Genre: Groove / Thrash / Death / Tribal
Label: Nuclear Blast
While cursing our lives for the extreme heat wave August brought upon us, and while setting the fan in a convenient place to cool our… feet, Soulfly’s new album, entitled “Archangel”, exploded like a bomb. It is the tenth album for Soulfly and it was officially released on August 14 via Nuclear Blast. Compared to the previous albums of Soulfly, “Archangel” is shorter in duration. It’s just 37 minutes long and it’s the last album featuring Soulfly’s former bassist Soulfly Tony Campos, who decided to part his way from the band and continue his career in Fear Factory.
I will try to minimize my fathomless enthusiasm towards the person, the music entity and creations of Max Cavalera (yes, we absolutely love every single project of his) and I will try to be as objective as possible. Of course, the fact that indeed “Archangel” is a great album is in itself an obstacle in paying tribute to what I hear. On the other hand though, I don’t give a crap for what you’ll think.
At first glance and at first listening, ”Archangel” is an album that carries you away, especially if you dig groovy – industrial sounds, in which Cavalera has devoted himself to lately. In general, “Archangel” is characterized by its sophisticated oriental compositions, powerful grooves, multifaceted choirs and religious orientations. And we are congruent with everything. The record appears to be the product of detailed thought and composition, with the element of multiple viewpoints to emerge through each point of it. Soulfly has made one step further. They surpassed themselves in “Archangel”. The production is decent, leaving all instruments and voices (as many guests are featured) to stand out in the best possible way. Everything sounds clear, without weak spots. Production was handled by Matt Hyde. The album was recorded in Megawatt Recording Studios in California, while the mixing and mastering processes took place in Hydeway Studio.
As one would notice, there are many guests, coming from a wide range of the music industry. For example, in “Sodomites” Todd Jones, from the powerviolence group Nails is on vocal duties. In “Live Life Hard” Matt Young of thrash / sludge / grindcore King Parrot is assisting on vocals. Also, Richie Cavalera, Igor Cavalera Jr. and Anahid M.O.P. participate in “Mother of Dragons” (Daenerys Targaryen, is that you?)
The album starts with “We Sold Our Souls To Metal”. It was the first single from the “Archangel”. The track was released on June 30th. As Max has already stated: the track serves as a hymn, praising metal (in all its forms), but also as a thank-you song for all the fans around the world. To be more specific, I quote his statement on the released lyric video for “We Sold Our Souls To Metal”: “This lyric video is a celebration of all forms of metal. This song was written as an anthem for metalheads all over the world! We gathered footage and photos from our tribe (i.e. Soulfly’s fans, friends and family), showing how free the spirit of metal really is. Respect!”. Musically speaking, the track has elements of both thrash and punk and a chorus that sticks in your mind whether you want it or not. It’s a very powerful song and a safe choice, both for being the album opener, immediately setting the mood for what’s to come, but as a single release as well, since the theme is catchy. Perhaps a bit obsolete, at least for me, nevertheless the reactions of the crowd were the wanted ones. One of the characteristics of the song is its subversive outro, where the rhythm falls and guitars are reminiscent of Pink Floyd. When asked about this, Max replied that even now he is not sure if he made the right choice, because while the track has a blasting structure, it ends with a “paranoid” calm outro. He justified this saying has always liked “weird stuff, and that’s definitely weird”. If you ask me, I didn’t see anyone complain or turned off by it, so everything flows as it should.
Next song is the title track “Archangel”, which was released as the third single of the album on August 10th, just a few days prior to the record’s official release. Musically, it’s joined with the previous track; it feels like a continuation. It’s characterized by a doom industrial composition, with various samples that make it quite theatrical. This is supported by distorted drums and angelic choral voices, as well. As the “Archangel” progresses, the fast – close to thrash – elements multiply, giving incredible momentum. The solo at 2:49 seems to lack the sophisticated technique but the oriental character it has, boosts it instantly. Also, if you pay attention to the lyrics of the song, you’ll hear excerpts from (probably) Hebrew texts about initiations.
Next song is “Sodomites”. It begins with a gruesome recitation by Ezekiel (Ezekiel 6: 3: 47) and continues with strong guitars and simple – although solid – main riff. In chorus we meet again the choral vocals that give grandeur to the song and form a dark and vindictive atmosphere. The samples serve the same purpose here, as well. Later on, there’s a passage from “Genesis” (Genesis 19:24) used, thus completing the agenda for the destruction of sodomites. The song ends with bells (and seals out tomb) and a short doxology.
