Release DetailsLABEL Nuclear Blast
RELEASED ON 9/30/2013
The band has regressed to an older, simpler version of itself — lacking recent focus, classic ferocity, and needed innovation.
Yeah, that’s mine.
I went through an exploration of Sepultura in the ‘90s similar-in-spirit to our dear Reverend. Although, keeping in line with my weird acquisition habits, I think the first album I owned was Blood Rooted, then Schizophrenia, and later filled in the haphazard gaps from there. I generally never bought anything that wasn’t either used, somehow on sale, from BMG/Columbia House, or dwelling in a cutout bin; so the former was a first-dibs price slash at Best Buy, while the latter was procured via thorough scour at Newbury Comics. As you can probably imagine, I fell on the Soulfly side of the fence following Max’s split — to the point where I sported the above license plate during the first four years of this century. And speaking of momentous splits, this album marks the first significant release of his career to not fly under the Roadrunner banner. I’ve listened the whole way, for better or for worse, plucking out positive points, appreciating the fire while it still burned.
However, there are several issues I take with Savages, and perhaps unsurprisingly, it’s due to a lack of new ideas …not to mention the preponderance of nu ideas. Take the words to lead track “Bloodshed” — typical Cavalyrics resurface, like “downstroy” and “touching the [empty] void”, plus alluding to “the prophecy” …it feels too familiar. This is found throughout, all the way to the end; tell me those WHO grunts in “Soulfliktion” weren’t first unearthed (ahem) beneath the remains. Glimmering glimpses of old gems is just a tease.
So yeah, it’s definitely the most nu metal release in the last decade. Were you concerned when Max did promo shoots wearing threads from The Acacia Strain? I was. I actually liked Enslaved, which easily ranks as one of the bands finest and most death metally moments, due largely to drummer David Kinkade. He is here replaced by Zyon Cavalera, and despite Max being used to blood behind the kit, I think there’s quite a difference between fatherly and fraternal familiarity. The kid can play for sure, but lacks the finesse to be memorable; he can strike, but he’s not yet striking. Still strong considering his young age of 20, he’ll certainly be watched in years to come. I’m curious to hear how he stacks up versus 22-year-old Eloy Casagrande on the new Sepultura, again labelmates now on Nuclear Blast. As Zach attested, Kairos was kinda boring, so I wonder if this explains the paint-by-numbers Soulfly on their first NB outing; then again, Carcass just awesomely reformed with new members, too.
While Soulfly again wisely chose to keep the sheer number of guest vocalists low, not all were successful. Napalm Death’s Mitch Harris proves solid counterpoint on “K.C.S.”, but Clutch’s Neil Fallon strangely lent his throat to "Ayatollah of Rock ‘n’ Rolla" — one of the album’s longer tracks, and one of those rare Fallon collabs that honestly didn’t grab me. His words come across generic instead of his usual clever and incisive scripture. Likely named after the Mad Max character Lord Humungus, it’s the second song here inspired by a movie. “Cannibal Holocaust” is the first, but the perspective is unclear. It seems to be from one of the fictional characters in the original film, and probably could have been more effective examining the real-life controversy behind the filmmaking. I mean, be inspired by films all you please, but this is nowhere near the powerful execution of “Manifest”.
Once again, my favorite part of the band is still Mark Rizzo — though you must hunt more to find his signature on Savages, the most economic use of his talents thus far. Rizzo jells perfectly on “El Comegente”, named after the “Hannibal Lecter of the Andes”. I can’t understand any of the words — lead vocals are bellowed in Spanish by bassist Tony Campos, while Max intones in Portuguese — but the grooves expertly interlock, and about five minutes in, the song also takes a welcome acoustic detour, something of a sibling sequel to “Mars” from Prophecy.
The last time they tried to write about a serial killer cannibal, “Jeffrey Dahmer” left a bad taste in my mouth. One of my main problems was with calling him “master of the gruesome” and “master cannibal” …which is absurdly impossible, when you think about it. Same goes here; how can one master savagery? You could go on an existential journey about the nature of being or whatever, but that’s not what happens here on this album.
Considering Paul Stottler’s cover art, it seems a curious coincidence that ‘a sparsely decorated, half-toothless, in-your-face skeleton’ is an apt description of the music as well. This is a safe album for Soulfly, and a far cry from a thrash/death delivery some reviewers claim; true of Enslaved, not Savages. When you’re done here, it’s like ”Yep, that was basically a Soulfly album.” but without any degree of visceral intensity or desire for replay. The band has regressed to an older, simpler version of itself — lacking recent focus, classic ferocity, and needed innovation.