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Nuclear Blast Entertainment (2013)
Rating: 7/10

I’m pretty sure that every time Max Cavalera’s Soulfly releases an album, a whole generation of diehard Sepultura fans sigh in disappointment. Not because Soulfly aren’t a good band, but more to the point, they probably want to see the great man back at the helm of the Brazilian thrashers. Well guys, you’re gonna have to wait once more, because Soulfly have just issued their ninth full-length studio album. It’s also the first to feature Zyon Cavalera – Max’s son – on drums, although he has previously made guest appearances on 2010’s Omen and 2012’s Enslaved.

Alongside Zyon, Max is joined by Marc Rizzo on lead guitar, and the bass skills of Tony Campos. There are also a batch of guest vocalist too, including Mitch Harris (Napalm Death / Defection / Righteous Pigs), and another of Max’s sons, Igor Cavalera Jr.

From the first listen, knowledgeable extreme music fans will know this is Soulfly, as it features that classic, slightly industrialized / late 90s metal sound, often puked out by way of choppy rhythms and those identifiable Sepultura nuances circa Roots (1996).

As expected, the production of Terry Date gives the album a meaty feel as the band trudge through some bruising anthems, beginning with the punk-influenced roars of the upbeat ‘Bloodshed’, which features Igor Cavalera Jr. on gang shouts. On the whole it’s a basic Soulfly track full of the usual masculine moods and war-torn angst, but the combo soon find their feet with the thrashing mayhem of ‘Cannibal Holocaust’, which is played at 100mph. It’s the shortest track of the album but certainly the fiercest, boasting a catchy guitar lick and Max’s usual spits of aggression.

Third track ‘Fallen’ once again combines that almost nu-metal dynamic with rather formulaic angry chants, which come from I Declare War frontman Jamie Hanks. There’s nothing remarkable about the track except its mid-tempo passages of chug and mournful, wailing guitar. This number certainly pales when in the presence of ‘Ayatollah Of Rock ‘N’ Rolla’, which is a grunge-infested slo-mo’ plodder featuring the stark narration of Clutch vocalist Neil Fallon. It’s an epic track that breaks into a metallic, buzzing gallop and then gets the usual Soulfly traumatic treatment, but does feature some interesting guitar parts and a solid drum sound.

Despite being a fan of Soulfly’s earlier works, especially the 1998 self-titled debut opus, Savages – like a number of the band’s albums – can become rather predictable, with the likes of ‘Master Of Savagery’ opting for that substandard Sepultura meets nu-metal structure, mainly in those bouncy, buzzing riffs and Max Cavalera’s usual approach. The band rarely seem able to write an actual chorus except for those rather mediocre gang chants and pissed off yells, but I guess that’s why so many have latched onto this bruising sound.

‘Spiral’ follows suit with a few added effects, including a hint of scratching as well as slower tempo guitar trudge. I really expected more though, especially when we’re treated to the formulaic rants of ‘This Is Violence’ and ‘KCS’ (featuring vocals from Mitch Harris), although ‘El Comegente’ offers a tad more variety with some intriguing guitar sounds and a biting drum.

Far from being Soulfly’s best work, Savages still hits hard throughout, and does leave one feeling as if they’ve done five rounds with a bare-knuckle fighter. However, I’m one of those who feel that Max Cavalera’s place is truly in the darkened heart of Sepultura, and until that blessing occurs, I’ll always feel a tad tired after a Soulfly record.

Neil Arnold

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