Posts Tagged ‘Brazil’

…whereupon the omniscient gray-bearded gods of good husbandry and fatherhood grant one gringo’s petition of relief from bad Brazilian weather, extortionately priced Panamanian airport chicken wraps, and an encroaching swarm of Mexican airport mosquitos, behind the soundtrack of the world’s finest trampoline-pouncing epic metal.

Flying from Rio de Janeiro, Brazil to Ciudad Juarez, Mexico on Saturday, May 24 has been a day of precipitated and inexplicable awesomeness. A 50-megaton downpour engulfed Rio this morning, strapping up every taxi in town. Three hours before my flight departed, and I still hadn’t left my apartment. My hand wringing was well underway. Then a one-legged man (another story altogether) stepped (yes, with one leg) into the street on my behalf and, his kindly and knowing booger-pickin’ finger jutting into the inundated avenue (where I spotted a robed man gathering two of every mammal and leading them toward a wood-framed flotilla), hailed by Divine Providence an unoccupied cab. That taxi-hailing finger served as a figurative weather vane for the good fortune to come, for we got to the airport in 30 minutes. No traffic, no delays, the taxista driving at a steady and legal clip, peppering me with inspired queries about (!!!) the ease of handgun purchase in the United States, Stand Your Ground laws, and how he wished that Brazilians could shoot each other when, you know, “one feels threatened”.

At the Galeao International Airport in Rio, then, a series of fortunate occurrences transpired, each one compounding into the next like interest accumulating in a cleverly selected index fund. First, my flagging self-esteem got a long-overdue boost. While in line at the Copa counter to check my luggage, I met a Colombian dermatologist who assured me the vitiligo spots on my head are barely visible and probably “all a figment of your imagination”. Next, said Colombian and I went for cafe before heading to our gate, and whereas I generally despise the Brazilian devil bean for its overly-robust roast, this was actually a cup I’d take home to mom, my beseeching lips seizing upon it greedily with two big-assed buns of pao de queijo. Third, our gate was practically devoid of human presence and our flight to Panama City consequently empty, so I had an entire row to myself. I spread out and read Pantera’s ex-bassist Rex Brown’s autobiography in its entirety. Find me a better way to begin a long trip.

In Panama City, I have to admit, my mood soured somewhat. I paid 11 bucks for a spring chicken wrap, the terminal’s air conditioning was on the fritz (I invite you to try this in tropical Panama; ‘tis an unpleasant experience by any measure), the announcement system may as well have been a Motorhead concert for its ear-shredding volume (even the Brazilians present were covering their ears, so you KNOW it went to 11), and my connecting flight to Guadalajara was delayed due to an electrical failure on the plane’s navigation system. Once in Guadalajara – into which I rolled bleary-eyed at nearly 2 AM – I stood in line at customs and immigration being eaten alive by famished mosquitos, an invading swarm of Biblical proportions, and watched Mexicans slap at the air and each other amidst comments regarding the pinche dengue we were all sure to contract in the aftermath.

But just as with the morning’s sudden taxi luck, the gods of good husbandry and fatherhood, those ageless graybeards grinning down from their benevolent diaper changing thrones, smiled upon me when I reached the customs/immigration x-ray and declaration point. I presented my tourist passport and explained, when queried why I’d be two months in Ciudad Juarez, that I’m here to wed the hot tamale to whom I am betrothed and assume charge of my demon seed. She examined me dubiously, and I thought perhaps she required additional identification, at which juncture I produced my diplomatic passport with a sheepish grin and shrug of the shoulders. She waved the diplo passport away, informing me that her shock was merely over the fact that I have come from a continent away to do something which, in her words, “I couldn’t even get a guy in my same barrio to do.” And so she waved me through without x-ray, body cavity search or further ado on a tourist passport.

Emerging on the other side of the electrical door to the terminal, what should greet me but a Starbucks. Whereupon I presented the Starbucks gift card my mother sent me last Christmas (which the Brazilians will not honor), ordered a white chocolate mocha (which the Brazilians have not yet made correctly for me), and noted that on the Starbucks house sound system was playing “Through the Fire and the Flames” by DRAGONFORCE, sending me into spasms of Guitar Hero.

