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Cavalera Conspiracy > Psychosis > Reviews > Noise Maniakk
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.