By 1996, Sepultura had grown into a metal monster. The Brazilian four-piece had not only shaken up thrash metal with ‘Beneath the Remains’ from 1989, they’d managed to go gold with ‘Arise’ (1991) and ‘Chaos A.D.’ (1993), both of them albums that in some ways redefined the sound of thrash metal. With ‘Roots’, Sepultura tuned down the guitars even more and brought in elements of nu metal, the big thing at the time, and they went tribal as well. They were the proverbial shit.
On Friday the 13th of December 1996, I witnessed this monster of a band at the Barrowland Ballroom in Glasgow. Three days later, the line-up that had brought the band to metal fame would be history. Max Cavalera left the band due to the rest of the band’s annoyance with Max’s wife, Gloria, who managed the band, and other circumstances surrounding Max’s stepson’s death earlier in the year.
In some cases, metal fans aren’t mature and forgiving and all that, and I was no better. I thought that Max had betrayed Sepultura and given up, and, yeah, I chose sides. I decided to go with Sepultura and not Max. So when the front man eventually formed Soulfly and released the first album in 1998, I didn’t even listen to it. The Nailbomb album I actually bought second hand at some point, but only listened to it once. No, in my mind, Max belonged in Sepultura and nowhere else – regardless of the fact that Derrick Green did and does a fab job as the front man of Sepultura and that he’s been in the band longer than Cavalera by now.
What I’m saying is basically that I never gave Soulfly a chance over all those years. Which isn’t really fair.
So, now, here it comes: I’m giving Soulfly a chance!
I didn’t like ‘Archangel’ at first, but, knowing myself, that was to be expected. So I listened again. And once more. And then another time. I have to admit that the album has grown on me with every listen.
It’s not a perfect album, but it’s definitely worth a thrasher’s pocket money. Let me get the negative stuff out of the system first: I simply can’t stand the song Live Life Hard!, and that’s entirely because of the really annoying vocal by guest vocalist Matt Young from King Parrot (no idea who they are, and I don’t want to know…) and despite an actually amazing main riff.
The songs Shamash and Deceiver are in my view fillers. They don’t come near the groove and catchy riffing the rest of the songs have.
There you go, I mentioned the key word already: Groove. Soulfly creates a relentless groove, which forms a strong foundation for these powerful thrash songs.
Where I had expected tribal interludes and stuff, I actually get a theme of religion, for the most part focusing on the Bible, but also on Greek, Akkadian and Babylonian mythology as well as…ehm, Game of Thrones. The mood is appropriately dark for the serious matters dealt with, and especially with Ishtar Rising and Titans, Soulfly hit the big, epic note and some seriously heavy riffing. Exactly those two songs are the ones that have grown into becoming my favourite tunes of the album.
All in all, this is an intense and heavy album with a lot to offer for those of us who like groovy thrash metal with a touch of melody. Good shit.
Oh, and Max: My apologies for unfairly discarding you and your work back in 1996. Guess I’ve got some catching up to do…
1. We Sold Our Souls To Metal
4. Ishtar Rising
5. Live Life Hard!
7. Bethlehems Blood
10. Mother Of Dragons
Playing time: 36 minutes
Release date: 14th of August, 2015
Label: Nuclear Blast