Next stop in a few hours is Ciudad Juarez, where I’ll be received by the hug-starved arms (and kiss-starved lips) of one Maria Vega. We’ll proceed with all haste to the Chulo Vista Hotel, whereupon I shall slumber after 26 sleepless hours in airports and on planes. Tonight I shall sup loudly at a plate of nachos, my first in 13 months, for a long-anticipated return to living Mexicanishly.


…or how a passion for Spanish and undying devotion to heavy metal jointly shaped the course of my whole life.

In late December 1992, while laboring studiously as a high school student, I volunteered to sing Christmas carols at an old folks’ home. Always the death metal screamer, and proudly fronting my own band by that point, my scratchy pipes were poorly suited to serenading half-defunct long-past-retirees on themes of Yule tide. And yet there I was, Deicide shirt hidden beneath decency’s flannel shirt, hair tied back, and big dumb grin plastered across my face. What calling so great, what mission so worthy, that a teenage death metal fan would be caught in such a situation, concealing his very metal-ness and allowing non-Satanic song lyrics to cross his lips? It could have been none great than the vixen Dawn, a 12th grader who had invited me to the event and with whom I was desperately, wholly smitten.  I was getting desperate, as she hadn’t responded to my decidedly un-subtle onslaught all school year, and I thought that perhaps ratcheting the ante up would do the trick. In high school two year’s different constituted a virtual chasm separating us, and thus Dawn seemed all but unreachable to lil’ sophomoric me as 1992 faded to 1993. In the mania of my teenage mind, I assessed that perhaps – just perhaps! – crooning to a roomful of geezers would showcase al the qualities I was sure an older woman like Dawn might appreciate, compensating for my age and total lack of jock-ness: my holiday spirit, love of humanity, and if I were really lucky, my on-key delivery of choice Christmas classics.

It was not to be, sadly. The night before we caroled, my band performed, me on the mic. While I admit that it was a rousing performance in which I turned up the volume far beyond what any decent Peavey speaker cabinet can reasonably endure, my vocal cords were in a state of ruin: a collapsing Mayan temple, a dilapidated Appalachian shack. An agonized throat may well be music to a metal fan’s ears, but not so to my elderly audience that day. My pitch was atrocious, a hideous disfigurement of holiday music, and because of it, my much-trumpeted “love of humanity” and “holiday spirit” were sorely un-evidenced by the third song. It shown clearly upon my mournful countenance, and became even more acutely clear to all present after I started sulking. And why did I sulk? Because of an occurrence I had prayed to circumvent, but which the Lord decided to visit upon me that day, a Job-like test of my capacity for punishment.

More specifically: Dawn’s boyfriend made a cameo at the retirement home, held her lily-white hand, and macked on her before my very eyes, likely aware of my interest in his lady and staking his territory publicly. It is true, I mused pathetically in silence, that possession is indeed nine-tenths of the law. This immediately dashed The Master Plan for the eventual (though in retrospect impossible) conquest of her heart. Nearly ready to admit defeat and leave the premises of the retirement home altogether, I was looking for my final in-road, scanning desperately about the room to see if something, anything, would present itself as an avenue by which to woo this lass.

And that’s when I saw the Old Spanish Lady.

She was in a wheelchair, secluded in a corner of the room. Whilst the other retirees enjoyed our high school sing-song rendition of their cherished holiday ditties, she stared out a window, morose and downcast, isolated, clearly pondering with resignation how many feathers remained on the chicken of her life. I asked an orderly why she was there. “She’s from Spain and doesn’t speak any English. She doesn’t talk to anyone.” And just like that, I saw the gauntlet tossed at my feet as though by Destiny itself. I would woo the old bat with Spanish phrases I’d learned in school, by extension wooing my fair maiden who would doubtless witness this act of kindness and linguistic acrobatics. Happily-ever-after never looked so probable.

