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After Max Cavalera left Brazilian legends Sepultura in 1996, he didn't have a pause in making music. He formed Soulfly almost immediately after his departure from the band he first formed, but didn't hurry in releasing his new band's music.
Sepultura did change a lot during over ten years of existence, that Max was in the band. From primitive black/thrash metal act to world traveling giants of thrash metal, they assumed far more simplified power chord driven, ehh... drivel, to put it nicely! Sepultura's 1998 album 'Against' was badly lacking, especially in songwriting. So is Soulfly's debut. In my wildest dreams, I was waiting for back-to-thrash style stuff from Max, but no. With this debut, Max continued with simple power chord driven stuff. The album lacks of memorable songs. And when the music is simple as this, some songs are way too long as is the whole album! Soulfly's "jump metal" is accompanied by HC stuff, but also by traditional Brazilian music and bits of various different music styles, for example, sadly, rap!!! These accompanying styles liven up this power chord stuff quite a bit, minus the rap shite, but still the album gets tired during its long duration. Basically, this is Max's 'Roots part 2' in my ears, 'Bumbklaatt' being the closest reference point, even its' drumming is so fucking Igor Cavalera-esque.
This is performed with energy, no doubt about that, but production isn't very raw or dirty as it should be. Max had lost some close people and this was his therapy to overcome his losses. There's a couple of feel-good songs, though (e.g. soccer song 'Umbabarauma'). Lyrics vary from Max's personal feelings to Brazilian every day life. It's always good to hear Max's rough voice, but then again, his "solos" are more like random guitar noise (which on 'No Hope = No Fear' happens to sound like angry Donald Duck, believe me!). And all "fucks" and "motherfuckers" are a bit old, eh?
Maybe Max and Sepultura guys were much more a force than they want to reckon nowadays. We will probably hear no another album from classic Sepultura line-up. Anyways, I picked up the latest Soulfly album 'Dark Ages', because someone mentioned "thrash bits" on it, and I must say it's much, much better and more deliberate one from Max!
About the remix/live bonus disc: I don't know about remix styles and do not care to know about them. However, the remixes are more varying than the album itself, but do not provide any listening pleasure for my ears. Concert recordings are okay with heavy sound and live atmosphere. Remixes are for gay lemonade alcohol drinkers, live tracks for beer swelling bastards. Roadrunner Records have a fucking annoying habit to release their year-old releases for a second time with a bonus disc. Buggers!
(originally written for ArchaicMetallurgy.com in 2006)
Of all the abominable nu-metal acts that sprung up toward the end of the 90's, none hold as dear (read: bitter) a place in my metal heart as Soulfly. Why? It's because Max Cavalera did what I had hoped to be impossible - he ruined his own career even more profoundly than Chris Barnes did with Six Feet Under. Truly, it leaves me appalled when I watch footage of Sepultura from the early 90's and see the raw energy and passion the Cavalera Bros & Co had, only to know that the band I'm watching is nearly twenty years past their glory days and its former frontman went on to start a music project which is so insultingly bad that most of the metal fan base finds it approximately as appealing as a Sunday school teacher finds video footage of a partial-birth abortion. But alas, this is ancient history in the metal world, and there is no option but to move on and accept it.
Hoping that I would finally be able to approach Soulfly with an open mind after all this time, I prepared myself for listening to their debut record by placing myself in the proper mindset, ready to be floored by slamming riffs and spiritually moved by the tribal passages, ultimately coming out of the listening experience as a stronger and more enriched human being. This did not happen. Instead, I was greeted by some low, rumbling noise. For a few moments, I waited in eager anticipation to hear the powerful crescendo and transition into the opening riffs, but it never came. The transition into the opening riff of Eye for an Eye consists of one snare drum hit. The riff that follows this less-than-subtle intro is actually rather promising and reasonably catchy, bordering on being acceptable as groove metal. The problem, however, is that the opening track is in no way indicative of what lies ahead.
Actually, that's not entirely true. The bad parts of Eye for an Eye could be considered accurate foreshadowing of what is to come, including insipid lyrics with passages that get repeated over and over, screeching "solos" and samples, pointless interludes featuring tribal drumming, and a TOTALLY SIKK breakdown that's so br00tal that all the mall kiddies pinch nerves in their necks while headbanging to it. Sarcasm and satire aside, if the rest of the album was of the same quality as the opening track, I would not find it nearly as detestable as I do. Unfortunately, as soon as Eye for an Eye ends, the listener is promptly sent to nu-metal hell, from which the only escape is reaching the end of the CD.
