Sepultura gained multiple gold and platinum records across the globe, including in countries as diverse as France, Australia, Indonesia, United States, and their native Brazil. The band have sold over 15 million units worldwide.
Sepultura have released ten studio albums so far, and another one has been announced to be released in 2008. Their most successful records are Arise (1991), Chaos A.D. (1993), and Roots (1996), each of them having surpassed the one million mark worldwide.
The brothers' early likes included several popular hard rock and heavy metal bands at the time such as Van Halen, Iron Maiden, Motörhead, AC/DC, Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne's solo career. That changed on the day they first heard Venom. Igor said,
I remember the first time I listened to Venom, it was on a friend's borrowed tape. It was similar to Motörhead, only a lot heavier. I remember someone saying: it's the devil's Motörhead! After we got acquainted with Venom, we stopped listening to Iron Maiden and all that lighter stuff.
After a revolving door of musicians, Sepultura established a temporary line-up of Max on guitar, Igor on drums, vocalist Wagner Lamounier, and bassist Paulo Jr.. Lamounier exited the band in March 1985 after an argument with the whole group, and went on to become the frontman of fellow Brazilian black metal pioneers Sarcófago. After his departure, Max took over the vocal duties. Jairo Guedes was invited to join the band as their lead guitarist, while Max played rhythm guitar.
After about a year of performing, Sepultura signed to Cogumelo Records in 1985. Later that year, they released their debut, Bestial Devastation, a split EP with fellow Brazilians Overdose. In 1986, the band released their debut full-length album, Morbid Visions, which is widely considered as one of the first pure death metal albums. It was initially released in the United States on New Renaissance Records, a record label owned by Ann Boleyn.
New Renaissance Records was heavily criticized by the media for signing and promoting Sepultura. However, their song "Troops of Doom" eventually attracted radio airplay. After Morbid Visions, Jairo Guedes left the band for another thrash metal venture and was replaced by São Paulo-based guitarist Andreas Kisser.
This stylistic change and critical success was cemented by the band's third studio album, Beneath the Remains, which was released in 1989. It was followed by a long European and American tour. Their first US show was held on October 31, 1989 at the Ritz in New York City, opening for Danish black metal band King Diamond. It is hailed by Terrorizer magazine as one of the all-time top 20 thrash metal albums, as well as a gaining a place in their all-time top 40 death metal records.
Sepultura moved to Phoenix, Arizona in 1990, and began recording material for their fourth studio album, Arise. By the time it was released in 1991, the band become one of the most critically-praised thrash/death metal bands of the time, in spite of a lack of mainstream success. The album was also the first death metal album to chart on the Billboard 200, reaching #119.
In 1994, Max and Igor, aided by Alex Newport of Fudge Tunnel, released an even more industrial-oriented album, Point Blank, in 1994 under the name Nailbomb. Nailbomb performed only one full live gig, and the performance was released as Proud to Commit Commercial Suicide. The band also played selected tracks live on Sepultura's 1994 tour with Fudge Tunnel as guests.
Sepultura's death/thrash departure continued with their sixth album, Roots, which was released in 1996. The band further innovated by experimenting with elements of the music of Brazil's indigenous peoples, with a slower, downtuned metal sound. The track "Roots Bloody Roots" off the album is probably the band's most well-known song, and is often a staple at live shows.
Later that year, the band played on the Ozzfest main stage alongside Ozzy Osbourne, Slayer, Danzig, Biohazard, and Fear Factory. However, at the height of Sepultura's fame, a series of events broke the band apart. Just after the release of Roots, Sepultura decided to fire their manager, Gloria, Max Cavalera's wife.
Internal tensions within the band occurred throughout the latter half of 1996, and at the end of a successful tour of Britain, at Brixton Academy on December 16, 1996, the band told Max that they would not renew Gloria's management contract. He then left the band, and subsequently formed a new one, Soulfly. The other members announced that they would continue under the Sepultura name and were searching for a replacement.
The band's eighth album, Nation, released in 2001, was slightly more successful than their previous album but sold poorly. This is probably in part due to having a more pure-thrash metal sound than its predecessors. It would be their last studio album released through Roadrunner Records.
A recording of Max's last live show with the band, Under A Pale Grey Sky, was later released in 2002 by their former record label, against the wishes of the band.
After recording Revolusongs, an EP of covers in 2002, the band released their ninth studio album, Roorback, in 2003, which garnered many positive reviews. Despite having greater critical acclaim than its predecessors, sales remained low. It was their first album released through SPV Records.
In 2005, the band played in Dubai for the annual Dubai Desert Rock Festival. In November of that year, a live Double-DVD and Double-CD, Live in São Paulo, was released. This was the first official live album from the band. The release of the album marked the first involvement of the new "Sepularmy" street team in promotion of Sepultura. The Sepularmy is unrelated to any of the band members or its record label, and its members are motivated purely by the desire to share the bands music and message around the world.
Andreas also stated that the band is planning a new studio album release for 2008, being the first without any Cavalera member. In January 2008 the band released a new music-video for the song "Ostia" from the "Dante XXI" album. As stated on their Myspace page, it will be another concept album, entitled A-Lex, based on "A Clockwork Orange."