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Cavalera Conspiracy > Psychosis > Reviews
Cavalera Conspiracy - Psychosis

Max's last truly great work to date - and what a banger! - 88%

Noise Maniakk, May 24th, 2023

It still amazes me to this day how, back in 2017, the Cavalera brothers managed to pull themselves up after the clamorous misfire that their "grindcore-but-not-really" 2014 record was. As noble as their intentions were, anything that could go wrong on "Pandemonium" just went horribly wrong: the obnoxiously boring songwriting, the half-assed execution, the abysmal pseudo-lofi sound. And then, as if anything didn't happen, they came back three years later with "Psychosis" - the absolute best Cavalera Conspiracy work to date, and the one that comes closer to truly honor the project's original mission: resurrecting the spirit of old school Sepultura.

Max Cavalera said this wasn't an easy album to make: they didn't just record the songs once, they repeated the process multiple times in order to improve 'em and make 'em as good as they could, and it really shows: riff-wise, this is easily Max's most inspired work in the latest decade. In theory, I'd say only Soulfly's "Archangel" could surpass it - but on that album, Marc Rizzo's songwriting input could be heard much more than on here, coming to Max's rescue whenever he felt like he was struggling with inspiration. Here, the riffing is unmistakably Max, without any doubt nor ambiguity - and wow man, this is some of the thrashiest material he's ever churned out in his post-"Arise" days!

As if wasn't clear enough from the first two paragraphs of this review (and from the almost Cogumelo-era looking logo on the album cover), the main inspiration for "Psychosis" comes from Sepultura's early deathrashing days, especially the "Schizophrenia" / "Beneath the Remains" / "Arise" era. Quite an ambitious goal, since those are some of the best metal albums of all time. And yet, despite a relatively more minimalistic and straightforward compositional approach (at this point, intrinsic to Max's modern songwriting style) compared to the aforementioned masterpieces, the Cavaleras still managed to craft the most powerful, dynamic, riff-filled tunes they've ever released under this moniker. Only a few select tunes from past albums (most of them on the debut - think of "Hex", "Nevertrust" or "Sanctuary") can truly compete with this set of killer tracks.

Right from the start, you know what you're in for: "Insane" opens the album with a clear nod to Sepultura's legendary 1987 track "From the Past Comes the Storms", while still keeping its own identity and structure (differently from how done some time later on the more redundant Soulfly track "Dead Behind the Eyes", from the "Ritual" album), and thrashes hard with a savage riff-set that sends you back to the "Arise" days. But the best is yet to come: when the ultra-fast, tremolo-driven section of "Impalement Execution" comes in, you know the album has just started playing its best chess moves. And they abundantly manifest on "Crom", a track that almost has a Death's "Scream Bloody Gore" vibe to it, with its awesome "Infernal Death"-like cadenced intro, then blasting into an ultra-intense, tremolo-laden fast section that reminds you of how Max Cavalera reached his status as a metal legend (that is, through fucking riffs of course!). Other smash hits include the insanely fast and violent "Judas Pariah" (with Igor hitting the drums like a possessed animal and Max churning out some ultra-minimal, black/death-inspired riffing vaguely echoing the "Bestial Devastation" / "Morbid Visions" days) and the final track "Excruciating", my personal favorite off the album, with some truly addictive thrashy riffage (both during the fast and the bouncy mid-paced sections) warranting for countless repeated listens. Man, the only post-"Arise" albums where I've heard Max coming this close to early Sepultura are "Dark Ages" and "Conquer" - and even there it was only limited to fewer tunes peppered throughout the tracklist, such as "Frontlines", "Blood Fire War Hate" or "Fall of the Sycophants". Here it's way more consistent.

And yet, this album also has a different side I haven't touched on yet: electronic experimentation! Maybe as a callback to Nailbomb, "Psychosis" is filled with cool, weird industrial/ambient interludes, often serving as a sendoff to the songs once they've run their course (as in the case of "Crom" and "Excruciating"). The amount of samples and interludes throughout the record gives it a much appreciated "dystopian" vibe, and it gets even better: the track "Hellfire" features none other than Justin Broadrick, of Godflesh fame, on vocals! This song is a dream come true for me: it bears a delightful early-90's industrial metal feel, with sampled, almost hiphop-like beats in the perfect Godflesh fashion (some of them really heavy, loud and clanging), an overwhelmingly groovy feel that almost seems to have come out of the original "Pure" sessions, and some beautiful, noisy guitar soundscapes setting the mood for Justin's and Max's hoarse shouts. After some minutes of pounding industrial madness, the song beautifully disintegrates into glitchy, "Matrix"-like mayhem. This collaboration between two of my favorite musicians was a wonderful addition to an already strong album, and it was made even more special by the fact that Godflesh's awaited new record "Post Self" came out the same day of "Psychosis".

