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Saturday, May 22, 2010

CD Review: Soulfly - Omen

Soulfly - Omen
2010 Roadrunner Records
Ray Van Horn, Jr.



Max Cavalera’s time spent cultivating Soulfly might as well be delineated between 2004’s Prophecy and 2005’s more extreme Dark Ages. It can be said since Dark Ages Cavalera’s been satiating a manic hunger to wreck aural havoc. Following suit on 2008’s brutal Conquer, Soulfly returns this year with more of the same thrash-grind-punish motives on their seventh output, Omen.

Max’s abrupt changeover of Soulfly’s modus operandi is likely in answer to the hordes of distanced Sepultura fans who have balked at his early-on tinkering with electronics, trip hop, calypso, reggae and flamenco. His first Soulfly album from 1998 and the subsequent Primitive and 3 albums bear little resemblance to the teeth-mashing mayhem Soulfly now delivers since crossing the guilt-tripped threshold of crush.

Cavalera, who is one of the kindest beings considering the hell he’s faced in life has been growing more agitated musically since fans have badgered him and his brother Iggor to return home to Sepultura. That was partially answered by Cavalera Conspiracy, who produced one of the finest thrash albums of this decade by means of introduction. Still, the airs breathe the names of Andreas Kisser and Paolo, Jr. whether Max and Iggor want to hear them or not.

Consequently, Soulfly is now in sound one of the angriest bands on the planet and Omen is as fast and mean as you’ll want from Max and company. “Vulture Culture,” “Mega-Doom,” Counter Sabotage” and “Great Depression” are unapologetic throwbacks to the Beneath the Remains and Arise-era blitzkriegs. The difference here is Max’s sidearm shredder Marc Rizzo’s melodic fret-splashing is far different from Andreas Kisser, not that either man needs comparison. Both weave tapestries overtop Max’s rhythmic riff chugs, albeit Marc Rizzo has become talk of the town these days.

It’s sufficient to say Rizzo is carrying a good bit of Soulfly’s mission statement at this point. Omen, like Dark Ages and Conquer, reaches spectacular dynamics because of Rizzo’s gorgeous combination of salsa and neoclassicism which he translates into static shocks of wonderment. The electric-acoustic finale of “Vulture Culture” especially deserves a great big “Ole!” Rizzo’s a star unto himself and realistically Omen would be a nostalgia ride of thrash and punk-crunk for Max without him. Unlike his first four Soulfly ventures, Max is hardly stretching out songwriting-wise here. Instead, he puts his stock and faith into Rizzo and dials up familiar rhythms switching between stamp and speed. All to the good if you want to mosh proper.

Max brings in a pair of guests on Omen in the form of Dillinger Escape Plan's Greg Puciato, who really cuts loose on “Rise of the Fallen,” while the omnipresent Tommy Victor checks in with some woofs and a co-writing credit on “Lethal Injection.” Unfortunately, Max drops us into an unnecessary blood mire ode to cannibalism with “Jeffrey Dahmer.” Even “Off With Their Heads” is lyrically a hair beneath this legend of extreme metal. For one of the classiest men in the business, Max Cavalera hardly needs to go the route of genre mockery; inadvertently he mocks himself. Though different in execution, you can hear his pride in “Bumba” and “Bumbklaatt” from the self-titled Soulfly album, much less Max’s tear-jerking love letter to his slain stepson Dana “D-Low” Wells, “Tree of Pain” from 3. Soulfly now through the past three albums wails a cry of bloody vengeance on every song.

Nevertheless, Omen is a steadfast tail-kicker which establishes its nasty business right upfront with the Sepultura-meets-Discharge ripper “Bloodbath” and it never settles down until the tappy instrumental “Soulfly VII.” The extracurricular percussion and tribal rhythms Max Cavalera excavated in his earlier Soulfly work have been greatly remiss in the later albums, although they make a welcome return in the final stanza of “Off With Their Heads.” Joe Nunez is one vicious cat on the skins, but as Max would say on his second Soulfly album, it’s time to get back to the primitive.

Rating: ***1/2

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