I’m just going to come right out and say it. The new Soulfly album Savages, doesn’t have any surprises. In fact, Savages is about as straightforward an album that the band has ever released. Hell, it may be the most straightforward album that Max Cavalera has ever released. But see now, that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Considering that Max has been writing and releasing music for nearly thirty years now, it’s actually somewhat refreshing to get an album full of lean, brutal Max-style metal that’s not necessarily trying to live up to a theme or overreaching on any of the albums 10 (standard) songs.
From the offset of Savages, it’s immediately clear that this record will be a new direction for Soulfly. “Bloodshed” features all of the hallmarks of past Soulfly work; a guest singer (this time Max’s son Igor), Marc Rizzo’s breathtaking lead chops and a undeniable groove that permeates throughout. But what makes Savages sound and feel so much different is the addition of new drummer Zyon Cavalera (also Max’s son.) The last Soulfly album. 2012’s Enslaved, featured David Kinkade manning the drums, whose style was a lightning fast blitzkrieg of technicality, and while Zyon is without a doubt a great drummer, his style is nothing like the precise, mechanized blast of Kinkade. That being said, Zyon is no slouch behind the kit. In fact, his drumming style has brought the groove back to Soulfly, a factor largely missing since their 2004 album Prophecy. Tracks like “Soulfliktion” and “Spiral” have an undeniable groove, thanks in no small part to the addition of Zyon.
Like all previous Soulfly albums, Savages also features a number of guest vocalists throughout, and like all past Cavalera efforts, the effectiveness of these varies greatly. Neil Fallon of Clutch guests on the sprawling “Ayatollah of Rock N Rollah” and while it’s an entertaining listen, it doesn’t really fit in with the rest of the album. On the other hand, the Mitch Harris (Napalm Death) collaboration “K.C.S.” is fascinating snapshot of two thrash metal legends singing side by side, but the real highlight of the collaborative efforts featured on Savages belongs to Jamie Hanks (I Declare War) on the track “Fallen” which is a musically punishing slab of classic Soulfly that only reaches new heights once Jamie begins to sing on the second verse. It’s one of the most brutal Soulfly tracks in recent memory, but also one of the catchiest.
Longtime fans of Soulfly and Cavalera will not be disappointed with Savages. It is every bit as intense and powerful as anything in the bands storied discography. Sure, lead guitarist Marc Rizzo still amazes with his virtuosic proficiency and Max is still the master of writing a devastating riff, yet what sets Savages apart from past Soulfly albums are the subtle nuances throughout. The addition of Zyon Cavalera behind the kit turned out to be a masterstroke and bassist Tony Campos sounds more at home with the group on his second album with them. With a backing band that is very clearly firing on all cylinders, and the addition of well placed collaborations, Savages is one of the more enjoyable Cavalera releases in recent memory and one of the top metal albums to come out this year.