At this point, with my fanboy-ish over-enthusiasm already on full display, you may be wondering why I didn't give this album a 90+ score. Well... unfortunately, despite the undeniable amount of amazing songwriting and great Cavalera-certified riffage, "Psychosis" isn't as perfect and consistent as I wished it would be: there's quite a bit of filler material that drags it down and breaks the flow, especially during the first half. "Terror Tactics" is an overlong, run-of-the-mill thrasher with ultra-trite riffing and a really boring final breakdown, even though the middle section is better than I remembered. However, the lesser track on here is without a doubt lead single "Spectral War" (look, a modern metal album where the lead single is the worst track, why am I not surprised?). Regardless of what some diehard 80's Sepultura fans might say, I want to stress that Max Cavalera was once capable of writing amazing grooves, just perfect in their stunning simplicity, and better than 99% of his competitors in that field - yet, during the latest decade, he's been running out of groove fuel, and now his groovy riffs aren't that good anymore. That also applies to "Spectral War": in a desperate attempt to recapture the early-90's grooving energy of a "Chaos A.D." or a "Point Blank", this song just chugs and plods along with mediocre, forgettable riffing, doing nothing and further contributing to slow down such an otherwise high-energy album. Even "Impalement Execution" takes a while to truly get going, but once it does... well, I've already told you what you're in for. On the other hand, the proggy, acoustic instrumental "Psychosis" is a nice touch, and proves useful as a way to catch your breath between the album's two most intense tracks. Not that different from your average Soulfly *insert album number here* tribal instrumental, after all.

It hurts me to say that "Psychosis" remains to this day the last Cavalera album I'd be willing to fully recommend anyone. Soulfly's "Ritual", the second Killer Be Killed album, the Go Ahead and Die side-project and Soulfly's latest record "Totem" did very little for me, showing Max's gradual deterioration as a once almighty riff-maker (further worsened by Marc Rizzo's recent defection after years of tireless fidelity). I wish Max would continue down this path of recapturing the original "Schizophrenia"/"Beneath"/"Arise" spirit, as he did on this album: his riffing here does show, if only for the very last time, some of the prowess, creativity and dedication he used to have during Sepultura's golden years to find new, exciting riff combinations and patterns as a means to express something artistically meaningful and amaze his listeners through sheer, authentic death/thrash intensity. Now, unfortunately, the best thing the Cavalera brothers seem to be capable of is going back and re-record their old masterpieces, depriving them of their original naiveté and lo-fi glory (even though I'm still kinda curious for the two new songs made of unused ideas from the 80's). I still hope, against all odds, to see Max find his way again, getting out of his current comfort zone of tired run-of-the-mill metal cliches as he was mostly capable of doing with this record.

Welcome back - 88%

HyperionTwelve, February 23rd, 2023

In the age of mostly same-y and boring thrash metal that we're currently going through, and have been going through for a long time, this album came completely out of left field. I won't act like Max Cavalera hasn't been actively writing music with multiple bands since he left Sepultura at the turn of the millennium, but nothing has been nearly up to the quality of what he wrote with his original band. Soulfly is disliked by many for starting out as a nu-metal band (which I don't mind because their first two albums are kickass nu-metal), but even as they moved into thrash metal, their music never really stuck with me. It was the same situation with the first three Cavalera Conspiracy albums, they weren't bad though I wouldn't go back to them often... but when I heard Psychosis for the first time I was completely blown away.

The album opens with 'Insane', which is a very appropriate title for the song as it immediately jumps into a deadly assault of double bass and galloping riffs to remind the listener that they're not dead yet. It's immediately clear just how much effort went into writing and producing this album from the first minute. The guitar tone is as visceral as it's ever been, and it's still perfectly balanced with the drums, bass, and vocals in order to make sure everything is a priority in the mix.

