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Soulfly - Savages (Album Review)

Wednesday, 02 October 2013 Written by Alec Chillingworth

Right, let's get something out of the way right now. We're not going to be comparing this album to anything Sepultura have churned out post-’Roots’. Why? Well, because they're a completely different beast now and Soulfly are arguably a bigger draw in 2013.

With the exception of 2010's 'Omen’, the last few Soulfly LPs have been absolute ragers. In particular, last year's 'Enslaved' saw Max Cavalera and his merry men dipping into the death metal bucket and pulling out some top tunes along the way. Since then, drummer David Kinkade has been replaced by Cavalera's son, Zyon, having barely had time to get his bum warm on the seat. Armed to teeth with an arsenal of stellar musicians (their bassist is also in Prong, for Christ’s sake), it's been left to Max to cook up something special.

With the sludgy, morbid opening of Bloodshed, it's easy to tell that the lads are onto that something special. Opting for a more DIY approach here, the tune sounds a lot dirtier and primal than anything Soulfly have produced in years.

Max's voice is on fine form; his harsh screams having improved tenfold compared to the tired grumbles on 'Enslaved' and a harrowing chord progression in the middle section dispels allegations of Soulfly being a simple meat and potatoes metal band.

While it's not an experimental record at all, 'Savages' plucks ideas and influences from the band's rich back catalogue. Cannibal Holocaust is a rollicking rip-tide of thrash-tinged death metal, while Soulfliktion stinks of groove and simply calls out to be played live. Zyon's drumming prowess is displayed on both and while he's not as technically skilled as Kinkade, he still makes his mark. The variation between thrashier styles and more loose, punky rhythms gives Soulfly the breathing space they need to pull off a varied sack of tunes.

Also, Mark Rizzo's written his name all over this album. Having always been an eccentric force in Soulfly's live show, his performances on disc have been dazzling and this one's no exception. His harmonious leads on Spiral wrap around the ears like an over-enthusiastic toddler and refuse to let go, while his technical display during Bloodshed paints fifty shades of heroism onto 'Savages'.

Always a fan of guest vocalists, Cavalera has once again assembled a formidable cast of temporary spokespeople for his latest creation. With the quality of the songs being so bloody good, it's only really Neil Fallon from Clutch who manages to stamp his signature on a track. The sprawling epic that is Ayatollah Of Rock 'N' Rolla features a spoken word intro from Fallon, before heralding his return during the second verse. And when it kicks in...well, it's a bit good. The contrast between Cavalera's shredding shriek and Fallon's whiskey-soaked bellow is perfect.

‘Savages' isn't going to propel Soulfly back into mainstream consciousness and it's not going to nab them the festival slots they used to dominate. It's preaching to the converted, which is a real shame. Since their inception they have dabbled in nu metal, death metal, thrash metal, and even world music (the trademark self-titled track is absent on this album, but there's a cheeky tribal section during El Comegente). 'Savages' throws them all into a melting pot, and the result is 10 well-rounded, blistering bangers that stand up straight on their own as well as within the album arc. This band is not a force to be taken for granted, and the sooner people stop comparing them to Max's former glories, the better.


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