Soulfly is now nine albums in, and Max Cavalera still growls like the great Amazonian beast of heavy metal for which he is. Cavalera, the former proprietor of musical anarchy in Brazil’s best metal export, Sepultura, has gone from trudging Soulfly through the primordial sludge of nu-metal’s industrial overtones with the band’s 1998 debut to smashing the boundaries of post-thrash agro with 21st century geo-political metal cognition. Soulfly’s “Savages” is not only as hard as they come musically, but it is also an unapologetic assessment of how our planet remains mired in subhuman conditions – a perennial battle cry for Cavalera.
Says Cavalera of the album’s inspiration: “No matter how far we’ve come in the world, our spirit is still that of a savage.” That idea is reflected in tracks like opener “Bloodshed,” with a streamlined air of metal defiance not unlike the chorded bedlam of Anthrax albums like “Stomp 442,” with Cavalera screaming regret over “the weak minds rising nature’s demise.” “Fallen,” with its bloodcurdling, flanged guitar intro seguing into nightmarishly syncopated rhythms, sees Cavalera dishing stark reality in pointing out how we are all, to a certain degree, subservient to powers of nation.
Much of the tribal/percussive elements of past Soulfly albums are gone, making way for more organic guitar fare, like “El Comegente,” featuring a tinge of just-audible flatting in the lead runs and surprise nylon string, open garage jam for the track’s final three minutes. “Soulfliktion’s” hell-bent riffs are tuned so low they’d make Tony Iommi sweat, while Cavalera virtually wrings the listener’s neck, asking, “Who would you kill for?” Elsewhere, cuts like the tongue-in-cheek “Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla,” features Clutch frontman Neil Fallon performing somewhat obscure spoken word commentary, waxing on how “the sun is shifting on the sand,” bewildering the listener while guitarist Marc Rizzo provides a very un-Soulfly Southern slide guitar line.
“Savages” is the sound of Max Cavalera conscientiously objecting to humanity’s more raunchy foibles with a characteristically caustic forked tongue. It’s also the album where Soulfly reins in the little musical idiosyncrasies of the past, like sampling and rap flavorings, to turn over a bona fide metal decimation.
Soulfly ‘Savages’ Rating: W W W W