Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Soulfly - The Dark Ages (Album Review)

Label: Roadrunner Records
Release Date: 3rd October 2005
Genre: Metal
*scroll for video below (Soulfly - Frontlines)

Track Listing:
1. Dark Ages
2. Babylon
3. I and I
4. Carved Inside
5. Arise Again
6. Molotov
7. Frontlines
8. Inner Spirit
9. Corrosion Creeps
10. Riotstarter
11. Bleak
12. (The) March
13. Fuel the Hate
14. Staystrong
15. Soulfly V

As of 2005 the current lineup of Soulfly is:

  • Max Cavalera (guitar and vocals)
  • Bobby Burns (bass)
  • Joe Nunez (drums - also on Primitive)
  • Marc Rizzo (guitar)
The last time I bought a Soulfly album, last year's Prophecy, I praised it as a strong album but was none too thrilled with Max Cavalera’s employment of the band’s trademark multi-instrumentation, oftentimes hopelessly misplaced and taking more away from the songs than it was adding. Now, he and his crew bring us Dark Ages, almost completely abandoning that trademark in favor of delivering their heaviest and possibly best album to date. In fact, we might want to refer to them this time around as “Soulpultura”.

After a brief intro, “Babylon” kicks in, and while it doesn’t sound a whole lot different from their previous heavier material, you can almost sense there is something brewing under the surface. It doesn’t hurt that the production is dirtier than normal, giving this track, and the rest of the album, a harder edge. About 45 seconds into “Carved Inside”, we hear the first shades of old school Sepultura, sounding almost like an outtake from the Arise album. It is no coincidence, then, that the next track, “Arise Again”, follows suit after about a minute of the standard Soulfly grooves. It wouldn’t be a Soulfly album without some special guests, and we get none other than Billy Milano dropping some vocals on the predominantly Spanish language track “Molotov”. In an interesting side note, conflicting schedules resulted in his parts being recorded via cell phone. Ah, technology.

This all gets taken to another level with “Frontlines”, which storms out of the gate with a riff taken right out of Beneath the Remains – and you thought Max didn’t have it in him anymore! The track comes complete with a quiet acoustic outro played over various battlefield noises. “Innerspirit” is classic Soulfly with the otherworldly voice of Kojot (Eyesburn), who also appeared on the track “Moses” from Prophecy, singing the chorus. This is one of the moments where the multi-instrumentation occurs, with acoustic guitars and bongos adding to the trippy vibe of this one. “Corrosion Creeps” has a bit of nu-metal feel to it, but that is sandwiched in between more of the fast, thrashy riffing that quickly becomes this album’s trademark. On the other hand, “Riotstarter” is more tribal techno than metal. It's interesting but a bit strange and out of place here. Thankfully, “Fuel the Hate” comes along and wipes any bad memories away with another ferocious thrash attack.

All the world music factors the band has been holding back on this whole time are finally unleashed on the latest installment of the “Soulfly” saga, aptly titled “Soulfly V”. A lengthy 11 minute journey of new age acoustic guitars that is ideal for communing with nature, or at least smoking a big fat bowl of it.

If you had given up on Soulfly long ago, or never even given them a chance, now is the time to correct that. Dark Ages combines the best parts of Sepultura with the best parts of Soulfly into an album that I just can’t seem to get enough of. Score another victory for Max with an album that is better than anything his former bandmates have released since his departure.