Released: 2005, Roadrunner Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
Max Cavalera is back with album number five under the Soulfly name, this one entitled DARK AGES. Many are calling this his best album since leaving Sepultura in 1997 and while that is debatable, there are many shining moments here of past glories. Much like 2004’s PROPHECY, the numerous guest appearances have been whittled down and the nu-metal vibe is also waning in favor of straight-ahead metal and crunching riffs. Performance-wise, DARK AGES sees the return of the same lineup from the PROPHECY album which is a good thing. Marc Rizzo’s leads and riffing are blazing throughout the CD and the rhythm section of Bobby Burns and Joe Nunez provide a solid backbone. Even Cavalera himself hasn’t sounded this enraged, clear and determined in years. Unfortunately, the increasingly frustrating pattern of an album that is at both ends of the quality scale continues to dominate. While DARK AGES features some of the most “metal” moments Cavalera has laid down since CHAOS A.D., the middle third of the album completely goes off the deep end into an experimental mish-mash of tracks that seem to have been thrown together on a whim. Recorded in the U.S., Serbia, Russia, Turkey and France, DARK AGES sees Cavalera exploring world music more than ever before, incorporating Mediterranean strings, church bells, tribal chanting and flamenco guitar into the tracks. This experimentation should be done separately from the Soulfly name—much like Karl Sanders did with his solo project last year—and focus on metal, which is what the people want.
“Babylon” is one of the best tracks Cavalera has done in years. The parallels to “Roots Bloody Roots” are numerous with thunderous drums, a serpentine riff that snakes throughout and his immediately recognizable shouted vocals. “I and I,” “Arise Again,” “Frontlines” and “Fuel The Hate” are thrashy tracks that could have been taken from as far back as the ARISE record, which should please fans hungry for Cavalera to return to that sound. “Carved Inside” shows the hardcore influence that permeated Cavalera’s consciousness on the CHAOS A.D. record and his vocals are eerily reminiscent of that era, as well. Likewise, the blink-and-you’ll-miss-it hardcore-flavored “Molotov” features a phoned-in (literally) vocal performance from Billy Milano (S.O.D./M.O.D.). Things begin to turn sour with “Innerspirit,” a hackneyed attempt at clean vocals and “Corrosion Creeps,” a track filled with every nu-metal cliché imaginable, beginning the inevitable downward spiral of DARK AGES. “Riotstarter” is atrocious and even with ex-Megadeth bassist Dave Ellefson making his second Soulfly guest appearance, as the tribal intro segues into what sounds like a leftover from his Nailbomb project and “(The) March,” similarly, could be a Nine Inch Nails song. Even the overly-long faux-core of “Staystrong” could have been edited down into half its length without missing a thing. The always interesting “Soulfly” instrumentals continue here, this time featuring a lush, progressive arrangement and Rizzo’s fabled flamenco guitar skills in full force for a fifth installment.
Now that things seem to have settled down with all the lineup changes, what Cavalera needs to do is focus on crafting an album that will out-metal, out-thrash and leave all the naysayers with their jaws on the floor. DARK AGES continues to drift away from the nu-metal ugliness that plagued Soulfly when it first emerged in 1998. Like its predecessor, shreds of greatness are everywhere and in many places, Soulfly sounds more like Sepultura does these days but there are still some demons that plague the Soulfly albums that need to be exorcised before all will be forgotten. DARK AGES is another step in the right direction and I believe that if I squint my eyes, I can see that album coming in the very near future.
KILLER KUTS: “Babylon,” “I and I,” “Carved Inside,” “Arise Again,” “Fuel The Hate”