The Soulfly tribe is once again on the warpath.
Soulfly's sixth offering for Roadrunner Records, Conquer, may very well be the musical equivalent of the movie Braveheart. The songs—much like the warriors in the film—channel raw, unbridled rage through a cacophony of thrash guitars, infectious grooves, tribal polyrhythms and Max Cavalera's unmistakable, thunderous roar. On this record, Soulfly unleash a metallic mayhem unlike anything they've done previously. Conquer shifts from unrelenting, precise speed metal to slow, brooding doom. Mark Rizzo's lead guitar rips with the precision of a smart bomb, while Bobby Burns grinds out volatile, chest-caving bass lines. Drummer Joe Nunez crushes behind the kit, forging a rhythmic background for all-out sonic war. Once again, it's the legendary Max Cavalera who stands at the eye of the storm, uniting the musical tribe and acting as its unofficial leader. His voice and guitar command the tribe into battle with each line and riff. Grab your war paint and prepare for the onslaught.
Since their Gold-certified, self-titled debut in 1997, Soulfly have remained one of the genre's most consistently brutal outfits. From the moment Max Cavalera left Sepultura to form Soulfly, he's remained prolific. Four critically acclaimed albums and numerous world tours followed Soulfly's now-classic debut. In 2008, Max once again partnered with his brother Iggor in Cavalera Conspiracy, releasing Inflikted. At the same time, he managed to write and record Conquer. Produced by Max and mixed by Andy Sneap (Machine Head, Arch Enemy), the album spans a violent spectrum. Max comments, "After Cavalera Conspiracy, I wanted to write a stronger, uncompromised statement with Soulfly. What I [did] on this album is what I was aiming for. This is the Soulfly album that I've been trying to make for a long time." That's evident from the calculated rage and bludgeoning grooves that define songs like "Enemy Ghost" and "Rough."
With Conquer, Soulfly take no prisoners. Max explains, "It's definitely Soulfly's most battle-ready record by far. The vibe reminds me of movies like Gladiator and 300. It comes from a completely different place." The assault kicks off from the first note of "Bood Fire War Hate," and it doesn't stop until the end of closing instrumental, "Soulfly VI," which is a time-honored tradition the marks the close of each Soulfly album. Starting with "Blood fire War Hate," Max made a conscious decision to come out of the gates with all guns blazing, proclaiming, "I'm excited to open the record with a fast song. Usually Soulfly albums begin mid-tempo, but this reminds me of Beneath the Remains. This song also has one of the biggest hooks I've ever done. I can close my eyes and picture huge festival crowds singing it. When the fast part comes in, it's just war."
Soulfly's previous albums featured guest appearances by notables, including Chino Moreno of Deftones, Sean Lennon, and Slipknot's Corey Taylor over the years. In the spirit of that collaborative tradition, Conquer sees Max with Throwdown's Dave Peters on the standout track, "Unleash," and with Morbid Angel's David Vincent on "Blood Fire War Hate." On "Unleash," Peters and Max create a corrosive chorus that isn't easily forgotten. Max says, "It's the closest thing I've done to Pantera. Dave put some killer lyrics to the music. The fast part at the end is my favorite part on the album." Firing off a throat-slicing riff and catchy hook, "Unleash" impacts like a wrecking ball. About working with underground metal hero Vincent, Max exclaims, "His screaming on that song was off the wall! To work with David was a trip. The song's a full assault, and it feels really natural. It's got that uncompromising attitude."
Conquer's cover artwork inspired the title and the picture holds a special significance for Max. "Usually, album titles are inspired by something else, like a movie," he reveals. "The first sketch the artist sent me was amazing. It depicted this crazy guy with six arms holding six weapons. Each weapon represented one of our records. When I got the image, the word Conquer just came to me." More importantly, Conquer is a personal statement for Max and of course, has a deeper meaning meant to be explored by the listener. "To me, it's not about conquering the world. My statement on the record is conquering fear. If you conquer your fear, you conquer life and death. You're truly free when you conquer your fear. So that's why this name means so much," he finishes.
Soulfly is truly a world music-inspired collective and the writing and recording process often sees Cavalera globetrotting for atypical inspiration. For Soulfly's fifth album, Dark Ages, saw Max travel to five locations to record, but for Conquer, a trip to Egypt was all he needed. He says, "I like to mix cultures. The other Soulfly albums were more Eastern European-flavored. Sepultura was more Brazilian. Egypt has a big chunk of influence on Conquer. We visited ‘The City of the Dead' while we were in Egypt. It's a cemetery where families still live near their dead. That was crazy, creepy and wild. I didn't know the Cairo trip was going to affect the album as much as it did." The eerie, tribal outro of "For Those About to Rot" was a direct result of the trip, as Max recorded it live by the Nile. It's a strange transition that heightens the musical tension. "By the Nile River, there was this crazy gypsy band playing killer music," Cavalera recalls. "I happened to have my recorder so I recorded them and made an interlude out of their performance. It felt so authentic to have that outro—like old Sepultura. I'd rather the record sounds live than use a sound library from the Internet. That outro is subtle. I've been making records for so long, and I finally found the perfect balance between brutality and experimentation." Therefore, Conquer is a truly organic sonic experience.
Max also sculpted a head-spinning trip into psychedelic metal territory with "Touching the Void." Stretching past the seven-minute mark, the song oozes classic Sabbath sludge, while incorporating entrancing dub flourishes. For Max, that track's extremely important. "Honestly, it's a thank you to Black Sabbath for being Black Sabbath. It's slow doom metal," he says. On the track, Max also collaborated with French dub artist Fedaya Pacha. Of the experience, Max says, "Fedaya makes dark, really heavy dub—completely different from commercial dub. He did the outro for ‘Touching the Void,' and he played a lot of weird instruments. Those little things definitely make this song special when you listen to it."
In the end, Conquer, just like every note of music he's ever produced, comes from Cavalera's heart. He eschews studio trickery and computerized flourishes in favor of straightforward instrumentation and real world experimentation. "I do this for the love of music," he says. "We could use the tools of the market to make a commercial record and sell more, but I wouldn't be as happy inside. I made the choice, and we aren't going down the easy road. We're going down the fucked up road, but that's the road that we know."
With that sincerity, there's no doubt that Max and company will conquer all roads ahead.