By Brandon “B-Mac” McCarthy
Hard to imagine that it has been over 20 years since Soulfly invaded our ears with their combination of groove metal and thrash metal. Ever since the band’s head honcho Max Cavalera left his first successful group, Sepultura, in 1996 to form his new metal creation, Soulfly has been on the war path. They have had their ups and downs, along with many lineup changes, but this group has somehow stayed intact, and has continued to produce quality headbanging material, especially on their latest LP, Ritual. This album marks the first for new bassist Mike Leon, who joined Soulfly in 2015 after Tony Campos recorded Archangel and left to join Fear Factory. Produced brilliantly by Josh Wilburn, the band’s 3rd album with Nuclear Blast Records has it all. The album is armed to the teeth with sneering grows and screams, meaty riffs, supreme solos by lead guitarist Marc Rizzo, and fast-paced wailing by drummer Zyon Cavalera, Max’s son.
Indian chants start off on the first track, “Ritual,” before it goes into the massive riff. Rizzo is lightning fast with his solo, while Max lets his anger be heard in his voice. That is the way to kick off the record. On “Dead Behind the Eyes,” death metal comes into play. Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe lends his voice on this track. Together, both he and Max play off each other’s voices very well. “The Summoning” makes Ritual go into turbo overdrive. The lyrics go into a very religious place. Max loves diving into this subject, and I feel he lets the listener enter that part of his world for just a bit. There are no solos, but Max and Rizzo work beautifully together to create this melodic riff. “Evil Empowered” is one of my favorites off the album. It is a political tirade urging the masses to rise above their corruption. Zyon does a masterful job on this track. His drumming technique is insane; he could take on his uncle Igor in a drum off any day. They go back to full-blown death metal mode with “Under Rapture.” Ross Dolan of Immolation helps Max bury us with his snarling death vocals. Rizzo keeps adding pulsating solos that I love to hear. Even Leon soloed a bit with a crunchy bass beat. 5 songs down, and 5 to go.
“Demonized” starts off with a little flamenco guitar, adding a nice Latin flavor to the song. This song is probably their most melodic and mellow like off the entire album. It is still fast and heavy, but it is more approachable; very Pantera. Zyon plays this jungle like beat in the beginning of “Blood On the Street” before firing on all cylinders. Lyrically, it is about enslaving and forcing conformity. Next to James Hetfield and Lars Ulrich, Max is probably one of the best modern metal lyricists out there. Next comes “Bite the Bullet,” another personal favorite. There is some insane shredding that reminds a little of Iron Maiden. While Max howls the verses, Zyon goes into rapid fire mode with the drum beats. “Feedback!” has an old-school metal sound that is very 1980s. Max proudly chants “Um, dois, três, quatro/ Not a fucking regret!” This “in-your-face” tune makes me want to mosh right now. We reached the finish line with “Soulfly XI,” a Latin jazz fusion instrumental. Ending it with a jazz number is strange, but somehow, it exotic nature helps cool off my engines. Soulfly made a bold choice.
I thought Ritual was not a great record…it was a far, far better than I thought. Max was able to go back to his roots of heavy metal while still pushing boundaries of what his group is capable of. Almost every song has something for every metalhead to enjoy hearing. Whether it is death metal, old school thrash, soul-crashing black metal, or infectious groove metal, Soulfly have outdid themselves with this record. I heard being played at their album release party with Jose Mangin, and the fans loved it. The expressions on their faces was all the proof I needed. To Soulfly, I salute you. Horns up!!! 10/10
2. Dead Behind the Eyes
3. The Summoning
4. Evil Empowered
5. Under Rapture
7. Blood on the Street
8. Bite the Bullet
10. Soulfly XI
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