I was excited to see the Cavalera Conspiracy play the Rock & Roll Hotel on H Street in Washington DC on Wednesday the 12th of October 2011. The Cavalera brothers, Max and Igor, were founding members of one of my favorite bands when I was growing up, Sepultura. Sepultura, the Portuguese word for grave, formed in Belo Horizante, Brazil, in the early 80’s and by the mid-90’s they had become one of the biggest metal bands in the world. They arose from nothing to sell millions of records, and while the band changed their musical style several times I always enjoyed their material. That is until Max Cavalera left the band in December of 1996. He started his own band, Soulfly, which I never cared a whole lot for. Igor continued on with Sepultura for another 10 years (during that time he was not on speaking terms with his brother Max) though their output simply wasn’t as high quality nor interesting without Max. When Igor left Sepultura in 2006 he began talking to Max again and eventually they decided to form a new band. They were originally to be called Inflikted but even with the alternate spelling another band had already taken the name. They decided to rename the band as Cavalera Conspiracy and title their first album Inflikted. I thought the album was great, however I thought their second album, this year’s Blunt Force Trauma, wasn’t as good though it does have a few songs that stand out. I knew this concert would feature a mix of some Sepultura songs as well as their own material and I was really psyched. The Cavalera Conspiracy has played Baltimore a couple times, but for various reasons I couldn’t get to those shows. I hadn’t seen the Cavalera brothers play together since their last US tour with Sepultura in 1996 and to say I was fired up for this show is a bit of an understatement.
The concert started at 7:30 but I wasn’t interested in seeing any of the opening bands, Otep, Earth Crisis and local support act An Obscure Signal. Luckily I walked into the Rock And Roll Hotel right as the Cavalera Conspiracy was taking the stage, perfect timing. There weren’t as many people as I had expected at this show, maybe about 200. This was their first ever DC appearance people! Anyways, the main thing I noticed about this show was that the sound SUCKED. This was probably the worst sound mix I’ve ever heard at the Rock & Roll Hotel. Now maybe it sounded better by the soundboard, as is often the case with clubs, but this was a metal show dammit. We push to get up front and mosh and go nuts up by the band, not stand in the back staring at our feet wondering why nobody loves me like it’s some hipster band. I get the feeling they had someone who isn’t familiar with mixing heavy metal bands just come in and jack up the bass because, y’know, it’s a metal band. At first I was watching the show on the right side of the stage and I couldn’t even hear the other guitarist, Marc Rizzo. Midway through the set I shifted to the left side of the stage which was better but still not great. All of the videos I shot (you can see them at the bottom of this post) were taken from that area, and you still can’t hear Rizzo’s guitars very well. The high ends were almost completely washed out in the mix, it was terrible. Luckily I know most of their songs, and all of the Sepultura songs, well enough to fill in parts in my head.
While I had a fun time at the show, Max seemed a bit out of it. When the band was playing Sepultura’s classic song Territory, he walked off stage and into the dressing room for about a minute. He came back towards the end of the song and finished it up with the band. However most of the night he seemed a bit, I dunno, like he was mostly just going through the motions maybe. Marc Rizzo was having a blast and just exuded energy, Igor was smiling at the audience between most songs and even the band’s bass player, Johny Chow, looked really excited to be there. Max may very well have been sick though, the band canceled their New York City show the following night, though I haven’t seen an official reason as to why. Regardless, it was cool seeing the Cavalera brothers back in action together and hearing them play some old Sepultura songs. They even played Troops Of Doom from their first album in 1986! There was also a sort of mash up medley of Arise and Dead Embryonic Cells. Sadly, they didn’t play anything from the Beneath The Remains or Schizophrenia albums. The song selection of their non-Sepultura material was pretty good as well. The early part of the set included a lot of songs I would just call ok off their latest album, however they did play some of my favorites like Sanctuary and I Speak Hate later in the set. Max did constantly insist to the crowd to fuck the place up and mosh, and most of the time the crowd obeyed however the strongest audience reactions were for the Sepultura covers. At one point Max introduced some guy named Richie and said he was a new member of the Cavalera Conspiracy family, and the guy did the vocals for one song. I have no idea who he was but he was tending the merch booth after the show. After playing for about an hour the band walked off stage to do the encore, and it seemed like they were waiting for the crowd to start chanting but it resulted in a sort of awkward state for a minute or two. Cavalera Conspiracy has far too many syllables for an audience to chant in unison and some people were looking around confused about if the show was over. The band did come back to play two more songs though, the final song being Roots Bloody Roots.
After the show Marc Rizzo came out and took tons of pictures with any fans that wanted one. I spoke with him for a couple minutes and he said he wants to come back with his solo act soon. If you’ve never heard his solo material you really should, it’s a bizarre hybrid of metal guitar shred and flamenco style guitar that would probably sound like shit if anyone else tried to pull it off. His technical prowess really makes it work and his transitions are seamless. He has a few albums but I think The Ultimate Devotion is his best if you’re interested in checking his solo stuff out. Anyways, in all I had a fun time at the show but due to the poor mix it still left me wanting to see them again soon, hopefully in a better setting. It was still really cool getting to see the Cavalera brothers play together again, something a few years ago I would have never thought possible. There’s just something I love about Igor’s very primal and tribal style of drumming combined with Max’s pissed off, revolutionary vocals and guitars that will keep me a fan of theirs for life. I can tell this is going to be one of those shows where I now go and listen to a bunch of their back catalog for the rest of the week. If you’d like to see more of my photos from this show, check them out on my Flickr site here. And if you’d like to hear how shitty the sound was at the venue, just watch the videos that I shot below.