. Incidents like partying excessively with the band Ministry and resorting to drinking hand soap in the absence of alcohol highlighted the severity of Max’s addiction. These struggles with substance abuse and the challenges of coping with sudden fame created a significant strain on his relationships within Sepultura.

This era in the band’s history was marked by a series of internal conflicts and misunderstandings, contributing to a growingly dysfunctional environment. The increasing tension, compounded by Max’s personal challenges, and the lack of trust among band members, ultimately set the stage for the unraveling of Max Cavalera’s journey with Sepultura.

The Rift Over Management

The seeds of discord within Sepultura, leading to Max Cavalera’s departure, were sown over disagreements regarding the band’s management. Central to this conflict was Gloria Cavalera, Max’s wife and the band’s manager. As her contract neared its expiration at the end of 1996, a rift emerged within the band over the decision to continue with her management. While Max was in favor of retaining Gloria, the other members—Andreas Kisser, Paulo Jr., and Iggor Cavalera—expressed a desire for a change in management, marking a critical point in the band’s eventual split.

The band members’ perception of Gloria giving preferential treatment to Max created a significant rift. They felt that she was prioritizing Max’s interests over the collective interests of the band. This belief was fueled by instances like Max and his child appearing on the cover of a magazine instead of the entire band, which some members viewed as unfair and unrepresentative of Sepultura as a whole.

The dispute over band management marked the beginning of the end for Max Cavalera’s journey with Sepultura, an issue that deeply divided the group.

Max, on the other hand, believed that Gloria’s management style had been effective, as evidenced by the band’s significant success and popularity under her guidance. He interpreted the others’ desire to change managers as an attempt to usurp control from Gloria, whom he deeply trusted and valued as a manager. This disagreement over the management approach created a deep divide within Sepultura, with two camps forming: one supporting Gloria and the other opposing her.

Max Cavalera, in his book, explained the complexities of the situation. He couldn’t simply fire the entire band and start anew with a different lineup under the Sepultura name due to legal and contractual issues. Faced with limited choices, he had to decide between complying with the band’s wish to fire Gloria or leaving the band himself. Ultimately, he chose to leave, citing the need to maintain his integrity.

Max has since expressed his view that guitarist Andreas Kisser played a significant role in the band’s decision-making during this tumultuous period. He felt that Andreas, along with other later members, had taken the band “hostage,” steering it in a direction that did not align with the original vision of Sepultura. To Max, this was a betrayal of the ideals and spirit that defined Sepultura when he and his brother Igor founded the band, leading to his painful decision to part ways.

The Final Concert and Max’s Decision to Leave

As 1996 drew to a close, Sepultura continued their performances across South America and Europe, culminating in a climactic final show. The accumulated tensions within the band had been mounting, reaching their zenith as the year ended. Their last concert with Max, a poignant event at the Brixton Academy on December 16, 1996, coincided with the expiration of Gloria Cavalera’s management contract. The lead-up to this concert was fraught with escalating tensions, a culmination of several months of growing discord.

Following this final performance, the band communicated their decision to Max: they wanted to terminate Gloria’s contract. Faced with this ultimatum, Max found himself at a crossroads. The management dispute and the ongoing internal conflicts had taken their toll, leading him to believe that the situation had become irreparable. Despite Gloria’s suggestion that he continue with Sepultura without her managerial involvement, Max felt that he could not make such a betrayal.

In the wake of escalating tensions and a pivotal decision to end Gloria’s management, Max Cavalera faced a crossroads that would redefine his path and Sepultura’s future.

Max’s loyalty to Gloria, combined with his disagreements with the other band members over her management role, drove him to the difficult decision to leave Sepultura. Attempts were made to reconcile the situation, including a meeting aimed at persuading Max to stay. However, the depth of the disagreements and the decision to end Gloria’s role as manager had created an irreparable rift within the group.

Ultimately, Max’s decision to leave Sepultura was a stance on maintaining his integrity and standing by his wife, who had been instrumental in managing the band’s affairs. This moment, as Max described, was a significant turning point. He felt he had no choice but to part ways with the band he co-founded, marking an end of an era for both Max and Sepultura.

A New Chapter

After departing from Sepultura, Max Cavalera embarked on a new musical venture, forming the band Soulfly in 1997. Based in Phoenix, Arizona, Soulfly represented a continuation and expansion of Cavalera’s musical explorations. The band’s sound incorporated various styles of metal, melding them with Brazilian tribal and world music influences. This direction was reminiscent of Cavalera’s work with Sepultura, particularly evident in his last album with them, “Roots.”

Embarking on a new journey, Max Cavalera’s Soulfly fused metal with multicultural sounds, carving a unique path in his musical legacy.

Soulfly’s self-titled debut album, released on April 21, 1998, marked a significant milestone in Cavalera’s career. Despite the challenges and turmoil he faced during its recording, the album achieved notable success. It debuted at number 79 on the Billboard 200, a testament to Cavalera’s enduring influence and the anticipation surrounding his new project. The launch of Soulfly and the release of their debut album signified the beginning of a new chapter in Cavalera’s musical journey, distinct and separate from his legacy with Sepultura.

Max Cavalera’s Post-Sepultura Reflections

Looking back on the tumultuous events that led to his departure from Sepultura, Max Cavalera has pondered alternative solutions that might have been pursued. He speculated that taking a year off could have offered a chance for everyone involved to clear their heads and possibly salvage the deteriorating situation. Despite this retrospective thought, Max acknowledged that the issues within the band were deep-rooted, describing Sepultura as “rotten from the inside.” This realization led him to accept that separation was necessary.

Reflecting on the split, Max Cavalera acknowledges the deep-rooted issues within Sepultura and the necessity of his departure for new beginnings.

In the years following the split, Max had minimal contact with the other members of Sepultura. While he hasn’t completely dismissed the idea of a reunion, he emphasized that the past conflicts and persisting negative vibes surrounding their relationship made such a prospect unlikely. This separation from Sepultura not only marked a significant moment in Max Cavalera’s career but also in metal history, fundamentally altering the trajectory of both the artist and the band.

This split with Sepultura, and the subsequent formation of Soulfly, represented more than just a change in band membership. It signified a transformation in the landscape of metal music, as Max Cavalera continued to evolve and influence the genre in new and diverse ways, while Sepultura, too, ventured forward with their unique sound and identity.