We’re now changing religious tack and elaborate on the goddess of fertility, love, war and sex from Assyria and Babylon, Ishtar. So, “Ishtar Rising” has industrial elements emerging from everywhere. The piece is built around a basic riff, which is accelerated during the chorus. It is not as pompous as the previous songs, but flows nicely and pleasantly.
“Live Life Hard” comes next. From the very first seconds you understand Matt Young’s presence, since his vocals are very fine / high and at points remind you of metalcore. The track is fast with fine and quick guitar riffs, until 2:37 where the guitars are slow as death, adding this way some variety to the track’s structure. It will be appreciated more by the hardcore fans and the general fans of this kind, rather by the classic metallers (I absolutely hate this term, but I didn’t know how else to describe them).
Latin touches on the lyrics of “Shamash” follow. The track begins with a pompous recitation of a sentence (“Shamash Ira Deorum” – Wrath of the Gods). It’s as if he’s actually asking the gods to become furious and smite us. We also have choir and samples that make you think you’re at some altar and expect someone to be slain. Up until 2:47 the composition moves along the paths that the previous ones had already set, when suddenly at 2:48 everything is sped up, with an almost-thrash devastating outbreak.
“Bethlehem’s Blood” starts with a pretty black metal riff that surprises you. Brass instruments, I’m guessing trumpets, judging by the lyrical theme, prepare us for Cavalera’s entering. The addition of acoustic guitars along the electrical, add another tone. Combined with the brass instrument, the result that comes out is wonderful. At 3:17 there’s an amazing guitar solo, reminiscent of southern tunes. Isolated, it seems like fish out of water, but, overall, it’s a wonderful twist.
With the “Titans” we return to the classic Cavalerish formulation; fast basic riffs and extreme drums. Worth mentioning is the refrain of the song, which makes you feel that you come in contact with something higher or eerie. Like being part of a ritual, to the exaltation of the “I” in you. Or that’s what I felt.
“Deceiver” must be the best track of “Archangel”. It’s the fastest and most powerful song on the record, for sure. It’s like a flashback to previous eras. At 1:38 the solo honestly reminded me of something from Randy Roads / Zakk Wylde. NOT KIDDING. Drums keep it real at the same time.
The album closes with the equally quick and powerful “Mother of Dragons”. It moves like a hurricane destroying everything, especially in the beginning. The pace is changed later, reaching doom speeds and then into glory it rides.
As bonus tracks, firstly, Soulfly has covered Napalm Death’s “You Suffer”. Then the Brazilian (I guess) version of the “Deceiver” follows. Last but not least, there’s an EPIC track, entitled “Soulfly X”. As I was talking with a friend, we came to the conclusion that Soulfly’s songs of the same title, used to close each record, are usually weak. But now “Soulfly X” comes to overthrow our universe and blast our chakras! Nearly six minutes of oriental rhythms, acoustic and flamenco guitars, sitar, acoustic bass and a whole lot more. Incredibly charming it lifts your soul and rockets it to the moon. Egypt, Far East and magic is the greatest recipe of all.
As a final note, and a way to finally shut my trap, the cover artwork of “Archangel” is the best cover art ever used by Soulfly. It’s Eliran Kantor’s creation, who’s well – known for his collaborations with Testament, Mekong Delta, Sigh, Kataklysm, Anacrusis and many others of course. In recent statements, Kantor has said: “I’ve been a fan of Max’s music ever since discovering “Beneath The Remains” in high school. When my wife and I got married ‘Territory’ was even played at the dance party part of our wedding. Max asked me to do a traditional piece depicting Archangel Michael – and I tried to go beyond the straight-up neo-classical style as that has been perfected centuries ago, so I mixed in Soulfly’s own visual world: hence the wings and spear being shaped like the Soulfly tribal icon, the cliff with the ocean view just like on the first record, and the Brazilian flag being the core of it’s color scheme”. The cover alone in my humble opinion is itself a reason to order the record. It can serve as a beautiful painting for your living room and a perfect record for your audio system. Two in one, neatly.
I have nothing else to say. The conclusions are yours. “Archangel” is a blazing record and came to stay. Grab it from the shelves or order it via the internet. It’s one of the greatest records Soulfly have ever released. I dare say the best. Surely it will be heard a lot and will certainly reach the top of the charts. Make a gift to yourself, you deserve it and they deserve it as well.