SOULFLY’S CONQUER: IN WITH THE OLD, OUT WITH THE NUJust in case Max Cavalera’s reunion with his brother Igor in The Cavalera Consipiracy wasn’t enough to provoke a few curious listens, Brazil’s favorite metal son has come around again this year with a new release for his long running brainchild, Soulfly. Now while the skepticism of whether the world really needed two new Cavalera outputs in a single year (and not one of them involving a reunion with you-know-who) is probably well deserved, let’s all us keep an open mind to try and see what unique snowflakes we can find in this avalanche of new material.

The first and probably most important quality of Conquer that a listener will pick up on is that this album is significantly more… uhm, metal, than what many of us have come to expect from Soulfy. Although their previous release Dark Ages seemed to hint at this progression, Conquer sees Soulfly almost totally ejecting many of the nu-tribal elements that made many metalheads reject them outright. It remains reasonably accessible but significantly and surprisingly heavy.

As if to set this tone and draw in the skeptics, the opening track is not only titled “Blood Fire War Hate” (if you haven’t heard it yet you can already guess the chorus) but features an unremarkable but cred-establishing cameo by Morbid Angel’s David Vincent. This is merely a hint of what’s to come, though, as the album takes a little time to pick up some inertia. The fourth track “Warmageddon” (metal enough for you?) is the first to really get the head-nodding and the blood pumping. It’s thrashy, aggressive and not alone on this album.

Cavalera and co. have managed to produce something that keeps in touch with many of the distinct Soulfly elements – tribal drumming, reggae and other ethnic music that help break the monotony – but the rest is fresh and mean. Tracks like “Enemy Ghost” and “For Those About to Rot” could have easily been written by Max in his prime; even though he’s a continent and 20 years removed from his bloody roots, it’s as if he’s rediscovered what it was like to be an angry and impoverished teenage musician again.

While he may be in the captain’s chair, he has an impeccable crew supporting him. Joe Nunez adds his polyrhythmic touches, Bobby Burns has a few groovy and standout bass breaks and the very talented Marc Rizzo shows us once again why he’s Max’s go-to shredder.

While there’s nothing new here as far as the metal genre as a whole is concerned, and the song-writing and delivery is simple with more than a few one-note riffs, it is ultimately an enjoyable album. By the time it’s reached it’s conclusion you’re likely to be astounded at just how crushing and doom-laden the penultimate “Touching the Void” is and then find yourself almost instantly refreshed by the palette-cleansing instrumental closer. Conquer is worth your while and a hopeful statement on Max Cavalera’s recent musical interests. Perhaps he’ll even wish to relive his glory days with a few old friends in South America in the not too distant future.

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(3 ½ out of 5 horns)


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