Release Date: Sep 30, 2013
Record label: Nuclear Blast
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative Metal, Heavy Metal, Death Metal
Originally formed by Sepultura frontman Max Cavalera in 1997, following his dramatic and acrimonious departure from the band he formed as a youth with his brother Igor, Soulfly has undergone a pretty dramatic journey. Still written off by many due to the nu metal leanings of their early days (indeed, online metal database of choice, The Metal Archives, has only recently accepted the band), Sepultura actually made a pretty convincing shift back toward the more brutal side of Max’s musical personality with 2005’s Dark Ages, arguably the group’s finest hour. Coming only a year after the Enslaved album, which somewhat lacked dynamics, Savages is a feisty record that returns to the familiar blend of hardcore, thrash and groove metal.
Max Cavalera has been delivering punishing, neck-snapping riffs since the 1980s, first as a founding member of influential Brazilian thrash legends Sepultura, and later as the ringleader for the more cerebral, yet similarly punitive Soulfly. Savages, the band's ninth studio album, and first to feature Cavalera's son Zyon on skins (former Borknager drummer David Kinkade left after 2012's excellent Enslaved) continues in that tradition, offering up a visceral mix of thrash, groove, death, and straight-up doom metal that begins with an air raid siren and ends in screaming feedback. It’s a fitting set of bookends for a collection of songs that Cavalera describes as being "about the human condition right now," adding "we have the Internet and we’re working on missions to Mars, but we are still decapitating each other and blowing up marathons.
With a new drummer—main man Max Cavalera’s son Zyon—wielding especially heavy beats, and a fresh fascination with cannibalism, Soulfly show no signs of softening on this ninth album. Cavalera’s Brazilian posse chomp into “Cannibal Holocaust” with a gnarly thrash assault, but the real fun comes during “El Comegente,” an eight-minute, eardrum-eater sung in Portuguese and Spanish that Max and bassist Tony Campos wrote about a Venezuelan cannibal from the ’80s. Guests include Clutch’s Neil Fallon, who croons with Cavalera on the scorching “Ayatollah of Rock ‘N’ Rolla.” Overall, Max & Co.
Nine albums in, and it's been fun watching Max Cavalera and his merry crew go from disaffected nu-metal cavemen to respected heavy groove thrashers. The most interesting change this time is an impressive backbeat provided by Zyon Cavalera, Max's son, who we last heard from when his in-utero heartbeat was featured as the intro to Sepultura's Chaos A.D. Opener "Bloodshed" gets things going with a whimper, the seven-minute cut an anti-climactic way to start off another sprawling and varied Soulfly effort.
Everything about this album reeks of effort. There’s a lengthy press release, making a point of saying that guitarist Marc Rizzo has been in Soulfly longer than Max Cavalera was in Sepultura (rather glossing over the fact that the latter band produced Arise, Chaos AD, and Roots in much less time). Songs on Savages mostly clock in at five to eight minutes, exploring a wide variety of metal styles well beyond Soulfly’s traditional tribal groove – an eclecticism further bolstered by the handful of guest vocals sprayed over the album like an uncovered chesty cough.