Consistency is a difficult thing to deliver, particularly over a long period of time. To churn out a high caliber or product over and over again, particularly in the arts, where one must constantly find new inspiration, is a herculean task, and attaining or failing consistency has been the respective hallmark and demise of countless artists and musicians over the last couple centuries. Soulfly, still the bedrock of Max Cavalera's current musical career, has been extremely successful at continually turning out a product that fans will recognize, embrace, endorse and consume. This installed sense f what the fans want makes Soulfly a perennial name on the lips of metal's underground elite, if perhaps not the emerging, innovative vanguard. "Savages" is another chapter in Soulfly's continued legacy of metal with a purpose.
Be careful not to confuse consistency with complacency, however. While "Savages" may be a recitation of the prototypical Soulfly formula, it still hums with power and virility, even as fans and media members alike may subconsciously wonder how long this trend can continue. Cavalera hits on all the hallmarks he's supposed to for this new record and adds a few twists in the form of guest vocals and the addition of his son Zyon as drummer. While half the lineup of Soulfly may be new, the new members still fit appreciably well in the Soulfly idiom.
The back half of “Savages” is just a little stronger than the front, beginning with the pleasantly incessant hammering of “This is Violence.” While all of “Savages” bears some of the hallmarks of Brazilian metal gone by, this is the first cut on this new record that excavates all of them from the time capsule and folds them into a single four-minute unit.
Of all the guest appearances, the strongest is undoubtedly that of Clutch’s Neil Fallon during the questionably named “Ayatollah of Rock ‘N’ Rolla.” Just as Fallon did ten years ago for his cover of Black Flag’s “American Waste,” the Clutch frontman blasts his vocal guts out for Soulfly, dredging up memories of Clutch albums long gone but not forgotten. In a song that is otherwise somewhat unremarkable, Fallon’s performance makes it a gem of the album and it also makes me wonder what Cavalera did to get Fallon to channel the Fallon of old.
All those things being equal, at the top we talked about consistency, and that’s really the theme of “Savages.” If you’ve heard a Soulfly record before (or dare I say it, a Sepultura record from the early days,) you’ve probably heard “Savages” by another name. With that comes all the compulsory plusses and minuses pertaining thereto. Yes, “Savages” has the usual neck-rocking riffs, crushing percussion and punishing beats. Yes, it also has the non-stop screaming vocals, the one-track thematic display about wanton destruction and the songs that are occasionally unnecessarily long (“Bloodshed” has a great riff, but by the end it’s time to wrap up.)
So, while it may seem like an abbreviated explanation, it rings true in my head – “Savages” is a really solid Soulfly record, and sees Max and company in good headspace writing the same kind of music they’ve always enjoyed performing. The consistency (there’s that word again) required to sustain a career this long is both admirable and praise-worthy, but it also means that Soulfly isn’t bringing anything terribly new to the table. In an era when metal seems at a crossroads concerning what its present and future sound are to be, it’s nice to hear an artist who is unconcerned with the debate. Regardless, if you’re a Soulfly fan, congratulations, you have another album to purchase and enjoy. If you’ve never liked Soulfly, “Savages” won’t change your mind.