Soulfly – Totem Review

Because our illustrious Dr. Fisting no longer writes for us (and the rest of the staff are a bunch of ass nibblers), I’ve been assigned the task of reviewing Soulfly‘s forty-seventh full-length release. I did all I could to avoid it, but here we are. Before you start attacking me for having the gall to review a band I hate, I don’t hate them. For the most part, I enjoy Soulfly. Even if they rarely bring anything new to the table. I guess Soulfly and Primitive contradict that statement because Max Cavalera explored a new territory of Korny, Limp Bizkit metal. Contradicting because, while Cavalera stepped out of his comfort zone, I fucking hate those albums—even more than I hate Ferrous. Yet, when Marc Rizzo joined the ranks on 2004’s Prophecy, Cavalera and crew brought thrash, death, and inklings of Chaos A.D. and Roots back into the mix. From that point, I’ve grown accustomed to the existence of Soulfly and enjoy albums like Dark Ages, Conquer, and Enslaved. Now it’s 2022, and Rizzo is gone. What does this mean for ole Maxie?

With or without Rizzo, 2018’s Ritual set the stage for this year’s Totem. Ritual was a surprising shift, cutting out the fat and delivering solid thrash/death songs. Though Soulfly has written many o’ heavy pieces, Ritual‘s stripped-down approach took the riffs to another level. I’m sure many fans craved the rap-metal elements and drawn-out, meandering numbers, but you won’t find them there. Totem is no different, as it craves riffs, solos, and continuity. The difference this time is that Cavalera employs the mighty Arthur Rizk (Eternal Champion, Sumerlands) on lead guitars.1 Totem is a balls-to-the-wall record that bows down to the sacred RIFF.

Totem gets things going in a hurry with the back-to-back-to-back trio, “Superstition,” “Scouring the Vile,” and “Filth upon Filth.” The opener has an addictive Cavalera chorus, a crushing riff, and slick drum fills. “Scouring the Vile” combines squealing guitar leads with Slayerish thrash while delivering a monstrous death charge supported by John Tardy’s ever-recognizable voice. “Filth upon Filth” has a classic metal gallop that smashes through another memorable chorus, intensifying as it reaches the end.

From here, the album becomes a mixed bag. “The Damage Done” is a chugtastic track with a chorus that climbs up the fretboard with the guitars. It also includes some memorable solos—especially the last one, which initiates a monstrous riff to close out the song. Like the opener, “Ancestors” is a Slayer/Sepultura cruiser sprinkled with some cool drum work from Zyon Cavalera. But, the best part is the building riff toward the end. Though I’d love if that build exploded into a climactic conclusion, it’s still a pleasing track. Then, there’s the closer, “Spirit Animal.” This nine-minute ditty builds on its instrumental predecessor, “Soulfly XII,” delivering moodiness before the distortion arrives. While it has some chunky riffs and nice vocal contributions from Incite‘s Richie Cavalera, the only memorable moment is the clean vocals at the end. So, six of the song’s nine minutes don’t add much to its finale.

Though Totem isn’t at the top of the… poll, it’s a solid release with the aggression we old guys crave when you say the name “Cavalera.” But, I have to admit, I enjoyed my time revisiting Soulfly‘s discog for this release. It’s a concise collection of bruisers that brand it as the proper follow-up to Ritual. That said, it falls a tad short of its predecessor. Especially when it comes to the hints of Korny-core at the beginning of “Rot in Pain” and the previously discussed “Spirit Animal.” Most of the album doesn’t overstay its welcome, Cavalera is in top form, and Rizk’s leads might be better than Rizzo’s on Ritual. Totem also isn’t bloated with ten-thousand guest appearances, keeping it focused on the prize. Overall, this is a mostly enjoyable album that I’ll continue to revisit for the rest of 2022.


Rating: 3.0/5.0
DR: 6 | Format Reviewed: 273 kb/s mp3
Label: Nuclear Blast Records
Websites: soulfly.com | facebook.com/soulflyofficial
Releases Worldwide: August 5th, 2022

Show 1 footnote

  1. Rizk also helped to produce and record Totem.
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