soulfly-savagesAlright, full Angry Metal Confession time: back in the day, I actually enjoyed the first Soulfly album. To my drug-addled brain, Max Cavalera and co. had created an interesting blend of exotic world music and utterly shitheaded nu-metal. “Eye For An Eye” and “Fire” still kick ass, and a lot of the record is unintentionally hilarious (sample lyric: “No bullshit/No slave ship/No muthafuckin’ Hootie and the Blowfish!“). Many years and countless lineup changes later, Cavalera remains the creative force behind a heavier, more self-conscious Soulfly. The band’s core sound remains intact — if anything, he’s learned to incorporate other styles as they came into fashion, be it throwback Sepultura-ish thrash (Dark Ages) or pseudo-death metal (Enslaved). This brings us to the current record, Savages, which is thrust into a world dominated by djent and deathcore, where Soulfly‘s foundation is seen as hopelessly outdated.

The songs themselves are decent enough. It’s clear that Max has been watching the deathcore movement — check out the super-downtuned chugs and slow-motion drumbeats on “Bloodshed,” for instance. “Cannibal Holocaust” manages to channel some Arise-era thrasher madness, while “Master of Savagery” and “Soulfliktion” approximate the Chaos AD style. “Spiral” somewhat recalls Soulfly’s earlier years, with a bouncy groove riff and some embarrassingly dated guitar effects. Oddly, the latin/world music element is all but absent, except for one guitar solo and some transitional bits.

soulfly-2013I always get a good laugh out of the talent gap between Cavalera and guitarist Marc Rizzo. Imagine half a song written by a virtuoso guitar shredder, and the other half being written by a fucking caveman, because that’s pretty much what’s going on. But the real surprise on this album is the band’s new drummer — Max’s son Zyon Cavalera. He may not be the most technical player, but he puts on a hard-hitting, groove-laden performance that would make Uncle Igor proud. It’s a trip to think that the kid whose in-utero heartbeat opened “Refuse/Resist” is now full-grown and behind the kit — and the fact that he’s damn good is an added bonus [Now I feel really fucking old. — Steel Druhm].

Of course, it wouldn’t be a Soulfly record without eight thousand guest appearances. Napalm Death guitarist Mitch Harris contributes vocals to “K.C.S.” Neil Fallon of Clutch degrades himself on “Ayatollah of Rock ‘N Rolla,” an ill-fated attempt at Pantera-style southern metal. (It’s fucking terrible.) And in an extra-special moment, Max’s other son, Igor Cavalera Jr., performs a touching duet with dad on the track “Bloodshed.” Oddly, for as much as he’s associated with ’80s thrash, Max Cavalera seems to feel more of a bond with late-’90s rap/groove metal. Sure, he’s half-heartedly embraced more recent styles, and he’s paid a lot of lip service to the old school. But deep down, it seems like he wants to keep making stuff that sounds and feels like Roots, and the band’s current direction has one foot in the present and the other firmly planted in 1996.

I guess my main problem with Savages is that it’s kind of faceless. If not for Max’s endearingly thick accent, these songs could be mistaken for any early-’00s metal band from any suburban town. The album certainly has some high points, and hearing Rizzo shred is always a pleasure.  But as Soulfly distance themselves from what makes them unbearably corny (“tribal” parts, stupid lyrics, nu-metal) they also lose a little of what made them distinctive.  That said, Max can still bring the heavy shit when he wants to, so if that’s what you’re after, Savages may be worth checking out.


Rating: 2.5/5.0
Label: Nuclear Blast [EU] [US]
Websites: soulfly.com/  |  facebook.com/SoulflyOfficial
Release Dates:  EU: 2013.10.04  |  NA: 10.01.2013

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  • Jay Alan Goodwin

    I’ve never really been big on any era of Sepultura (and yes: I was around for it) or Max but I really thought the last one, Enslaved, was solid.

    Haven’t had a chance to listen to this yet.

  • Jordan Campbell

    Ha, I loved that “Hootie and the Blowfish” line. When I was sixteen.

  • Rik

    Pretty disappointing album, basically a standard Soulfly album really, but worse somehow. Possibly even the worst since 3. Conquer and Prophecy remain my favourites.

    • RU63

      Perhaps this one was rushed? Two albums in two years . . . usually not a good sign for quality.

  • Realkman666

    Looks like Hootie hurt some people deep. Let it heal, Max!

  • Raven

    tony campos’s epic beards is the only thing that i love about soulfly… all the other things about soulfly are worthless trash i guess

  • Here’s Johnny

    enslaved was excellent and i really liked dark ages and omen too. this album does seem a bit more rushed and a bit of a back-step but still decent all the same. not as if its a bad album really just a standard soulfy album with some really enjoyable tracks like cannibal holocaust.

  • Ethan Sage

    Why does everyone hate on Max. Max is a genuine master of what he does. Put this record on some loud base speakers. This fuckn album is dark brutal genius. Always these ads hole reviews dissemination max. Who does it better? No one. Rock on Max.. fuck these haters…

  • Tiber

    Havent heard this one yet, but i was hoping for more of what Conquer had. That album finally brought me back after dark ages put me off. I wish they would leave the sepultura sound in its grave where it belongs. Yeah its hard, but so fucking boring; just monotone noise. For those about to rot finally showed what Max’s voicebox is capable of, why go back to sounding like a gravelly, droning dishwasher?