We live in an age when the label “supergroup” is overused in the music world. And when it’s applied, the odds are good that expectations won’t be met or — God forbid — exceeded. But for music fans, seeing heroes team up in a new collaboration is exciting because there’s a chance (however slim) that it’ll be mind-blowing.
In Paradise Valley, Arizona, in 1994, Max Cavalera and Alex Newport came together to create Nailbomb. At the time, it wasn’t a supergroup, per se. Cavalera had served as guitarist and shouter in the up-and-coming Brazilian metal band Sepultura, while Newport had been the noise guitar wizard and lead singer of Nottingham, England’s Fudge Tunnel. Sepultura was the more popular band of the two. But heavy music fans were excited about the team-up, and for good reason.
Cavalera and Newport had gotten to know each other when their respective bands toured the U.S. and Europe together in the early ’90s and, for a short time, the two were related by marriage, as Newport was married to Cavalera’s stepdaughter, Christina Steever Newport. (Full disclosure: I played in a short-lived band with Newport at the same time called Son of Crackpipe and was privy to the Nailbomb story from the beginning.)
Then in their mid-20s, both musicians had a love for heavy, angry, abrasive music and the sounds and attitudes of bands like Dead Kennedys, Discharge, and Big Black. That fueled an urge to create something new. Nailbomb was — and still is — all about being pissed off.
Cavalera’s still channeling that energy. His current band, Soulfly, has been on tour for the past month playing Nailbomb’s sole studio album Point Blank (Roadrunner, 1994) in its entirety.
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“I think the Nailbomb lyrics are just as relevant today as they were in 1994,” Cavalera says over the phone. “Maybe more so. The timing just seems right, now, to play the record live. We’ve been practicing a lot. I forgot how great this record is.”
He’s not wrong.
The album kicks off with the track “Wasting Away,” in which Cavalera shouts the verses and Newport screams the chorus.
“Carve your rights into your arm / So they won’t get taken away / Trying in vain to figure it out / Always thinking this is a waste / Build it up high / The further to fall / Right down on you / Wasting away …”
Point Blank sonically pummels the listener from start to finish, never letting up. And with song titles like “24 Hour Bullshit,” “Cockroaches,” and “World of Shit,” there’s a running theme that all’s not well in the free world. With well-placed samples mixed in and the combination of Newport and Cavalera’s vocal stylings, it’s quite clear these guys were fueled by a mutual anger and disdain for the state of things.
Cavalera and Newport played the vast majority of the album’s instrumentation, though Max’s brother and Sepultura/Cavalera Conspiracy bandmate, Igor Cavalera, played drums on almost half the tracks. Newport programmed a drum machine for the rest.
But Nailbomb called it quits after just one live appearance at the 1995 Dynamo Music Festival in the Netherlands.
Since then, Cavalera has released 10 albums with Soulfly. He also has appeared on several other releases, including four Cavalera Conspiracy records and a release by Killer Be Killed, another sort of metal supergroup as well.
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Newport has been busy, too. After his post-Fudge Tunnel band Theory of Ruin broke up, he released music as part of a project called Red Love with Matt Tong, former drummer of Bloc Party. Newport has also spent the last 25 years as producer, mixer, and engineer working with bands like Death Cab for Cutie, Melvins, Pissed Jeans, At The Drive In, and The Mountain Goats.
Although Newport and Cavalera haven’t talked for years, Newport did offer help to Soulfly as the band embarked on taking Point Blank live.
“Time passes. Gloria [Cavalera, Max’s wife and manager] has been in contact with Alex,” Cavalera says of his former bandmate and ex-son-in-law. “He’s very happy for us to be doing this. He helped with the samplers and sent us a list, song by song, with all the samples we used.”
Soulfly are scheduled to perform Nailbomb’s Point Blank in its entirety at the Marquee Theatre in Tempe on Friday, November 10. Tickets are $23 to $53 via luckymanonline.com.