Released: 2008, Roadrunner Records
Reviewer: Lord of the Wasteland
It has been a long and steady climb for Max Cavalera since isolating an entire generation of fans after departing Brazilian thrashers Sepultura in 1996 and forming the nu-metal-influenced Soulfly. That band’s 1998 debut had it’s finer moments (and others not so fine, especially the appearance of Limp Bizkit’s Fred Durst and Cypress Hill) but 2000’s PRIMITIVE was such a sprawling mess with umpteen guest stars that it seemed Max had lost his way completely. Bouncing back with 3, PROPHECY and 2005’s stellar DARK AGES, each album has seen Soulfly coming back—slowly but surely—to a viable metal band once again. On Soulfly’s sixth album (WOW!), CONQUER, it seems Max has finally got his groove back and for the most part, ditched the world music/tribal experimentation, nu-metal relics and directionless feel of earlier releases. Indeed, CONQUER is the album that a lot of fans have been waiting for Max to release since CHAOS A.D. and it is easily the best Soulfly album yet.
Lead guitarist Marc Rizzo has been Soulfly’s secret weapon since he first joined the band for 2004’s PROPHECY and once again, he really shines on CONQUER. Whether shredding through solos on “Warmageddon” or exploring his flamenco roots on the Santana-like “Soulfly VI,” Rizzo forces the listener to take notice whenever he is in the spotlight. Soulfly’s trademark groove remains intact on “Unleash” (featuring Dave Peters of Throwdown on vocals and sounding more Philip Anselmo-ish than ever) but it’s Max’s return to his thrash metal roots on tracks like “Blood Fire War Hate” (featuring Morbid Angel vocalist, David Vincent) and “For Those About To Rot” that his detractors might be able to forgive the last fifteen years. Vocally, Max hasn’t sounded as pissed off as he does on tracks like “Rough,” “Blood Fire War Hate” and “Fall of The Sycophants” since the Nailbomb record so this side of him is a welcome return. Undoubtedly, his reunion with brother Iggor Cavalera on this year’s Cavalera Conspiracy record showed Max can still identify with the intensity of a stripped-down, back-to-basics record and that has trickled into the new Soulfly album, too.
There is still a fair amount of musical diversity on CONQUER but it never seems out of place. Max breaks out his trusty berimbau once again for the funky reggae outro to “Doom” but it actually suits the song quite well and doesn’t feel tacked on or forced unlike many past ventures. The dark, mid-paced—and slightly nu-metallish chug of—“Touching The Void” has a distinct Middle Eastern flair and boasts a throbbing bassline from long-time four-stringer, Bobby Burns but, again, the epic feel to the song never loses sight of the overall sound of the record. In fact, the entire second half of the album features little interludes that transition into the next track but rather than becoming the entrée for the listener on past releases, they have finally become a side dish.
INFLIKTED proved that Max Cavalera still has some fire in his belly but I was really curious what the new Soulfly record would sound like, especially after DARK AGES felt like he was making his way back to form again. CONQUER really never disappoints and I find it difficult to find any fault with the record at all, something that five years ago was the complete opposite when deconstructing a new Soulfly release. The long-rumored (and just as quickly dispelled from both sides) reunion with Sepultura may be a ways away yet if Max keeps the momentum going with Soulfly and CONQUER is definitely another step on the path to redemption.
KILLER KUTS: “Blood Fire War Hate,” “Unleash,” “Warmageddon,” “Rough,” “Fall of The Sycophants,” “Doom,” “For Those About To Rot”