Verily I approached the old Spanish biddy, rolling up my sleeves in anticipation as I searched the abyss of my mind for precisely the right Spanish phrase for a knock-out introduction, rapidly reviewing every lesson I’d been taught in Dr. Stewart’s Spanish class, poignantly attempting to cobble together anything bearing even the slightest semblance of proper grammar and pronunciation. I slowly grew aware – neigh, intense was my cognizance! – that the entire room’s attention was on me.

And then, the singing of Christmas songs stopped. The crowd watched. Dawn gawked curiously. I had the spotlight and struck:

“Hoh-lah moo-hair… No haw-blow s-paaaaa-nol paaay-ro feluuuuz ni-va dude!”

It was my first complete Spanish sentence, ever, and I wasn’t about to let the total wrongness of every aspect of it deflate my pride in having spoken a foreign language publicly. Dawn’s cock-bag boyfriend, take THAT. I stood back triumphantly waiting for the Old Spanish Lady’s response. She continued to stare out the window, unaware, unresponsive, her stoicism befitting Shakespearean intrigue. And that’s when the orderly approached me anew, now with a clarification: “Oh sorry. She’s actually from Bulgaria.” I didn’t look up as the flop-sweats forced itty-bitty trickles of perspiration down my furrowed brow.

(In the background: the faint sounds of muffled snickers. A snort or two.)

At that very moment, I swore never to suffer that kind of public humiliation again.

Thus it was a function of terribly unfortunate timing that a mere three weeks later, in early 1993, I was compelled to smack the bejesus out of a chap named Paul, who embarrassed me one cold afternoon leaving the cafeteria and on the way to geography class. His transgression was egregious in my prideful land o’ leading a garage band: he voided his bladder on one of my band’s promotional fliers. We used to pass them out during lunch hour. Were we expecting some push-back from the other kids? Sure.  Hip-hop and Nirvana were in, and metal was anathema in those days.  But didn’t we deserve, demand, a modicum of respect for our labors?  So pissing on my flier was not something I could, with any dignity, take in stride.

But in truth, though his golden shower was the immediate precipitator leading to Paul’s humiliating comeuppance before half the student body, the roots of out tiff lay in a heavy metal beef set to pasture and grazing for six intense months by that point in the school year. Simply put, Paul hated me for being the superior guitarist to him. But it wasn’t my fault that his assigned lot in life was that of a six-string douche. We cannot all be cut from the cloth of musical glory.  So this, his lack of instrumental ability, I could forgive him as it affected me not.  I could even pardon his frequent public challenges to my birth legitimacy and sexual orientation. These, typical for teenage boys prepping the battlefield for a late-day scrap, were sufficiently vulgar (though, admittedly, creative) to have sent an arsenal of angry little rockets screaming out of any teenage boy’s affronted ego. I was certainly no exception.  But no, I contained my wrath, choosing to be the proverbial “bigger man”. But then there was the pee-peed flier… Oh, how that pee-peed flier obliged me to a full defense of my offended metal honor, so incensed was I at this punk’s contemptuous and cavalier attitude toward my musical art. As a (literally) red-headed step child, Paul should have known he was statistically six times more likely to be beaten, and whizzing on my flier that day exponentially increased those odds to the point of dead certainty.

The next morning I told my mother, cryptically, that she ought to “be ready to come get me by about 8”, and listened to Pantera’s Vulgar Display of Power, strutting and flexing in front of the mirror to dissipate the horror I felt for what was about to happen. Truth be told, I’ve never been a fighter, and hate violence. And I was scared of Paul, who I was told had quite a bit more experience with fisticuffs than I.  But I knew what had to be done. Thus, by the time I got to school shortly thereafter, my jittery nerves counterbalanced only by the simmering ire I felt over the poor pee-peed flier, I exploded like Van Halen in 1984. Before homeroom bell even struck, I had delivered a sound thrashing with the precision of a smart bomb and the glee of a child on Christmas morning, a million purring kittens playfully swatting at the butterflies in my tummy whilst my clenched fist rocketed into Paul’s unsuspecting cheek.

