Sepultura started in Belo Horizonte, Brazil in 1984. Influenced by bands like Slayer and Venom, they developed their harsh sound and were first presented to the world on a split EP with Overdose in 1985 called Bestial Devastation. Sepultura (Portuguese for "grave") took their name, not from the dictionary, but from the Motorhead song Dancing On Your Grave, and had an original membership of Igor Cavalera (drums), Max Cavalera (vocals/guitar), Paulo Junior(bass) and Jairo "T" Guedz (guitar; who was soon after replaced by Andreas Kisser (ex-Pestilence)).
Their first release was the aforementioned shared EP with fellow Brazilians Overdose and their Século XX recording but the resulting debut, Bestial Devastation (1985), suffered from poor quality and insufficient distribution. In 1986 Morbid Visions, their debut album, came proving to be the last for Jairo Guedez, with Andreas Kisser replacing him for the 1987 follow-up Schizophrenia and it's infamous instrumental Inquisition Symphony track. The album proved to be an economic loss for the act for the bootlegging in Europe to the tune of 30,000 copies offered them no royalties from the sales. The release, however, showed much more promise, and the Beneath The Remains LP (1989) was their first with the Dutch based 'Roadrunner' label that legally distributed their work, and offered them a larger worldwide audience. The addition of American Scott Burns on the production side gave it a grown up and professional polish never before seen from a Brazilian band, add to that the growing awareness of Thrash, and now Death Metal coming into its own, and it was a match made in heaven! The video for it was shot in East Germany (before the fall of the cold war), not to mention a worldwide tour with Sodom that saw them meet Metallica, Motorhead, and other idols.
Their highly acclaimed 1991 follow-up album, Arise, is said to be the best selling album in the history of 'RoadRunner'. Since they were the first Brazilian act to find international acclaim, the accolades poured down including a spot at the coveted Rock In Rio festival, resulting in the highly sought after collector's item Arise Rough Mixes (1991).
After playing in Rio de Janeiro, the band played a free outdoors gig in Sao Paulo in the Charles Muller Square, just outside Pacaembu Stadium as a huge party to compensate for the long time they were away from their homeland. Unfortunately among the crowd of over 40,000, things got out of control and a fan was murdered; for some time after Sepultura and their fans were seen as undesirable and long negotiations were needed for homeland gigs. Over all, however, the Arise Tour was a success. The band played in places like Greece, Japan, and Australia, where one of the their first singles, Third World Posse,was released. In Holland, Sepultura played their first big international festival at the Dynamo Open Air.
After a party in a medieval castle in England, the following album, Chaos A.D. (1993), was released. The new album still met with sonic aggression, and yet featured a simpler structure by being toned more, and not loosing its past harshness; it also got them a spot at the coveted Monsters Of Rock festival in England and the resulting world tour was equally as successful by seeing them going to places like Russia and Latvia.
In 1994 Max Cavalera took some time off to engage in a side-project with Alex Newport (of Fudge Tunnel) to release two albums under the name Nailbomb, titled Point Blank (1994) and Proud To Commit Commercial Suicide (1995), with guest stars Andreas Kisser, Igor Cavalera, Dino Cazares (of Fear Factory); the first receiving 62 on the U.K. charts.
Sepultura's 1996 release, Roots, was probably the most publicized and accepted of their albums with tracks like Roots Bloody Roots, Attitude and Ratamahatta (a track sung in Portuguese and featuring guest percussionist Carlinhos Brown, along with the chants of the Xavantes tribe). With the video filmed in Salvador (the birthplace of Brazil), its hit status with that nation's patriots was assured, indeed, it was a hit all over.
The Roots tour was scheduled worldwide and included some important festivals but tragedy struck the band when they were playing Donington's Monsters of Rock Festival. They received the sad news that a close friend of the band, the son of the band's manager and Max Cavalera's stepson, Dana Wells, had died. He flew back to the U.S.A. and the band had to perform for the first time temporarily as a three piece. But just as they were making their climb up the popular ladder, and midway during this tour, Max Cavalera would leave citing management problems even after a compromise of dual management was offered(his wife was the band's manager and the band didn't like it). This announcement caused a rift between the two founding brothers. He left to form Soulfly, his own band effort that stirred some brief excitement then vanished.
Sepultura would continue their a down-tuned Thrash sound with a replacement for Max Cavalera in the form of Derrick Green, whose debut with them was for a Brazilian charity event Barulho Contra Fome (Noise against hunger). He rehearsed with them in secrecy in venues in California, including Los Angeles' Brick by Brick, under the name Troops Of Doom. Greene's recorded debut was the following release of Blood Rooted (1997) with special guests Joao Gordo (of Reza), Jason Newsted (of Hatred aside), and the Japanese Taiko drummers from Kodo (of Kamaitachi), who hosted Sepultura at the Kodo village (the Sado Island in Japan). Equally sonic was the next albums, Against (1998), and the subsequent tour with Slayer, a band Sepultura had exchanged words with previously, and Nation (2001), an album that went gold in advance sales alone; the latter being a compilation of unpublished demo works and live tracks. It was clear, however, that their rise up the Metal ladder had fallen a rung or two without the cooperation of both Cavelera brothers together for Under A Pale Grey Sky (2002; a live set from 1996)and Roorback (2003), although competent failed to get the press coverage they probably desired.
Dante XXI, an opus of Italian poet Dante Alighieri put to music was released in 2006. It would take two more years before A-Lex, another concept album this time based on Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange and featuring a metalized version of Ludwig Van Beethoven's 9th symphony, would follow with Jean Dollabella taking over the drumstool, but the album came at a price for he had replaced Igor Cavalera to end the Cavalera dynasty many believing the Cavalera brothers to be the powerhouse of the act. That same year Andreas Kisser contributed his recipe for "Churrasco in Soy Sauce" to Hellbent for Cooking: The Heavy Metal Cookbook, stating in the recipe that he prefers his meat "medium-rare". Sepultura then supported Metallica on January 30 and January 31, 2010 at Morumbi Stadium in São Paulo, Brazil. The two concerts were attended by 100,000 people. The band also filmed a concert DVD in 2010. Sepultura then played at Kucukciftlik Park, Istanbul, on April 27, 2010, and on August 8, visited the UK to play at the Haevy Music Festival near Folkestone.
On July 6, 2010, it was announced that Sepultura was now signed with 'Nuclear Blast Records', and would release their first album for the label in 2011, while also confirming that there would be no reunion of the classic lineup. The resulting album, Kairos arrived in June 2011. After the follow-up tour, Drummer Jean Dolabella left and was replaced by 20-year-old Eloy Casagrande in November 2011, who had already played in Brazilian heavy metal singer Andre Matos' solo band. In November and December 2011 Sepultura participated the Thrashfest Classics 2011 tour alongside thrash metal bands like Exodus, Destruction, Heathen and Mortal Sin. The next album, The Mediator Between Head and Hands Must Be the Heart featuring a guest appearance by former Slayer drummer Dave Lombardo, arrived in 2013.
Despite their name, Sepultura are a band which is hard to classify as they have swapped between the Death and Thrash style throughout their career; but Thrash is where they started and their style more closely resembles it technically even though in more recent releases they have toyed with Hardcore offerings.