No Hope = No Fear is an effective summary of the remaining contents of the record, subtly warning us that there is no hope whatsoever from this point onward. The most egregious offender, though, is Bleed. Promoted heavily at the time of the album's release, to the point that a music video was made for it, Bleed was deemed the obligatory "hit single" off this record. However, it's just another obligatory hit to the crotch, and a microcosm of the nu-metal movement. "Creepy" screeching noises, rapped lyrics about pain and insanity that are so overdone they actually sound more angsty than angry, profanity thrown around to show all the eleven year-olds that Soulfly are gangstaz, a one-word chorus that is shouted several times over while the vocal track alternates between the left and right speakers, a breakdown laden with BRING IT taunts... Bleed has it all.
And really, it never improves from there. In the spots where the music isn't downright awful, every potentially promising moment is inevitably ruined. Whenever the tribal drums and chanting comes in, Soulfly desecrates it by adding more of that screeching sample shit to it and adding growling to the vocals. Whenever there's a riff that starts to grow on you, it promptly ends and descends into a breakdown, at which point you will most assuredly be informed via rapped lyrics that you enjoy fucking your mother. Whenever Soulfly comes to what they believed to be an awesome chorus, they hammer the point home by repeating it at least half a dozen times before moving on. Not even the closing instrumental track can lend the album any credence, as it consists entirely of sampled noises and bullshit so common in nu-metal.
What can I really say in summary? I wanted to be able to say that this album is completely void of creativity and is where metal went to die, but it is not. The most unfortunate fault of this album is that you can tell throughout that Max and his crew are being completely serious. They really were exercising their creativity, and they really did give it an honest effort. The result, perhaps to all eyes other than their own, is a revolting album with few, if not zero, redeeming qualities. It has bits and pieces derived from the likes of Korn, Limp Bizkit, and Slipknot, all wrapped up in its own unique package courtesy of the tribal influences - and yes, it really is just as awful as that description sounds.
The year is 1996, Max Cavalera has just left Sepultura after the release of the album Roots and his stepson Dana Wells was murdered. He formed Soulfly and about two years later this album is the result.
Let's cut the shit and get to the shit, starting with Bleed. This is by far the worst song on the album. Bleed may not be the worst song I've ever heard (pretty sure that honor belongs to Nicki Minaj or Rebecca Black), but it is the rock-bottom pit on this album with its vapid aggro-metal grooves, annoying electronic squeal and the wiggerapping of Fred Durst. The first half is dominated by bland and boring nu-metal songs. Eye For An Eye, No Hope = No Fear, Bumba, First Commandment and Bumbklaatt are five songs that I don't give a single fuck about. Bleed only gets excluded for being how terrible it is. Tribe is skipped because it is the first song that I can call listenable. So the chorus isn't exactly mind-blowing genius, and it's still nu-metal, but the idea of this song isn't GRR ME ANGRY caveman metal, but rather a near seemless integration of tribal rhythms with groove-laden downtuned guitar. In future albums, Soulfly excels at utilizing tribal and world music, and those ideas are present here in a primordial state.
The later half of the album is quite a bit more diverse. Umbabarauma continues the primordial, tribal groove but in a much different way - this being a cover of a Brasilian samba-rock song by Jorgen Ben Jor. At least I think this is "samba-rock", it's distinctly Brasilian but has a downtuned hard-rock backing riff that has distinctive 70s hard rock characteristics. Perhaps the most primordial song on the album is paradoxically the most intricate and beautiful - the title track, Soulfly, the first instrumental of a series of instrumental jams that is included on every Soulfly album to date. It's calm melody is backed by a gentle conga rhythm, with very very slight traces of distortion - especially during one of the few guitar solos (there are some, such as on Fire) that appear on the album. Quilombo is a tribute to a 17th century Brasilian slave hero named Zumbi, except it is ruined by DJ Lethal of Limp Bizkit barging in and farting in his awful scratches. Fire is a song in the vein of Tribe that has a distinct guitar sound to it, not quite the same as the nu-metal groove of the other songs, but rather reminds me of the overdrive on stoner-rock songs. The Song Remains Insane is a cover that kills two birds with one stone, both of them hardcore birds, one being Caos by Ratos de Porão and the other Sepultura's song Attitude at a frenetic hardcore pace. No and Prejudice continues the nu-metal of the first half of the album, and though Prejudice has lyrics that are against racism and all that honorable shit, the song still doesn't impress. The album ends with Karmageddon, an atmospheric outro with a tribal beat and some drone over top.
Overall, Soulfly's debut album is not the worst album ever made, but it's no masterpiece. It is disjointed but diverse, there are some good songs on here with the highlights being Soulfly, Umbabarauma, Tribe and The Song Remains Insane. The rest are low with Bleed being especially low.