The other instruments shouldn't be overlooked either. I'd argue this is some of the best drumming from Igor in his entire career, and guest musician Arthur Rizk does a great job keeping up with the Cavalera brothers in his extremely proficient bass playing. While Max's vocals aren't that different from what he's been doing for the last twenty or so years, it still feels like they have more life to them than before, like Max knew that this album was gonna be something special and gave him a second wind. Either way, his ferocious barking and shouting works great with the material on the album.

On the topic of the album's material, it's incredibly varied. There's the obvious thrash/death metal skeleton of the album as they're focused on reclaiming the glory of early Sepultura, but they also make sure to bring in their other influences to prevent it from being one dimensional. Songs like 'Terror Tactics' and 'Spectral War' boast elements of hardcore punk and beatdown (even a few d-beat moments), while 'Crom' and 'Judas Pariah' go the exact opposite direction and feature some instrumentation you would expect from black metal and war metal. The instrumental title track is comprised pretty much entirely of tribal beats and some keyboards, calling back to the world music influences from Roots and early Soulfly.

What can't be forgotten is the other tracks I haven't mentioned, because holy shit... they might just be the best songs either of the Cavalera's have written since 1993. 'Spectral War', one of two leadoff singles from the album besides the aforementioned opening track, is the perfect fusion of the groove from Chaos A.D. and the thrash/melody of Arise, and 'Excruciating' is Beneath The Remains reimagined in the modern era with a more violent punch and some death metal riffs that remind me of early British acts like Cancer and Benediction.

While I'll give Max a pass for some of the lyrics considering they're all written in his second language, the album isn't perfect for another reason, and that's the sixth track 'Hellfire'. The song is obviously a rehashing of Nailbomb's very industrial hardcore/thrash metal sound, but it feels very out of place on an album like this. Especially between two very fury-driven tracks, it completely disrupts the flow of the tracks and brings the overall experience down a little (I do respect that they tried it though, Point Blank is one of my favorite experimental albums).

To put my final thesis simply; writing this album off for any reason is a mistake. There aren't many albums that can stand out in a long line of mediocrity to bring fire back into the soul of a band (think Acts Of God by Immolation, or Obituary's self-titled), but it's great to see when it does happen. Even though it has been six years now since the album came out, I'm hoping that Max and Igor put out another album as good as this or better if they record another one together, and if not... what a way to go out with a fucking bang.

Two Brazillian Times Better - 73%

Tanuki, July 4th, 2019

Cavalera Conspiracy's crusty caveman craft couldn't court their comfortless coterie with crude, coprolitic curbstomps like Inflicted. They were, to put things charitably, the The Haunted to Sepultura's At the Gates: a passionless, thuggish substitute that could offer only the occasional spark of recollective genius. (Though I'll admit Revolver and The Dead Eye were both pretty tight.) Pandemonium was another such spark, appearing to have strapped Chaos A.D to the top of a ziggurat, cut out its heart and consumed it, thereby absorbing its power. To go from penning two incoherent, random piles of smoldering groove refuse, to a vivid treatise like Pandemonium was unlikely enough, yet along comes Psychosis to set the bar even higher.

Full disclosure, I've gone on record saying this was the best album of 2017; an accolade earned in similar fashion to how Power Trip's Nightmare Logic earned everyone else's. Psychosis does not invent any new wheels, nor does it pile a stack of increasingly meaningless thrash riffs onto your head like an endgame Jenga tower, until the entire structure inevitably collapses. It simply takes hold of your shoulders. Rears its head back. And smashes its forehead into your own with the force of an anti-aircraft cannon. This album is angry, and it wants you in pain. And so presumably the question on everyone's pursed lips is "Does it sound like Sepultura?"

I'm afraid there isn't a simple binary answer for that. Certainly the full-throttle riffs of 'Excruciating' and 'Terror Tactics' seem to have taken inspiration from Arise, though in equal measure they sound reminiscient of Sepultura's underrated Dante XXI. Unlike the soul-crushing efflux it was surrounded by, Dante XXI had no fear of high speeds, and at the whim of Derrick Green, some much-needed punk and hardcore sensibilities were injected into the nu-metal chugfest the band had become. Psychosis tells a similar tale, holding onto some valueless heirlooms of their groove heritage like a delusional hoarder, but allowing themselves to part with more and more junk, until all that remains in their possession are balls-out blitzkriegs like 'Insane' and 'Judas Pariah'.

