King Parrot released Ugly Produce to the world last month, and as Hanz Lopez wrote in his 9/10 review, “it’s brutality, technique, and catchiness all in a 27-minute package.” Ever since its release, the band has been bringing that new material along with them on the road in support of Housecore label mates Superjoint (dates). Before their set here in New York City, I got to catch up with vocalist Matt Young to talk about their current tour, Ugly Produce, video ideas, and much more. Continue reading →
At the beginning of autumn where the world around us dies, it was only fitting on an early October night to see Cattle Decapitation headline at Brighton Music Hall in Allston, MA. Personally, I had never seen the four piece play a headlining gig so I knew this was a show I could not afford to miss. There was some worry early on as their tour van did have some issues earlier in the day which delayed their arrival a bit. Fortunately, there were other bands to start off the night.
Dark Sermon hit the stage to get the Boston’s crowd attention on the music and not the missing headliner. The crowd was only warming up at this point so most were by the bar or merch tables. I thought the overall sound of the band was interesting with a nice mix of doom and black metal.
Easily the biggest surprise to me on this night was Australia’s own King Parrot. The energy that was created by both the band and the fans was truly electric. The odd, self-deprecating humor brought on in between songs gave almost a relaxed feeling knowing this band does not take itself, or metal, too seriously. Lead singer Matt Young had the crowd in stitches with his moments during songs where he would decide to moon the crowd. After the set, I quickly made my way to the merch table to purchase a patch and a copy of their latest record, Dead Set (Housecore Records), before preparing myself for the headlining act.
It was finally time to witness the San Diego natives close out the night with some of their best material off of their latest album, The Anthropocene Extinction (Metal Blade Records). In fact, the majority of the set list was off of said album including: ‘Manufactured Extinct’, ‘The Prophets of Loss’, and ‘Pacific Grim’. There was also a small selection of Monolith of Inhumanity tracks such as ‘Your Disposal’ and closer, ‘Kingdom of Tyrants’. The Allston crowd also got some classic tunes from Cattle Decapitation in ‘Total Gore?’ as well as ‘Testicular Manslaughter’. The crowd was fully behind each song as the crowd surfers were a plenty and the pits remained busy throughout the set. This band is arguably at their very best with the core that is vocalist, Travis Ryan, and guitarist, Josh Elmore. These guys were so good this time around that I may go and catch them again on their tour with Cannibal Corpse just to experience this band live again.
So, the facts: Archangel (Nuclear Blast) is Soulfly’s 10th album. It has 10 tracks of thrash based heaviness with occasional flourishes of groove metal. It has a lead off single called ‘We Sold Our Souls to Metal’ which is every bit as heavy and thunderous as you would expect from Max Cavalera. Right: to the review.
One of the golden rules that businesses talk about is expectation management. Make sure the customer understands what they are going to be getting and then deliver it for them. If you can, don’t just meet their expectations, exceed them and delight them. If this adage be true, and there is plenty of supporting evidence, then Max Cavalera is a very smart businessman indeed. Archangel sounds exactly like a Soulfly album and, as a consequence, one’s reaction to a new release from Brazil’s favourite heavy metal son largely depends on your view of the nine other Soulfly records that you can also pick up at your local heavy metal dealership.
This then, self evidently, is a good thing or a bad thing, dependent on that point of view. Cavalera’s position and importance in the development and progress of heavy metal as an art form is cemented; he doesn’t have anything left to prove, but Archangel seems to find Cavalera in particularly spiky form. Whatever your view, what is not in doubt is, this is 40 minutes of relentless heaviosity and brutality.
Archangel is probably closest in tone to Soulfly’s fifth record, the largely well received Dark Ages (Roadrunner) which, almost unbelievably, is now ten years old. Opening track ‘We Sold Our Souls to Metal’ could easily have found itself on a Cavalera Conspiracy record, such is its accessibility but the overwhelming feeling on Archangel is the return of the groove and just how bloody brutal it all is. The title track is a decent example of heavy metal thrash laden thunder but, equally, the pounding ‘Sodomites’ would serve just as well: both are bone crushingly heavy slabs of groove metal and, as any fule kno, this is a good thing.
Elsewhere, ‘Live Life Hard’ is a manic hardcore track with Matt Young of King Parrot picking up the vocal duties; it’s low rent fun but ultimately lightweight; of more considerable heft and resonance is ‘Titans’ which has echoes of mid period Anthrax running through it whilst Max wails like the proverbial banshee. ‘Bethlehem’s Blood’ is a highlight: four and a half minutes of bilious rage against organised religion and a bit of a horn section thrown in for good measure: it’s a dark composition and all the better for the musical diversions thrown into the thrashy soup.
If you like Soulfly, you are likely to embrace this record warmly; if you don’t, well there won’t be anything here to change your world view but you might just want to doff the cap for a single-mindedness and obstreperousness that shows no signs of waning anytime soon.
“Man, I always wanted to do a song about metal!” proclaims bone fide metal legend Max Cavalera, a vocalist, lyricist and pioneer of playing a four-string (non-bass) guitar, whose humble beginnings began in Belo Horizonte, Brazil, and a band with a first album that had song titles such as ‘Funeral Rites’ and the exceptional, death metal anthem ‘Troops of Doom’. Subsequent lyrics have seen him exploring tribal, um, roots, slavery and national tradition, making political comment, discussing personal tragedy and drawing religious inferences and references. And now metal. “30 years and I’d not done one song about metal! And I’m so passionate about metal, so I had to do a song!”