Dr. Stewart, my high school Spanish teacher, intervened and broke us up, truncating my splendid brutalizing. She never let me live it down, constantly reminding me that only “bad students get into fights”, doling out goodly amounts of reproach to me whenever I came into her line of sight. And this bothered me: I was always a good and mindful student, filial to the end, and it was a cause of shame to me that a teacher would not think highly of me. I was not a big fan of foreign languages in those days, and unless a foreign tongue would help me nab one of the Mexican weather girls on Telemundo, I wanted nada to do with Spanish class in particular. But seeing that the only avenue by which to bring Dr. Stewart back around was to at least feign an interest in the material, I started paying closer attention in her class. I hoped my scholastic achievements would overshadow her low impression of me, showing her I wasn’t a bruiser but in fact was a responsible, upstanding young man.

Not so shockingly, it worked. Any teacher appreciates an earnest pupil. I was surprised, however, at how quickly I took to the language, and how speedily I began developing a taste and even talent for it. The following school year, 1994, my band Witch Hunt broke into the global underground metal tape trading and fanzine network. We recorded some demos and began shopping them to anyone who would listen to us, yet because of the ever-growing global network to which we were now party, we broke the mold of the typical gonna-go-nowhere, after-school band by marketing our material to other countries.  We established low-level distribution with a few helpful pen pals around the planet, paned off free copies of our demo material to select popular fanzines for review in their upcoming issues, and before I knew it, we were receiving interview requests and even fan mail from foreign lands.

Latin America became a particularly friendly region of the globe for us.  This was almost exclusively because of the efforts of one expatriate German buddy living in central Mexico with contacts all over the hemisphere. I began receiving weekly letters (mind you, this was in the pre-Internet days in which “snail mail” reigned king) from places like Colombia, Bolivia, Nicaragua, and even Cuba. And unlike the Europeans who boasted English usually better than mine, our Latin American brethren spoke only their own language. And I understood next to nothing of it. A conundrum; yet if they were confident enough to reach out, then in decency the only proper response on my part was to reach back their way. I began toting the letters to school, asking Dr. Stewart for her assistance in translating them and my responses. At first, she was dubious: how many high school teachers field requests from students who need help translating responses to Chilean fanzine interview requests? But when she saw the proof, she was entertained and, in no small measure, inspired. She realized, and rightly so, that this was her chance to make a difference to a student and a lot of other people that would be tangible, in print, for others to read and enjoy.

Dr. Stewart began giving me extra credit for answering the letters in Spanish. She named me, later that year, Spanish Student of the Year. As my knowledge of the language grew at a steady clip – in no small part due to the Latino exchange students who took me under their wing – so grew my understanding of the region’s politics, history, society, and culture.  These I could also discuss with my Spanish-speaking pen pals as well,  all more than willing to tell me in languid detail of the circumstances facing each of their respective nations. In this manner I learned about the Colombian guerrilla and paramilitary problem; Nicaragua’s long decade of the 1980s and their return to pseudo-democracy in the 1990s; the Cuban censorship police and their occasional crack-down on heavy metal because of their belief that its political content might incite counter-revolutionary activities; and even, as one Mexican contact put it, “That Taco Bell is not really Mexican food.” Latin immigrants from Central America were not very visible in those days at metal concerts where I lived in Northern Virginia, but they were beginning to make a dent in our local scene, gradually; and at concerts in venues like The Cave (Manassas, Virginia) and Jaxx (Springfield, Virginia) I always found one to speak with, to ask about his country, and to cut my Spanish chops. They were always more than happy to oblige, simply pleased that a gringo would take the time to try learning their language.

Such was my passion for this language and its people that once I got to college in mid-1995, I knew I would ultimately declare Spanish as a major. I wanted more, in any way I could get it.  Following my junior year in 1998, I spent a summer in Guatemala working as a volunteer with war orphans and street children. A year later in 1999, upon graduation, I took up with the Peace Corps in El Salvador. During that two-year period, I lived in a small community of 300 ex-guerrillas from the Salvadoran civil war, which had ended a few years prior to my arrival, and traveled throughout Central America. After Peace Corps, I taught Spanish in the US Virgin Islands, obtained a Master’s Degree in Latin American Affairs, and got full-time professionally into regional affairs. Since then I’ve resided in Colombia, Mexico, and currently Brazil (amazingly I speak Portuguese now as well), and have independently traveled the depth and breadth of Latin America.