Now see, Cavalera brothers, was that so hard? I should specify that while Blunt Force Trauma had no problem going fast either, it was decorated with some of the laziest, most processed blastbeats in existence. Here, Igor sounds like a new man, pummeling the kit with astounding creativity and unrelenting force. Max Cavalera, too, sounds rejuvenated, bellowing into the mic like an enraged berserker fresh off the longship. 'Insane' is a particularly effective showcase of vocals, as there's a decidedly deranged approach to lyricism. If anyone can decipher "Your name is call, I thee invoke", you might be just as crazy as Max.

So about those flaws, then; surely you didn't think a Cavalera Conspiracy album could be without them. Considering the brutal, tribal aesthetic they've adopted, their defiant electronic exploration seems awfully misguided. Much like Pandemonium, there's an assortment of industrial synth sweeps, reversed drum patterns for the hell of it, distorted vocal filters, and a fair few songs degenerate into synthesized white noise. To frame things very generously, I feel they may have been trying to articulate a "man vs machine" narrative, where a mighty ancient civilization crumbles and becomes an emotionless, mechanized society. That's the only explanation I have for why the final track 'Excruciating' has such an excruciatingly boring, melodramatic ending, anyway.

Begin the Spectral War - 82%

psychoticnicholai, December 24th, 2017

Is it 1991 again? Because Cavalera Conspiracy’s new album Psychosis feels like something that’s as fierce as something we’d get from these Brazilian brothers in the early 1990s. It seems to revisit some of the biggest and loudest points in the careers of both brothers with the overall sound of this album feeling like an aggressive and warlike revisit of Chaos A.D. and Arise throughout with bits of Max’s old side project Nailbomb thrown into the latter half. Psychosis mixes all of this together into a bright-burning molotov cocktail of extreme metal that feels as though Max and Igor have been rejuvenated and acquired a lust for speed and bloodshed. Psychosis has the thrashing energy for real terror.

Don’t expect a bunch of chugs on here. This album instead runs on speed and barrages of savage guitars. Even the groovier songs sound angrier, more ferocious, and downright hellish compared to what we normally expect from a modern Cavalera album. Rapid-fire drums and menacing riffs break you into the album and give you a hint as to the torrent of terror you’ve just entered. The first half of Psychosis is a ferocious volley of menacing thrash as the opening number “Insane” demonstrates quite clearly with its raw speed and rage. It can also handle groovier sounds while maintaining the menace, with “Spectral War” mixing groove riffs and thrash pacing to create a song that feels like being trampled under thousands of charging hooves. Max’s vocals are still as vicious as ever and make the atmosphere all the more chaotic. On terms of the musical backbone of Psychosis, It’s strong as rebar and covered in spikes.

Psychosis sounds positively evil and does some calling back to the sounds of Sepultura’s glory days. It doesn’t totally match up to how iconic Arise or Chaos A.D. were. However, you can tell that Cavalera Conspiracy is trying to hit new heights rather than simply pumping another album out to stay alive. “Spectral War” is energetic, evil, and memorable, as are other songs on this album. They sound like songs that were written to be remembered and replayed like the band had channeled all of their fury into this. This album also stretches the boundaries a bit by using Nailbomb-esque industrial elements on some later tracks. These tracks aren’t especially mind-blowing, but the industrial elements mesh well with the music at large, and overall are still decent, just not as blisteringly savage as the earlier songs. It at least shows a willingness to still experiment even after all these years, and to make their experimentation go smoothly with their core sound. That is something that I find commendable from a band like this that tends to get brushed aside as a side attraction to Soulfly and Sepultura. They resurrect the old strong sound and infuse it with some new power.

Psychosis feels like an album that took the best parts of the Cavalera brothers’ careers and decided to not only pay tribute to them, but revive them in such a way that they feel reinvigorated and just as crunchy as ever. This may not hold a candle to classic Sepultura albums, but it tries the hardest it can to get up to that level and delivers some pretty ripping songs in the process. Psychosis pounds, shreds and smashes while staying as menacing and vicious as one hundred clones of the warrior on the front cover. Whether it’s the manic thrashing songs, the imposing march-like groovier pieces, or even the noisy industrial bits, you always feel like you’re under siege from Cavalera Conspiracy’s assault. This album hit me way harder than I expected. It may not be a game-changing masterpiece, but Psychosis shows us that the bros from Brazil can still deliver super savage metal even after all these years and all the stylistic shifts. Granted, the outro narration on the last minute of the last track is cheesy, but after listening to the other forty minutes of this blast from the past, I think they can get a pass on that.

(Originally Written for The Metal Observer)