And the song in question, ‘We Sold Our Souls To Metal’, is a fitting opening track to the tenth album from the band Cavalera formed in the aftermath of Sepultura some eighteen years ago. It’s partnered on the record by ‘Live Life Hard’, featuring Matt Young of King Parrot, which is “about how we live our lives. It’s a crazy, hard, insane way of living but we love it and can’t get enough.”
“To be on the tenth record with Soulfly feels quite amazing, really!” continues Max, running through the themes behind the songs of the album in a voice that surprisingly isn’t thick, deep, or yelling, to the point that at the start of the call I had to clarify twice to whom I was speaking (nor does he bellow he wants to “forksheetorp”, more is the pity). “‘We Sold Our Souls To Metal’ is better late than never! ‘Titans’ is about Greece, and there are Babylonian things in ‘Ishtar Rising’ and ‘Shamash’.” Which brings us to closing track, ‘Mother of Dragons’; surely Cavalera outing himself as a Game of Thrones fan. “Yes and no. The song is actually about what people called my wife a long time ago. The song is dedicated to her. I wanted her sons to sing something thrashy in a metal song about their mother, in a cool, heavy way.”
As well as the aforementioned Parrot guesting, a band Max has previously pushed and highlighted, the vicious Nails are also involved. “We had Todd from Nails, who I really like, a brilliant brutal band, one of my favourite albums of the last couple of years, so I had to get him in. We did ‘Sodomites’ with him. I really like the guests on this album because they’re a little bit newer. I also like that I sing on the Melechesh album, Enki(Nuclear Blast) because it’s one of my favourite records that came out this year and I got to be part of it, which was such an honour – it’s a brilliant, brilliant album, particularly the last song ‘Outsiders’.”
It’s interesting to talk to Max about his tastes and the influences on Archangel (“Melechesh and Belphegor and Order of Apollyon; all these crazy bands I’m listening to, we know that influenced the sound of the record.”) and how metal, now more than at any point since he kicked off ripping off Celtic Frost and Venom riffs in 1984, is back coursing through his veins and into his grey matter. “I listen to stuff now I didn’t listen to a long time ago. I am more into metal than I was before. As people get older they get less into metal, I get more into metal!” confirms the 47 year old, thirty one years into a career playing in metal bands and on his twenty-first album. “It happens naturally, and the result is, what I’ve been listening to goes right into the writing and ends up bleeding on the songs”. And Cavalera has been listening to more extreme metal now than at any point since the release of the seminal Sepultura pairing of Beneath The Remains and Arise (Roadrunner).
In order to properly capture the more extreme metal leanings, Cavalera turned to producer Matt Hyde. “I really like the Behemoth record, The Satanist (Metal Blade) and Matt was involved with that, so when I said what I wanted to do with this, that I was influenced by it but not into ripping off, he said “I know exactly what you want, and I’ll give it to you.
“Some (producers) can help get something more out of you that isn’t coming naturally, and that happened during the vocals with Matt” continues Cavalera, talking about what Hyde brought to the table. “There’s some kabbalah on ‘Archangel’, he helped me throw those words in there to make the song even more exotic. We did some chants, like on ‘Sodomites’ and ‘Shamash’ that were really cool.
“That’s the kinda thing I love doing with a producer – exploring new ideas and every producer that’s up for doing that will have fun with me on a record. I’m like a kid in a candy store when recording. There’s no limits with me, in the studio, everything drives me crazy to try it out. I want it more, to make it crazier, over the top, it’s always fun to make records! We had an Iranian singer on there too, very over the top, and I love it.”
Above all, Archangel is perhaps the archetypical “Max Cavalera” album. From the blend of big grooves, hooky deep powerful growled vocals, technical thrashy riffs and stomping anthems, where they say pets resemble their owners, this album is a pure expression and representation of all things that are distinctively Max Cavalera.
“We went in with a very clear head and wanted to make a very different record, and from the beginning we wanted to shake things up. As much as I like Savages (Nuclear Blast), I wanted to do something quite different from that. My own tastes in music has changed through the years and there’s now more extreme metal in Soulfly than before and from the beginning of the writing of the riffs, from the influences that got into the making of Archangel, to the producer we used, it was all new and different.
“I’m very pleased, it’s the right album to make – it’s the perfect tenth album.”
One of my first and best concert memories was from when I was about 13-14 years old and I was going to see my first death metal concert. Cannibal Corpse came to Australia back in the early 90’s when Chris Barnes was still in the band.
The album The Bleeding had just come out and was getting a lot of publicity due to the graphic nature of the material, which I absolutely loved as a young whipper-snapper.
My Mum dropped my best friend and me off at the show at The Palace in Melbourne and we met up with several hundred young metal heads that were ready to destroy in the pit. Two great Melbourne bands were opening the show, Damaged and Abramelin and I was just as excited to see them as Cannibal Corpse.
As we walked into the venue, I went to take a piss and was greeted by young die-hards carving upside down crosses into their foreheads, arms and stomachs. There was blood pissing out all over the bathroom floor. I was scared shitless.
None the less, all the bands blew me away that day. It changed my life forever and I knew I had to be in a metal band after that. I did my first ever stage dive, straight into a gap in the pit and ripped the skin off my knee cap and I didn’t give a shit. It was awesome. I still have the scar.
Alex Webster of Cannibal Corpse, by Evil Robb Photography
Watching Alex Webster kill it on the bass was brilliant and I was sold as an extreme metal fan from that day… Nothing much has changed!