Metal and Spanish have been, therefore, my two enduring loves. They have outlasted any pet, girlfriend, or hobby I’ve had over the years. And while my love for the Spanish has helped me developed my career in a different direction than most of the headbangers I used to run with, my dedication to the music has never dampened, not for a instant: I’m still a metal-head, and proudly so. It’s the only music that truly churns me, the only kind I find worth paying to see in concert, and the only tuneage to which the vast majority of my best memories are tagged and cued. A song for every personal highlight dating back all the way to the first time I heard Cinderella’s “Somebody Save Me” in 1987 and, intuitively, knew no other music mattered to me afterward.

The Jaula das Gostosudas (Caged Hotties), Brazil’s once-premiere female funk group, just aborted its reign at the top of the pops due to, as you might have surmised, internal schisms amongst its female integrants. (To be fair, The Beatles also ended due to mutual animosities between the Fab Four, so it’s not just a female thing.) Never being one to extol the virtues of Carioca funk music, I never knew the gostosudas existed. But as with all the most fortuitous of life’s multi-hued circumstances, I found out about the group half-an-hour ago, whilst on a quest for an open Starbucks in Leblon and passing random, seemingly unconnected people who, upon further scrutiny, possessed three common attributes uniting them this overcast Sunday morning: all were men, all were over 40, and all held open the entertainment section of today’s paper, examining with exquisite interest an article proclaiming the end of the Jaula das Gostosudas. Clearly the break-up of this funk outfit is receiving disproportionate attention, and one suspects this is not due to the loss of quality music now that gostosudas’ mics are forever silenced, their bum-bums never to bounce anew.

For posterity’s sake, it’s critical we invest a final, proud moment in honoring the achievements of these Brazilian artists, these musical queen-pins who took it to the proverbial next level. Seizing the liberty to conduct a YouTube search, I chanced upon the following specimens of their contribution to arts and letters in Rio de Janeiro and beyond. This one’s my personal fave. The push-ups will spur you onward to exercise robustly. Start around 1:04. Not only were the gostosudas in peak physical condition, they could likewise croon. Consider starting around 1:10. Here they demonstrate the training regime that undoubtedly catapulted the gostosudas to stardom. For point of comparison, here is one of the many competitor female funk outfits, Gaiola das Popuzudas. Their lead singer, Valeska Popuzuda, broke off to begin a solo career last year, and has done well for herself based on the amount of advertising I’ve spotted for her in select parts of Rio. In the broader historical trajectory of the study of Brazilian butts, here’s the one that initiated the trend. Granted, there were meaty flanks in Brazil long before her time. But the Mulher Melancia (Watermelon Woman) was the first to elevate the lethal duo of bun-bouncing and Carioca funk music to national prominence. Watermelon actually found six distinct speeds with which to shake; just wait ’til she shifts into 6th gear. It’s a sports car, not a family sedan, and it’s at least level-4 armored.

I don’t know why, but when searching for the Jaula das Gostosudas in YouTube, buried midway down the list of return is always Anthrax’s “Room for One More” video. I don’t recall thonged hinds in the Anthrax clip; then again I never paid much attention to anything they did during that long, depressing night with John Bush on vocals.

What teen idol descends from the stratosphere, inspiring on the order of 1,000 Brazilian teenage girls to amass before the Copacabana Palace Hotel in Rio de Janeiro, chanting and shrieking in pants-peeing unison at the very top decibels of their hormonal lungs? Justin Bieber, who arrived today for a weekend’s worth of gigs at the municipal Praca da Apoteose, which I believe means “Enormo-Dome” in English. On the way to Laranjeiras this evening, my taxi driver – in the middle of chronicling to me every sordid detail of his recent vasectomy – asked me if I’d like to see Bieber at his hotel. Naturally I assumed he was joking, until he plowed up to the hotel, dumping me front and center and – I swear this as I live and breathe – there stood The Phenom himself on the balcony of his 10th floor suite, blowing kisses and gesticulating broadly to all us gawkers huddled below. And with his every kiss blown, so in direct proportion rose skyward the screams, punctuated with outstretched arms capped by sweaty jazz fingers, which trembled with baby-making frenzy as they tickled the summery night air at the Copacabana Palace.

