April 1, 2012 by Dan Swinhoe
Along with death and taxes, there are certain musical certainties in this life- Motorhead will release albums until the end of time, Iggy Pop and Ozzy will continue to defy the medical world by simply being alive, and Max Cavalera will continue to release heavy records with his throaty growl all over them.
Over the last few albums Max and his Soulfly crew have steered more and more away from their tribal metal roots and further into nasty death and grind-tinted waters. And with their eighth release, Enslaved, Soulfly have released their heaviest and nastiest record yet. New drummer David Kinkade described Enslaved as “Arise on crack,” and he’s not far off, and relentlessness brutality is the name of the game. They will never attain the same acclaim as that Sepultura landmark, but there’s enough blackened thrash, grind and death to keep everyone happy.
Once the atmospheric opener Resistance fades out the opening whammy of World Scum and Gladiator are given the chance to peel the skin of your face off, and they do a pretty good job. World Scum was apparently the first song the band wrote with Kinkade, and he makes an instant impression, it’s all D and blast-beats, couple with Cattle Decapitation’s Travis Ryan guest vocals it’s a gloriously grim introduction. Gladiator and Legions are probably the highlight of the album, mixing classic Max vocals with the band’s newfound enthusiasm to beat you into suppression.
Longtime guitarist Mark Rizzo once again proves he’s a king among men. His riffs are still what drive Soulfly forward and through all the grind he still manages to keep you interested with flourishes of melody and time changes. While his solos are fairly limited on here, he still gets room to flex his fingers it’s a mystery why he isn’t in higher demand to guest on other albums (I’d like to see working on Phil Anselmo’s solo record), as time and time again he shows his versatility and class. Just look at his solo catalogue for proof if you need more.
The last couple of records (Omen and Conquer) were good but not great, having a few really memorable songs and plenty of shredathons that, despite being good, left as much of an impression as Nick Clegg at No.10. Enslaved follows that trend in having a handful of future classics in World Scum, Gladiator and Plata o Plomo, but the rest of the record stands up. But as a whole it works much better than the last couple of releases, the likes of Treachery and American Steel press all the right buttons.
Through all the grinding the tribal and world music influence have mostly been sidelined.The exception is Plata o Plomo (Silver or Lead), which could have been on Prophecy, with its latino-meets-thrash influences. Even the traditional genteel Soulfly instrumental has been relegated to the special edition as bonus track. The other two bonus tracks hold up well compared to the album proper; Bastards is a dead-ringer for Chaos AD-era Sepultura with its mix of punk and thrash while Slave is a solid heavy number that fits nicely with Enslaved‘s heavy feel but adds a few tribal drums in the background. Both deserve to be on the album proper far more than Revengeance. Featuring Max’s offspring, Richie (of Incite),Zyon and Igor, it’s nice to include the family in what you do, but the song is a jumble of different vocals that doesn’t really work.
It’s worth noting that the creative core of Max and Rizzo have settled into a routine of releasing either a Soulfly or Cavalera Conspiracy album every for the past five years. Now while they might not be all that different (Personally I’m a Soulfly man) it’s still impressive that the quality has remained impressively high, if not always hitting that classic status.
Enslaved is good, really good, it’s easily their best since Dark Ages. But it isn’t a classic, and there’s nothing that would surprise even a casual fan. But Soulfly have never been about changing metal. Originally it was about jumping da fuck up, and nowadays it’s mostly moshing until your neck snaps. Soulfly do exactly what they say on the tin, and when they manage to keep up this level of quality so regularly sometimes that’s enough.