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(Nuclear Blast)

Reviewed by : David Perri
Rating : 7.5

For the most part, we've collectively forgiven Max for the first three SOULFLY records, and he's sort of done a mea culpa over the last ten years in the most effective way he knows how, i.e. by writing albums as heavy, and engaging, as Dark Ages, Conquer, Omen and Enslaved. With Savages, Soulfly's ninth (!) record, Max continues to explore the headspace he occupied circa Chaos A.D. and though no Soulfly nor SEPULTURA record has come even close to matching the massive scope and influence of that album since the Max/Sepultura split, Cavalera admirably continues to write, and write well. Groove was, in one of the many lives of our metal past, the ultimate sin, a scarlett letter branding that demarcated allegiance to the dreaded nu-metal, but in the interim Max has used groove to impressive effect, allowing his latter-day caustic material to be complemented by this device instead of defined by it: 2005's 'Arise Again' and 2010's 'Rise Of The Fallen' (featuring Greg Puciato of DILLINGER ESCAPE PLAN on vocals) are the perfect, archetypal examples of what Soulfly is capable of when Max finds that lucid and eyes-wide-open amalgam.

So, despite being 15 years into his second life with Soulfly, Max still faces a Soulfly first in 2013: expectation. Enslaved was a bonafide extreme metal record, and even the most ardent of Soulfly naysayers who refuse/resist to forgive/forget were impressed by its commitment, and re-commitment, to our world, blastbeats and all. With that kind of homecoming brings a sense of renewed fraternity, and Savages is not the record that should have been the renewal of the pact forever, till death do us part. Enslaved II would have been better.

Ok, maybe that's a bit prickly. Savages is by no means a return to Soulfly circa Fred Durst and is, without question, a part or the now elongated line of, err, savage records that Max has presented us with. That said, let's all acknowledge up front that the song-writing on Savages could have been sharper - nine records in 15 years is a bloody crazy amount of output, and Max could have taken the time to re-write some of the songs that are slightly less than par here. But, then again, there is a lot to enjoy on Savages, and things do start with promise as 'Bloodshed' is the exact opener we hope for on these types of records (check out that 'Raining Blood'-esque intro) and 'Cannibal Holocaust' is reminiscent of Sepultura circa Arise, with all the implications that comparison carries with it. Further into the album, 'Ayatollah Of Rock 'N' Rolla' (featuring Neil Fallon of CLUTCH) is, despite its dumbass title, another Max groove/aggro victory in the Soulfly context, while the additional vocals on 'K.C.S.' provided by NAPALM DEATH's Mitch Harris are caustic enough to cause even veteran extreme metal eyebrows to perk up in I-wasn't-expecting-that-at-all interest. Finally, record closer 'Soulfliktion' is amongst the best songs Max has written for Soulfly, the track a fire-on-fire anthem of life-affirming energy that should have been sequenced way earlier in the album, and the song should act as the catalyst for Soulfly's output on its next record. Which transitions nicely to this final point: under no circumstances should Savages' cover art be repeated or emulated in any form, ever. For a band like Soulfly to present its latest LP with such an amateurish cover is, frankly, embarrassing. But, hey, as I get older, my motto increasingly becomes live and let live, and I tend to forgive this type of indiscretion far more easily: "People are people," said a band dearly loved by more metal fans than will dare to admit, and the fact that Max Cavalera is writing even in the vicinity of Arise and Chaos A.D. makes metal a better place in its totality.