Review: “Ritual” by Soulfly

Brazilian Metallers now relocated to Phoenix Arizona, Soulfly have often come in for a large amount of often unnecessary stick. Metal purists have often argued that Max Cavalera should have stayed with Sepultura after “Roots” in 1996 rather than leaving the band on a high and forging his own path. But so much water has gone under that bridge that it’s getting old now. Soulfly have been a thing for eleven albums and more than 20 years now!

New album “Ritual” opens up in fine fashion with the opening track, bringing back some of the tribal elements that were present in the bands sound in the early days but had gone in the last few releases. It’s one that showcases the virtuoso guitar talents of Marc Rizzo, perhaps one of the most underrated and highly talented musicians in Metal. Where would Ill Nino be now if they kept him in their ranks? “Dead Behind The Eyes” sees Lamb of God frontman Randy Blythe join the vocal attack and deliver a fine performance in his own right. Its a song in which Soulfly aim in the direction of Lamb of God’s sound but do their own version and frankly it’s excellent. The only criticism you could have of it is that their are a couple of moments where you expect Rizzo to burst into a solo that doesn’t come to fruition. Third track “The Summoning” is one that brings some new elements including a surprising industrial closing as Cavalera’s voice is swallowed by a beat and electronics rise from beneath the track to close it out. The rest of the song is a continuation of the prior high standard work with Josh Wilbur’s production shining through.

By the time “Evil Empowered” comes in there is something that becomes apparent in the vocals. After years of screaming Max Cavalera has started to sound like Kirk Windstein from Crowbar. That’s not a bad thing, it works really well with the Soulfly sound as they Thrash out their riffs. Max’s son Zyon’s kit work has improved dramatically over his time in the band and it’s particularly evident on this cut as he brings home those tribal elements in the sound during a the final breakdown. Ross Dolan from New York’s Immolation appearing on “Under Rapture” is such a powerful point in the album as it throws Soulfly back to the Thrash roots of Sepultura’s early albums and sees every single member of the band bring their A game in the kind of song that you just can’t help but headbanging to. The acoustic almost flamenco guitar intro of “Demonized” is a beautiful pallet cleanser that showcases another side of Marc Rizzo’s guitar work before the track builds into an onslaught of Thrash and virtuoso guitar work. It’s a fine piece of Technical Thrash that hovers just above a crossing into Melodic Death Metal. Lyrically the song is a very personal fist clenched song of the kind that has been missing at times in the bands middle career.

“Blood on the Street” brings in some Hardcore punk leanings for a tale of injustice with Zyon throwing down some blast beats in an almost grindcore verse break. The closing tribal drum break is a tasteful reminder of Sepultura’s “Roots” album and of how far Soulfly have come back around to this sound. “Bite The Bullet” has some driven guitar work in more of a groove orientated sound. Upping the pace following a steel drum breakdown for a verse adds a touch of magic to a song that could have otherwise been an monolithic beast. “Feedback!” is the biggest surprise of the “Ritual”. As massive fans Soulfly pay tribute to Lemmy Kilminster and Motorhead by infusing riffage that distinctly belongs to their heroes into one of their own songs. It’s a fun and unexpected joy filler journey that brings an almost instant smile and will have you questioning who you’re listening to from the start. “Soulfly XI” is a bluesy, Jazzy instrumental closing to an album that doesn’t put a foot wrong. There is none of the trial and error or cringe worthy elements that don’t come off that previous Soulfly albums have had. Instead, much like “Dark Ages”, “Ritual” plays to the strengths of its band members and gives Marc Rizzo and Zyon Cavalera the chance to shine. It’s something that both players grasp with both hands and Soulfly is very much a band now, as opposed to a group of musicians who are talented but taking their prompts from Max Cavalera. The guest appearances work really well and unlike previous releases those tracks don’t outshine Soulfly’s own work. “Ritual” is an album for the here and now, a solid piece of modern Metal which looks at the past through rose tinted specticals before cranking out another riff. [7.5/10]

Track listing

1. Ritual

2. Dead Behind The Eyes ft. Randy Blythe of Lamb of God

3. The Summoning

4. Evil Empowered

5. Under Rapture ft. Ross Dolan of Immolation

6. Demonized

7. Blood on the Street

8. Bite The Bullet

9. Feedback!

10. Soulfly XI (Instrumental)

“Ritual” by Soulfly is out now via Nuclear Blast.

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