ALBUM REVIEW: Soulfly – The Soul Remains Insane The Studio Albums 1998 – 2004


Whenever an established act loses its frontman, especially one as talismanic as Max Cavalera, fans are usually left choosing sides. Do you go with the musician striking out on their own or do your allegiances remain with the band? Largely dependent on the situation, an amicable split can leave listeners happily following both parties down separate paths to the promise of glory but when open hostility is at the heart of the separation, loyalties are often put to the test.

When the elder Cavalera brother left Brazilian thrash legends Sepultura in 1996 it sent shockwaves through the metal community. As his former bandmates searched for a new vocalist, Max wasted no time in seeking out musicians for a brand-new project, Soulfly.



In 1998, with expectant fans eager to hear the results from both camps, Soulfly went head to head with Sepultura and came out on top; Max outselling his former band by some distance. Picking up where Sepultura left off, Soulfly takes the aggression and tribal influences of their latter releases and pushes them unceremoniously to the next level.

From bruising opener ‘Eye For An Eye’ (featuring Dino Cazares and Burton C. Bell of Fear Factory) to ‘No Hope = No Fear’ and ‘Bleed’, Soulfly proves more of a natural successor to Roots than Sepultura’s own Against. Comparisons between the two bands, however unwanted, are practically unavoidable, especially when songs like ‘Bumba’, ‘Tribe’ and the DJ Lethal and Dub War/Skindred‘s Benji Webbe assisted ‘Quilombo’ bear more than a passing resemblance to the likes of ‘Ratamahatta’. Football themed Jorge Ben Jor cover ‘Umbabarauma’ gives the record even more native bounce while the punk blast of ‘The Song Remains Insane’ and the personal attack of ‘Bumbklaatt’ add to the hostility. Final track ‘Karmageddon’ and the restrained self-titled instrumental track serve as departures from more familiar avenues, the former boasting a great vocal performance by Brazilian singer Angola Kassanje.



Although some cynics claimed much of the success of Soulfly was due at least in part to its numerous guest appearances, this obviously didn’t bother Max too much as even more famous names were rolled out for the 2000 follow-up. A more assured and confident release, Primitive kept faithful to the band’s core sound while also moving away from the relative safety of the debut.

Opener ‘Back to the Primitive’ packs a hefty wallop, as do the likes of ‘Bring It’, ‘Mulambo’ and the sledgehammer groove of ‘Pain’ which finds Max ably assisted by Chino Moreno of Deftones and and Grady Avenall of Will Haven. A fledgling Corey Taylor of Slipknot is all over the aptly titled ‘Jumpdafuckup’; Tom Araya of Slayer vents his spleen on ‘Terrorist’ while Beatles legend John Lennon‘s son Sean Lennon joins Max on tribute piece ‘Son Song’. Elsewhere, the hip-hop beats of ‘In Memory Of…’ prove a willingness to take chances while evocative piano strains, congo drums, sitar and jaw-harp make ‘Soulfly II’ possibly the finest instrumental the band has recorded to date.



Released in 2002, 3 saw the collaborations kept to a minimum as the band refocused their energies with fewer distractions. Incendiary opener ‘Downstroy’ blasts out of the starting gate with its System Of A Down style riff, quickly followed by fan favourite ‘Seek ‘N’ Strike’ and ‘Enterfaith’. ‘Ratamahatta’ meets ‘Refuse/Resist’ on ‘Brasil’ and Ill Niño singer Cristian Machado lends his voice to ‘One’. ‘Tree of Pain’ switches from the breezy vocals of Asha Rabouin to the punk attitude of Max’s stepson/Incite vocalist Richie Cavalera while the thrashy cover of ‘One Nation’ features Sacred Reich‘s own Wiley Arnett and Greg Hall. ‘Soulfly III’ is another wonderfully expressive instrumental and the album also includes ‘9-11-01’, a minute long silent tribute to those who died in New York the previous year.


The final studio album in this set, 2004’s Prophecy simply saw the band doing what they do best – delivering the goods while throwing the odd unexpected curveball. No such surprises exist on the venomous opening salvo of ‘Prophecy’, ‘Living Sacrifice’, ‘Execution Style’ and ‘Defeat U’, however, the band finally showing the first signs of restraint during ‘Mars’ as their more traditional influences come to the fore. After the stomping groove of ‘I Believe’, eyebrows are raised with ‘Moses’, an off-kilter collaboration with Serbian hardcore punk/reggae act Eyesburn. Similarly, ‘Porrada’ opens as a funky acoustic jazz number in advance of losing its fucking mind before Helmet cover ‘In the Meantime’ closes out the album alongside the airy ‘Soulfly IV’, and ‘Wings’ featuring vocals from Asha Rabouin.


Bonus materials

It’s not all over yet though as the set also contains a further disc crammed with bonus material such as ‘Cangaceiro’, ‘Soulfire’, Black Sabbath‘s ‘Under The Sun’, Pailhead‘s ‘I Will Refuse’ and Discharge covers ‘Ain’t No Feeble Bastard’ and ‘Possibility of Life’s Destruction’, plus remixes of ‘Quilombo’ and ‘Umbabarauma’ among others. A booklet including interviews and previously unseen photographs is also included making it a worthwhile purchase for any loyal fan or fervent completist.


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