SOULFLY – ENSLAVED (ROADRUNNER)
Release Date: March 13, 2012
The year was 1996-97. Max Cavalera was a man left beleaguered by tragedy. The death of his stepson, his wife getting fired as the Sepultura manager and his eventual departure from the band had all taken its toll on this staunch Brazilian Metal Overlord. Yet his resilience to see it through, was rightfully channeled. It was channeled into what we now know as Soulfly, his brainchild.
Soulfly caught my attention for the first time with their second album Primitive, and since then I’ve eagerly anticipated each and every release from them. The previous album, Omen wasn’t really that multifarious, but when you compare it to some of Soulfly‘s past efforts like Conquer and Primitive, it did sound a lot more varied. I certainly believe Soulfly have the potential to go far. Max Cavalera has traditionally been one of the most prolific people in metal, churning out new albums year after year.
They recently released their eighth studio outing Enslaved, which is easily the band’s heaviest to date. At the same time we have had former members Bobby Burns (bass) and Joe Nunez (drums) giving way to Tony Campos (Static X, Ministry) and David Kinkade (Borknagar) respectively. Enslaved is an album themed on global enslavement, a malaise that has afflicted mankind since time immemorial. Yes it’s noticed that the topic has seen more than its share of usage by many a band, yet here – it does bear a special relevance. It has a more significant relevance when taken in the Brazilian context of things. I had come across a statement many years back which says “In 2004, the Brazilian government acknowledged to the United Nations that 25,000-40,000 Brazilians work under work conditions ‘analogous to slavery’.” Brazil, like many other developing nations still has a substantial number of people enrolled in forced labor. This is an album denouncing all that as well as taking a global stance for it.
The album starts with a brilliant intro titled “Resistance” which is filled with grotesque down-tuned riffs, blistering double bass patterns and blast beats, and to some extent, David Kinkade’s black metal background is clearly felt. The distorted words spoken by Max Cavalera will give you chills and pumps you up with aggression that it is better to die a free man than live as a slave.
There is a general pattern throughout the length of the album which I found quite intriguing and funny. The second half of all the songs are way better than the first half. I always find myself rushing through the first half just to hear guitarist Marc Rizzo going at it, especially the solo in “World Scum” around 3:27. This man is a beast, and is clearly the diamond in the rough throughout the entire record. Max Cavalera is just his usual self, giving a vocal delivery in trademark Cavalera style. Also the famed ‘tribalised’ metal has gone into hiding. It’s completely absent, save for a few sparse moments.
The record features a few guest vocals; we have Travis Ryan from Cattle Decapitation performing on the first album single “World Scum”, Dez Fafara of DevilDriver and Coal Chamber fame on “Redemption of Man by God” and finally Max’s son’s Richie, Zyon and Igor on the final track “Revengeance”. That said there are some songs that have a slight edge over the others. “Gladiator” with its ‘Hail Caesar’ chants and blissful riffing is one such song. It’s even got what feels like sitar kissed licks and at around the 2:45 mark a massive groove comes into play with some unusually cool band chanting. Not to mention the killer solo before it.
“Plata O Plomo” is a track where Max sings in Portuguese, which also happens to be his mother tongue. It’s amazing to see Tony Campos making his presence felt ‘vocally’ He sings here as well in Spanish. Campos does a decent job on the album, never letting himself get lost in the fray. The song features some beautiful flamenco guitar lines by Marc Rizzo especially towards the end. “Treachery” the heaviest track on the album just keeps coming at you with large chunky riffage.
Another interesting track is “Revengeance” wherein Max’s son’s gets it going. Richie Cavalera also assists with some vocals (although very unremarkable) on the track. The song is a diversion from the overall theme of slavery for it deals with the topic of Dana’s (Max’s stepson) murder and how it has gone unresolved; Perhaps, a call for justice by his family. Starting off with a broken bass line, it is soon followed by unearthly bellows from Max, a cry of despair against the justice unheeded, justice denied. All the frustration and anger conveyed perfectly.
“Legion” and “American Steel”can be considered typical Soulfly gems. The rest of the tracks, although pretty solid, are rather less memorable compared to the aforementioned ones. You have to appreciate Marc Rizzo for his complex soulful solos throughout the album which are simply too catchy for one to sit and not take note of. David Kinkade does a brilliant job in churning out tasty fills and rolls. He is precise in his execution, never sounding too dominant.
Enslaved offers up well placed solos with substantial levels of intricacy accompanied by copious (in a good sense) amounts of unadulterated groove, making it a fun listen. The thrash/groove style of Soulfly is kind of more predominant here than the tribal era Sepultura. Max Cavalera with his straight up throaty delivery and low growls still is the same old beast. All in all, Enslaved is ready to burst from the gates and into your ears. Soulfly fan or not, you are gonna love this album.
Bottom Line: If you’re here to find out whether or not Enslaved, hot off the heels of 2010’s Omen, is worthy of the Soulfly name. The short answer? Hell Yeah! \m/