Thursday, August 21, 2008

Review: Soulfly - "Conquer"

One of the most anticipated records of the year for me was Cavalera Conspiracy, reuniting Sepultura vocalist/guitarist Max Cavalera and drummer Igor Cavalera. Though it’s been eclipsed in my mind by records released since, it was an outstanding effort, and I thought it would be tough for Max’s other band, Soulfly, to compete. So I find myself a little surprised with how much I’m enjoying this record.

No, Cavalera doesn’t try to reinvent the band in any way. Most of what you’ll hear here you’ve also heard on previous Soulfly releases. Take for example, the second track, “Unleash,” which reintroduces the tribal sounds and rhythms. Sure, we’ve heard it before, but it’s still really good. That’s kind of what I’d say about the whole record.

One of the big differences between this record and the Cavalera Conspiracy record is in the guitar work. This record is loaded down with big, memorable guitar riffs that stand out in your memory after the record is over. The loping opening riff of “Warmageddon” and the bouncing, squealing riff of “Doom” stand out. After a nice movie soundtrack opening, “Blood, Fire, War, Hate” also gets the album started off on a good note with a nice riff.

The best tunes on this record, though take a slightly different path. Cavalera has long experimented with world music on Soulfly records. Sometimes it’s worked, sometimes it hasn’t. When it does, it’s great, as on the opening of “For Those About to Rot,” where we get an unexpected blast of almost Primus-like sound to open, a nice, chunky bass line and then world music sounds scattered throughout. The best track on the record, “Touching the Void,” however, delves back into metal history, drawing inspiration from Sabbath for the slowest, yet most interesting song. The breakdown section here is spectacular, plodding, heavy and just catchy as hell.

The record also ends on a high note with the instrumental “Soulfly VI.” I’m normally not a fan of instrumental intros and outros, and there’s nothing particularly heavy about it, but there is something strangely calming and soothing, particularly after the violence of the previous tracks. It’s a good song to chill out with.

Cavalera continues to have some lyrical challenges. Yelling “scream motherfucker” five or six times doesn’t really constitute a chorus in my book, but lyrics have never been his strong suit and after this long, it’s tough to ding him for it.

Musically, this is a solid record, perhaps one of the best in Soulfly’s catalog. Certainly it contains some of the more memorable tunes they’ve done, and it just comes off as a little tighter and more cohesive than the earlier Cavalera Conspiracy release. Perhaps that record was a little more rushed, or maybe it will take a little time for the songwriting chemistry to return after the years apart. Whatever the reason, I’m surprised to say that I actually think Conquer is the better record. Both are well worth having in your collection, though.

Get "Conquer" (standard version).

Get "Conquer" (CD and DVD version).

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