Max Cavalera, a true legend and without a doubt one of the hardest working men in Metal, is back with the first new Soulfly music since Ritual in 2018. Although never one to sit on his laurels, since then Max has also treated us to Reluctant Hero (2020), the second album from his Killer Be Killed side project, and last year’s excellent nod to the old school and self-proclaimed “Caveman Metal” record, Go Ahead And Die, with his son Igor.
For Totem (Nuclear Blast) Soulfly has been stripped back to a three-piece band, following the recent departure of long-term guitarist Marc Rizzo, although they have been out on tour with Fear Factory’s Dino Cazares filling in.
And it will be interesting to see if he returns to the band when they tour this album, as there are certainly some complex riffs and solos which are definitely going to need two guitarists to pull off on stage.
In a continuation of the theme with his Go Ahead And Die project, there is a definite old school metal flavour to this record with nods to eighties speed and thrash, as well as the nineties tribal / groove style that Max helped innovate with his final Sepultura and early Soulfly records.
In a way Max has very much gone back to his roots (pun intended) on Totem and it’s really quite impressive how he is able to consistently produce good new music time after time, even when he is looking to his own older sound as inspiration.
Each track, other than ‘Soulfly XII’ which is a melodic instrumental, provides a short sharp blast of pure unadulterated Metal, with a polished production which accentuate Max’s vocals, sounding as strong as ever over the top of a succession of meaty guitar riffs, hooking you deep into the rhythm section of Mike Leon (bass, also of The Abscence) and another of Max’s sons, Zyon (drums).
Stand out cuts are provided by the title track which is a slice of classic Max, with a sound that would have easily slotted onto the Chaos AD album, opener ‘Superstition’ which has one hell of a catchy guitar riff, ‘Filth Upon Filth’ which opens with a flashy speed metal guitar solo full of wah and phaser, and the firstly powerful and then melodic closer ‘Spirit Animal’.
Totem is a fine return to Soulfly for Max, which although no longer ground breaking in terms of sound or style, is executed and produced well. You know exactly what your going to get with this one, which at album number twelve is a strong addition to the bands catalogue.
7 / 10