Soulfly – Totem (Nuclear Blast)

The first family of metal, showing once again how it’s done.

Has there been a family more prolific and relentlessly committed to the cause, than the Cavaleras? When brothers Iggor and Max started Sepultura in Brazil way back in 1984, the brothers of brutality changed the metal landscape several times over, with back-to-back classic albums. Max branched out in 1995 to take things a bit more extreme with the punk/metal/industrial project Nailbomb, which has also reached legendary status influencing a host of bands on the way, but by 1996 Sepultura and Max Cavalera had parted ways and Soulfly was born, where Max took his penchant for a heavy riff, added a dose of nu-metal with a smidge of world music and created yet another musical phenomenon. Iggor eventually left Sepultura and now makes music with his brother again in Cavalera Conspiracy as well as the awesome Petbrick and in 2012 Soulfly added Zyon Cavalera to the fold, who’s pre-natal heartbeat is the first thing you hear on Sepultura’s seminal album Refuse Resist. Now in 2022 the Cavalera legacy continues with Soulfly’s latest offering Totem.

Having become progressively heavier and more refined, with every release and despite several line-up changes, the Soulfly sound is instantly recognisable. Kicking off with Superstition, we find ourselves with a classic, crushing Max Cavalera riff, complete with typically catchy chorus and plenty of room for Zyon to show off his ever-increasing set of drum skills. It wouldn’t be a Soulfly album without the obligatory guest vocalists and Scouring The Vile sees the first of these, with the low end vocal tones of Obituary frontman John Tardy entering the fray. As Tardy and Cavalera trade off. the band drags us from a chugging riff into punk/metal territory with frightening ease. It’s a case of less is more with Filth Upon Filth as Max’s chugging riff, gives Zyon the opportunity to drop out slightly in the way Dave Lombardo did so well with Slayer.  The Damage Done rages along at a nice thrashy pace, with some awesome solo work sprinkled all over it. As much as I hate to say this, the title track Totem is classic Sepultura and wouldn’t be out of place on Chaos AD, with it’s gigantic chug and anthemic chorus. The standout performer on the entire album is the younger Cavalera and this evident once more on Ancestors. Simple percussive additions and drum fills really flesh the song out, giving it more character. Not the Ennio Morricone cover I was expecting but Ecstasy of Gold is nonetheless an enjoyable death/thrash number before we are introduced to a moody synthesizer filled “calm before the storm” number in Soulfly XII. Bringing the whole package to an end is the 9 minutes and 32 seconds of Cavalera experimentation called Spirit Animal, as another of Max’s sons, Ritchie from Incite, joins in for some vocal action in a track which, which veers brilliantly between splendour and chaos including, wait for it….clean vocals.

Totem is almost a tribute to it’s own makers. They have acknowledged all aspects of the bands back catalogue, whilst still taking the band forward. Max’s talent with four-strings is unequalled and Zyon’s drumming lends more and more personality to every release. Yes Marc Rizzo has now left the fold, but rest assured that Soulfly have not missed a beat. The first family of metal showing once again, how it’s done….Chris Andrews

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