There have been eleven Soulfly albums. Eleven! In total, frontman and four-string guitarist Max Cavalera has released 22 albums in just over 30 years. That man is prolific as he is unwavering, and with new album Ritual (Nuclear Blast), he continues to shred and growl in the same way he always has.
Recent years have seen Max & Co. jumping away from their Nu-Metal roots and embrace a heavier sound more akin to early Sepultura. The results may well have pleased old Death Metallers who never appreciated jumping da fuck up, but the results have been variable in quality.
With Ritual, there’s largely more of the same, with the odd nod to the catchy simplicity and tribal music of albums gone by. The opening title track, with its very ‘Prophecy’-like opening, is the closest the album gets to the bouncing early days, and is probably its most satisfying moment. ‘Dead Behind The Eyes’ features Lamb of God’s Randy Blythe, and could easily have been a lost track from LOG’s own back catalogue; chugging riffs, furious drums, with melodic guitar bridges. Guitarist Marc Rizzo continues to turn out shredding riffs and Max’s vocals sound as raw as ever. Soulfly have always been a band worth seeing live and this screams crowd-pleasing circle pits and moshing inducer. The main problem with Soulfly albums have maintained consistency throughout a whole album, and Ritual sags in the middle with some perfectly passable if instantly forgettable numbers.
It does, however, pick up the quality again in the latter third. ‘Blood On The Street’ has a brief tribute to the bands interest in World music with pleasing flute and tribal drum combo, before segueing into a punky thrash number with a furious Lamb of God vibe. ‘Bite the Bullet’ has an excellent flurry of a solo for an opener before tucking into another slice of feral Thrash. ‘Feedback!’ is something of an oddity; a punky rock and roller that could pass for a Motörhead cover, yet somehow still works.
The mandatory instrumental slow jam is present and correct, but the intro to ‘XI’ sounds eerie similar to the intro of Metallica’s ‘One’ with some extra World music thrown over the top.
There’s plenty of enjoyable moments on here – and there are times it’s heavy as balls – but there’s a distinct lack of standout memorable moments; while Nu-Metal Max may have not been everyone’s cup of tea, at least early Soulfly had hooks. Ritual is not a classic, but has enough moments to satisfy those in need of some battering metal.