Update one day later:

I went to a barbecue with a local friend, to the satellite city of Niteroi on Rio de Janeiro’s outskirts. Once there I found myself making the acquaintance of a foursome of beer-swilling brasileiros who were deadly serious about two things and two things alone: metal and child-rearing. And as your modest servidor bespake them, these men fumbling about for their rugrats while toe-tapping the blast beats to Morbid Angel’s “Chapel of Ghouls” as it blared from someone’s iPod, a pair of urgent items was imparted to me. First, that the Black Sabbath/Megadeth concert two weeks ago was amazing. As well it should have been, given the $150 booty even nosebleed seats fetched. And second, the Justin Bieber faithful had already besieged the venue a fortnight prior, anticipating the coming of their mop-topped messiah. Hence the line of Black Sabbath fans entering the Praca da Apoteose was forced to snake around a refugee camp of Beliebers, a meeting of two worlds not dissimilar to Marco Polo and the Chinese coming face-to-face all those centuries ago.

Last night I attended my first Brazilian night spot. The Bukowski Bar, a club in the Botafogo neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. Never the late-night man and without an active desire to be the “old guy at the club” Chris Rock joked about in his now-classic 1998 comedy routine, still last eve may have been the best one of my life.  In an attempt to be fashionably cool, I arrived around 11 PM – which turned out to be demonstrably early by Brazilian standards – and stood in line for the better part of an hour. Hardly a chore, as the late-night weather was nearly perfect: 70 degrees, zero humidity, a a spring breeze circulating amidst the neighborhood and keeping us all refreshed and in high spirits as the line gradually trickled forward. Ambulatory vendors sold beer from coolers racked on bikes for anyone interested in pre-gaming prior to entrance to the club. I don’t really drink – I have scant experience with adult beverages so a couple quick sips and I’m already nude table dancing – but when in Rome… You get the idea.

Once inside, the bar served copious caipirinhas, which are really just mojitos by a different name (though they are certainly mixed with superior gusto in Rio; these are hair-on-your-chest beverages and my Puritan-like lack of tolerance for anything more robust than Diet Pepsi left me in sad form to imbibe).

But the real crux: the DJ kept playing classic Metallica songs and – oh God, mine eyes doth grow moist from the sheer emotion this memory provoketh- the Brazilians knew ALL THE WORDS, chanting and thrusting clenched fists ceiling-ward in a sweaty, syncopated, and uniquely Brazilian expression of support for the band still resting atop The Big Four’s sizable heap. I say this with full knowledge of how crap basically anything Metallica has released since the Black Album has been sonically atrocious and musically even worse, yet no one can deny their classic period set them up for life and they’re still the biggest-selling act on the planet. And this was not a metal club. It was a normal Brazilian club with normal Brazilian people who wear normal Brazilian collared shirts and have normal Brazilian middle-class lives and jobs. But metal = normal in Brazil, and these folks were SO down with the ‘tallica. I felt the same instinctive euphoria now at 36 years old as I did when I was 12 in the year 1989 and first heard the band and felt inspired beyond my own childish hyperactive capacity. Thus indeed, promises were made in the midst of my excitement last night: I told at least one person we’d definitely start a band.

I left at 3 AM and the line was still snaking around the block, the distinct strains of “Creeping Death” spilling into the Botafogo streets and doubtless gracing the ears of at least a few Brazilian pre-teens in their bedrooms, their hearts likely pounding a wee bit faster and their own minds racing with dreams of electric guitar with Marshall stacks, their parents believing them fast asleep and with no earthly notion of the metal frenzy about to strike their family head-on.

Fittingly, now that I have arrived in Brazil, my first book in Portuguese is the autobiography of former Sepultura vocalist Max Cavalera. This entry isn’t necessarily intended as a review of the book; though I will comment on a few aspects of it up front since I’m here and, more importantly, you’re already reading.

