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Friday, September 12, 2008

CD Review: Soulfly - Conquer

Soulfly - Conquer
2008 Roadrunner Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



The first time I interviewed Max Cavalera was on his bus during Soulfly's tour in support of Prophecy. I always think fondly that we were both wearing the exact same Bad Brains "Banned in DC" shirt and since then, we've had a nice rapport each of the times we spoken. Each time we've touched on the fact that Max is one of the gentlest dudes removed from his music. It's almost startling that Max has such a laid back personal candor when onstage and on albumhe has the fiercest and manliest growl of any metal vocalist in history.

For all the slaggers of Soulfly throughout the years, particularly those Sepultura purists who have been teeing off on Max for fusing more tribal, rap, ska and reggae overtures through the first four albums, certainly there's been no excuse lately to trash the guy as Max and his Soulfly brethren are gallavanting through red times once again with 2005's brutal Dark Ages and now this year's blistering Conquer.

No doubt Max's reunion with his brother Iggor in Cavalera Conspiracy has lit his fires, as that entity's album is a shoo-in for a Top 10 year's end finisher, and now with Conquer, Max Cavalera can be said to be an emperor of metallic rage, because this album hardly settles down in its majestic delivery. Sure, there's some tribal sublets and earthbound percussion scattered throughout Conquer, which for this writer's purposes, has always been the group's charm. The first Soulfly album and Prophecy were especially terrific vehicles in using Cavalera's external washes, clangs, twangs, clouts, soothes and various syncopation. Even moments of Primitive and 3 bear fun variances away from Max's traditional agro stomp methodology; in fact, "Tree of Pain" from 3 is Max's most personal and most intense song ever written, especially if you're familiar with the story of its conception.

Though Max will frequently joke about half-assing through 3 (he humbly cracks up over the title these days), there's no half-assing on Conquer, and if you're looking for a solid thrash album that pulls few punches, then this is your huckleberry. Pick a song at your leisure, "Blood Fire War Hate," "Rough," "Doom," "Unleash," "Fall of the Sychophants." Double-timed, hardly faltering, breathless and maniacally-executed. Conquer is a mission statement in title as it is on record. When the album doesn't thrash, it keeps a heavy toe on the fuzz sequencers and the pounding rhythms.

The X-Factor from separating Conquer from most thrash albums today, aside from the presence of its senior lion is guitarist Marc Rizzo. If this guy isn't considered one of this generation's greatest slingers and shredders by now, then you need to visit Cavalera Conspiracy's Inflikted and then Rizzo's astounding solo work. On Conquer, he's called more upon to complement Max's chugging guitar tones with his own, and together they're one of the most formidable duos in metal. Rizzo flashes and dazzles with disciplined withholding (you know Max could've let him commandeer this album if he wanted to) and swims almost in isolation on the cascading "Soulfly IV. " Most importantly, Rizzo leaves you begging for more on this album, an excellent way to pimp your calling card.

In other words, Conquer blasts down the door, coaxes you to "Scream, motherfucker!" (as "Doom" incites) and then gets out again. Giving you just enough reggae and tribal interludes (particularly effective on "Doom") between the insane and methodic thrash that whizzes through your ears on Conquer, there's no doubt that Max Cavalera means business these days...

Rating: ****

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