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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.