While it’s good filling in the long-mysterious “why did Max leave Sepultura?” gaps, which his version of the story provides to a degree in this written volume, I can’t say that I’m particularly interested in knowing about the Soulfly years following his departure from arguably the most promising metal band of the 1990s. The book is divided roughly in half, with the latter portion focusing exclusively on Soulfly and Max’s other post-Sepultura projects; all of which are too nu-metal for my tastes, and none of which even remotely equates to the grandeur and might of Sepultura when the band was still punching its weight. It’s Max’s life and his book, so obviously he’s free to delve into whatever subject matter suits him and the audience he intends to reach; and obviously Soulfly has its share of fans who are intrigued by that band’s history and, particularly, that of its frontman. But I’m willing to wager that most of the people purchasing this book, whether in Brazil or abroad, are primarily disposed to hear more about the Sepultura years and the now-classic speed metal recordings the band produced, not to mention the marathon world tours, in which the band engaged in the early-to-mid 1990s.

Additionally, though perhaps it was penned with contemporary short attention spans in mind, the book is quite thin. It’s only slightly over 200 pages in length, and that with a larger-than-12-point font and a middle section thick with photos of Max’s life. Considering that Max himself has boasted in interviews that the book is the definitive story of his entire life, AND took nearly three years to write it’s hard to imagine how he only came up with 200 pages of material.

Having said all that, which I realize may come off as negative, I was pleased with the book. It still left me knowing more about Max (like the fact that his father was a Brazilian diplomat and Max himself was baptized Catholic in the Vatican) and the formation and musical/professional development of Sepultura than I’d have otherwise known, which is golden for a metal trivia junkie.

Now, some background on my own history with the group… I first read about Sepultura in 1989 – I was 12 years young and an already-discriminating extreme metal fan in every sense of the term – in an issue of the mighty (though now long-defunt) RIP Magazine. I first listened to the group in 1991, at my boy Dan Brill’s house when he pressed play on his CD deck and out came barreling the sonic chainsaw of their seminal “Beneath the Remains” CD. At the time, Max’s vocals were so extreme they were harder to decipher than even those of Testament’s Chuck Billy, which was really saying something in those days. I celebrated the next summer, in 1992, with the arrival of the “Arise” album, another landmark for a young metal fan hoping his praying would not disappoint him with waning extremity in a musical landscape that seemed to be going increasingly commercial; the band did not disappoint, and continued achieving global acclaim doing things their own way, almost a contradiction in terms during the hey-day of made-for-TV alternative bands. I began to realize, in early 1994, that Sepultura was achieving something close to global metal stardom when RIP magazine published a special edition on death metal and put the band on the cover. I’d never abandon a group for not being huge, but even as a kid I never liked to saddle my wagon to the horse of a loser, and it was reassuring to see that extreme metal’s fortunes were apparently rising, as this portended well for my own group, Witch Hunt, which I was perennially trying to take to that mystical and elusive “next level” in those days. I first saw Sepultura live on June 29, 1994 at the Merriweather Post Pavilion in Columbia, Maryland when they and Biohazard opened for Pantera, and Sepultura were touring to support the “Chaos AD” album.

The classic lineup lasted but a few more short years, and by the time they broke up after releasing “Roots” in 1996, I had already begun growing apart from the group, at the time displeased with the musical direction they were taking as it reeked too heavily of nu-metal for my tastes. Still, the classic period had been more than a wonderful ride for me, and I counted myself fortunate to have been, at least for a short time and in a very marginal manner, part of Sepultura’s glory years.

It will be eternally earmarked as one of the minor miracles of heavy metal how a group of dirty, tattooed kids from Belo Horizonte, Brazil could insinuate their unlikely speed metal project into a household name in a majority Roman Catholic nation that on its surface would never in a gazillion years embrace what Sepultura represents. This bizarre twist of history illustrates not only how hard the band strived, but the generally superior musical tastes of Brazilians, who likewise held a key role in catapulting Iron Maiden to fame in the Southern Hemisphere.