SOULFY has always had its fair share of fanatics and detractors. Whether it was their Nu Metal beginnings, Groove Thrash current sound, or general distaste for the oddities that mainman Max Cavalera has injected into this band throughout the years, there is a large divide on opinions of the band. SOULFLY doesn’t necessarily make loving the band easy either. Each record is a surprise of sorts as one never knows what direction Max is going to take with his musical output or what nuances will be adhered to the sound. This latest effort is going to invoke those same feelings. “Savages,” the ninth record from SOULFLY, is one of their most eclectic offerings since the band’s transitional sound on “Prophecy” and even I have a bit of trouble swallowing it all.
“Savages” doesn’t take long to showcase this diversity either. The opening track “Bloodshed” takes a heavy handed almost Doom Metal approach with its slow pacing and grinding grooves that are overlaid with melancholic guitar tones and Max’s roaring bark of a vocal. It’s an odd way to open the record, but one that certainly sets a standard that this is going to be a SOULFLY quite unique to the records that came before particularly when you see that the guest on this song is his brother Igor.
From there it’s a roller coaster ride of different nuances and styles. “Fallen” and “Master Of Savagery” are of that heavier, more extreme sound that was utilized on “Enslaved,” “Cannibal Holocaust” is the Thrashiest song on the record, and “Spiral” partnered with “Ayatollah Of Rock And Rolla” give a double dose of an older alternative and Nu Metal inspired SOULFLY sound. Consistently, “Savages” tends to focus on the groove more so than the last few records and, of course, Max’s signature barking roar comes rearing around just to make sure that you don’t forget it’s still a SOULFLY album. The focus on groove does limit the shred of guitarist Marc Rizzo, which has been a highlight of all the previous records, and lends itself to making “Savages” even more disappointing on the whole.
To add to the odd stylistic tendencies of the album, Max and company decide to have a few new interesting names involved as performers on the record. The biggest one was the inclusion of Zyon Cavalera for the drumming. While the guy is decent enough, his work tends to be a little less ambitious than many of the previous drummers for SOULFLY and it pulls away from the layering on “Savages.” On top of that, as with the last few records, Max also includes a few guest spots. For this ninth album though, he goes for a bit more diversity here and includes the vocalists from a variety of bands including underground Deathcore monsters I DECLARE WAR, the crooning from CLUTCH, and the rasping scream from NAPALM DEATH. Each certainly add their flair to the record, but occasionally it would be nice for Max to include guests other than family or vocalists.
“Savages,” to break it down, is simply too inconsistent in quality all the way around. After the brutal and groovy “Enslaved,” this album falls two or three steps short in quality even with its moments. The increased eclecticism tends to make this one of SOULFLY’s weaker records since their leap into full Groove Thrash after “Prophecy.” It has a few highlights like “Cannibal Holocaust” or the heavier “Fallen,” but past that it’s an album that fails to find its groove in the Groove.
(Online September 25, 2013)