Review: Soulfly – ‘Totem’

Album number twelve from Soulfly comes flying out of the traps with the turbo-charged opening track ‘Superstition’ and the first studio output to bear Max Cavalera’s name since Killer Be Killed’s 2020 opus ‘Reluctant Hero’ bursts loose with a furious shot of adrenaline-packed extreme metal. The trademark Cavalera tribal percussion is lurking in the background and slowly unravels itself into the very fabric of the three-minute track which at times almost borders on industrial metal – Al Jourgensen and Cavalera together, what a glorious racket that would be. The bellowing vocals from Cavalera mesh perfectly with the huge riffs from ‘Totem’’s co-producer Arthur Rizk and the impressive drum work from Zyon Cavalera. This one is going to slay when performed live, and it’s easy to imagine the strobe lights breaking through the darkness as chaos ensues.

John Tardy from Obituary lends his grizzled vocals to the blistering ‘Scouring the Vile’, a track that Cavalera calls “Soulfly’s personal fuck you letter to cancer!”, and the end result is one of the standout moments on the album. ‘Filth Upon Filth’ is another standout moment, and again – to these ears at least – that industrial vibe from earlier is back looming large. Not keyboard-influenced industrial; that same buzzsaw guitar ferocity and spat-out lyrics that Ministry excels at. ‘Rot In Pain’ shakes things up with an intro that sounds totally freeform and cooked up on the spot (mostly down to the sliding guitar scales and Zyon’s snazzy drum fills) before going down the well-trodden path of Slayer-like riffs and subtle percussion that only becomes apparent through a decent pair of cans. The title track belongs to Zyon Cavalera who steals the show with his powerful, rhythmic drum work – especially during the mid-section where the band floors it before returning with some chugging riffage – and he totally controls the tempo of the pit-inducing track in masterful style. ‘Ancestors’ also showcases the prowess of Cavalera Jr, and thanks to some cool percussive sound effects and distorted vocals, the track has a slightly unnerving feel to it. Somewhere out there, there is a gory fucked-up movie missing ‘Ancestors’ from its soundtrack.

‘Totem’ ends on a near twelve-minute high note that lands with first of all ‘Soulfly XII’. An instrumental track has become a Soulfly tradition and this one is a doozy; all floaty and dreamy with hints of a Giorgio Moroder movie theme here and there – magical. This gives way to ‘Spirit Animal’, and at nine minutes in length, it is the longest of the ten featured tracks and is delivered in multiple movements in the same way that a classical suite (or ‘The March of The Black Queen’ by Queen) does. The finale, which features some lush clean vocals from Cavalera’s stepson Richie (of Incite), comes straight out of the left field and you wouldn’t be the only one to stop in your tracks and double-check that somehow the track has skipped on to another by a different artist.

Another strong album by Soulfly and one which shows that the chances of Max Cavalera slowing down are zero-to-none. Also, great work from Zyon Cavalera throughout, which would suggest that along with his stepbrother Richie – the Cavalera name is in good hands.

Available now via Nuclear Blast.

Review – Dave

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