Review: “Totem” by Soulfly

Twenty five years after their inception the arrival of the twelfth album from Phoenix Arizona based Soulfly in “Totem” is one that offers a certain amount of intrigue. What kind of riffs is Max Cavalera going to bring to the King’s table in the absence of Marc Rizzo following last summers less than amicable departure? Curiously enough Cavalera gives Arthur Rizk (Code Orange, Jungle Rot, Cavalera Consipiracy) the task of not only manning the boards but also playing lead guitars in the absence of touring guitarist Dino Cazares  from Fear Factory in the studio. Elsewhere Zyon Cavalera, Max’s son continues a decade of aggression on the drum stool and Mike Leon remains on bass while boasting guest appearances from John Powers (Eternal Champion), Chris Ulsh (Power Trip), and John Tardy (Obituary).

Having been aired live well before the album “Superstition” is a cut that many will already be well versed in and it’s a solid place to start with the bands trademark tribal and World music elements firmly ingrained into a maelstrom of solid riffs, all delivered at high tempo. Between them, Rizk and Cavalera have conjured a ghostly echo on some of the vocal parts that is a little odd on the first couple of spins but grows on you before the screams of the impaled open “Scouring The Vile” a cut driven by the percussion which shines throughout the record as a whole. A middle finger to Cancer, the unmistakable vocals of Obituary’s John Tardy are the fuel to the fire that makes the cut immense. “Filth Upon Filth” then brings some Thrashier guitar work and some whammy bar drop solos which flow into “Rot In Pain” adding a new dimension to the kind of work that Rizzo was putting in on previous rocks, the latter being a rampage through the darkness is up there with the best of the bands work. There is a real sense of Groove in the first half of the album that makes you want to bang your head as the sub-three minute cuts fly fast an loose. The crisp, clean production and fantastic drum sound gives these songs a real lift and in truth there is a timeless quality to them. They could have been released at any point in the bands carrier and fans would have been none the wiser and perfectly happy, while equally they in no way, shape or form do they sound dated.

The solo in “The Damage Done” is an absolute face melter although the cut feels like a pair of ideas that have been put together as the transition from the slower into the sprint isn’t as slick as it is elsewhere on the record and it’s probably the one mute point. By way of contrast and breaking the chains of the shorter, faster cuts of the record, the title track brings us an almighty staggered slow down in the later half with a Doom Metal feel to drive down the darkness having leapt gracefully from shredding thrash. “Ecstasy Of Gold” is not an Ennino Morricone cover but instead an anthem about the bloodlust for money and power that some feel and it’s an absolute monster, continuing the catchy grooves and punchy bass that makes it perfectly listenable while keeping things short and the point at the same time. The obligatory instrumental is a far shorter piece of melodic interlude this time of asking and if anything severs as an introduction piece to the nine and a half minute marathon of grand finale “Spirit Animal“. It’s not the mindless self indulgence that the length of the cut suggests but instead a solid anthemic piece with Chris Ulsh of Power Trip offering up a classy solo. The spiritual World music vibes of the final throes are classic Soulfly and add the twist in the tale that everyone saw coming. A solid return after four years away, this new Soulfly record serves as a refreshing reminder of what they are capable of while the decision to strip things back a little goes a long way [7.5/10]

Track Listing

  1. Superstition
  2. Scouring The Vile
  3. Filth Upon Filth
  4. Rot In Pain
  5. The Damage Done
  6. Totem
  7. Ancestors
  8. Ecstasy Of Gold
  9. Soulfly XII
  10. Spirit Animal

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