With recent releases via Killer Be Killed & Cavalera Conspiracy, the consistent frontman Max Cavalera has undeniably proven to be prolific. Yet, with another Soulfly album already on the way the question of quality vs. quantity arises. With nine studio LPs under their belt, Max and his rotation of musicians hit double digits with this dread-tightening, low-tuned, not-so-subtle religious entwined release.
As the group continues their partnership with Nuclear Blast for a follow-up to 2013's Savages, they pull on board renowned producer, Matt Hyde, a metal household name due to his accomplished work with Slayer, Children of Bodom, Monster Magnet, etc. After nearly twenty years actively in the metal scene with a steady decline in charting statistics, Archangel, may act as the make-or-break record in regards to the relevancy of the band.
"We Sold Our Souls to Metal" contains all the thrash-laden grooves expected from the veteran band at this point in their career, but the lyrical content and dynamics come off simply as sophomoric. While yes, both the speed and structure are designed for your head-banging and circle pit needs, the repeated chorus skews the listening experience. "Archangel," the gateway track for spiritual themes dispersed throughout this album, holds a relentlessly thick and chaotic atmosphere within a steadily upbeat framework. About a minute in, the lead guitar riff veers away from the flow of the rhythm section, interrupting the cohesion. Constructive criticisms aside, the one-two punch opening to this record displays the heaps of energy still present.
I'll admittedly hand it to the boys of Soulfly for being up to date on which groups to pull a guest appearance from. For starters, Nails frontman Todd Jones is the cherry on top of "Sodomites." Easily to be considered the highlight of this album, the thrash verses juxtapose quite perfectly with the Deftones-like riffs of the chant-contagious chorus. The rapid delivery of King Parrot's vocalist Matt Young stabs open the fleshy wound of "Live Life Hard!" before joining in for a screamed duet.
And of course, there are the obligatory 'heavy for the sake of being heavy' tracks speckled about with their individually unique distinctions setting them apart from each other. Whether it be the catchy repetition of "Ishtar Rising," melodic solo in "Shamash" or the chug-meets-reverb refrain from "Titans," these compositions are definite growers. Certain to be overlooked, "Bethelem's Blood" is the hidden gem as the horns cry out between verses, signaling eminent war. A family reunion of sorts is conducted as Max continues to direct the spotlight on his progeny for the closer track. Stepson/Incite frontman Richie and son/Lody Kong frontman Igor team up beside female vocalist Anahid M.O.P. for "Mother of Dragons," a flaming cocktail of vocal ferocity.
As previously mentioned, the common theme of this 'A Metalhead's Guide to the Old Testament' audiobook is the lyrical content in relation to biblical statements and sentiments. Fortunately, the subject matter is handled in a non-preachy manner and avoids bordering the Christian metal label. Max's choice to explore the darker, less infamous characters such as the Mesopotamian Sun god or Babylonian goddess of love was a commendable alternative to the usual 'Jesus on a Cross' and 'Flaming Lucifer' cliche overkill. With that being said, there certainly are a select couple tracks that fall into the genre's stereotypes.
All in all, the experimental interludes and aspects including choir and exotic instrumentation further the listenability and depth. While this album is no game-changer by any means, there are a solid fair share of impressive and enjoyable moments with the potential of nudging Soulfly back into the limelight that they earned in the late 90's to early 2000's. Archangel, an apt title to indicate Soulfly's spreading of wings towards a more mature style, is the grand and fitting next step in their mystical, musical journey.
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