I had been a fan of SEPULTURA for many years and their ever changing sound was something that kept the band exciting and fresh. So when Max Cavalera left the band in 1996 after the commercial and critical success of “Roots” – there was a strange time of void. So when Max returned with his new outfit SOULFLY in 1998 on the self titled debut – everyone was curious what it would be like.
And unfortunately, I felt massively let down by the SOULFLY debut. Continuing on with the “Roots” formula of simplifying the instrumental use and incorporating more and more tribal elements, it felt like this album was even more experimental than anything he had done with his previous band. And unfortunately, SOULFLY doesn’t have the elements that make SEPULTURA such a riveting listen.
“Soulfly” follows in the trends of the late 90s by essentially being Tribal Nu Metal. The heavy rap influence in the music is quite apparent in the bass heavy structures and song writing. It’s also obvious that the band was going in a Nu Metal direction with the appearance of Fred Durst (the oh so masterful front man of long time hated LIMP BIZKIT) on the track “Bleed” – which ironically might be one of the more cohesive songs on the album.
But as I said before this piece of work felt more experimental than ever for Max and it moves beyond just being Nu Metal. Going past the down tuned and simplified guitar riffs, the prominent bass, and Max’s signature growl comes the songwriting. This album is full of oddly shifting songs that use electronics and tribal instruments in interludes, endings, and beginnings of songs. But all of these elements come abruptly and often without warning or build up – and don’t flow at all. It’s almost an immature sounding song writing style in an experimental way. At times I love the tribal music but its combination with the electronics and simplistic Nu Metal writing just doesn’t feel quite right.
This is somewhat of a strange experimentation for Max Cavalera – and although “Soulfly” was a fairly successful venture for him – in the end this debut doesn’t feel like a full time effort but sort of a side project. The Nu Metal shift and rap influence is going to disenfranchise many of his older fans. Like me. I was expecting a lot more from him and his new band and perhaps I had too much expectation for it.
Songs to check out: “Eye For An Eye”, “Fire”, “Quilombo”.
(Online August 28, 2008)