Sound — 8
Soulfly has essentially served as Max Cavalera's primary creative outlet since he left the band he formed with his brother, Sepultura, in 1997. Since that time the lineup of the band has been a little bit shaky, with fairly frequent lineup changes leading to the current lineup of Max on vocals and guitar, his son Zyon on drums, his nephew Igor Cavalera Jr. on bass and Marc Rizzo on lead guitar (while Tony Campos is no longer in the band and has been replaced by Igor Jr., at least live, he did record the bass on the album, as well as provide some vocals on a few of the tracks). Max has also had various family members briefly guest on albums, from his stepson Richie Cavalera (frontman for Incite), and Roki Cavalera (Max's grand-daughter, I believe). Soulfly has been categorized as nu-metal, thrash metal, and death metal from early on, though there currently isn't much of any kind of nu metal in their modern sound, as well as their world music influences are few and far between on "Archangel" when compared to their previous releases. "Archangel" has thirteen tracks on the deluxe edition of the album, with a runtime of approximately 45 minutes. There have been three singles released from the album, "We Sold Our Soul to Metal" which released in early July, "Sodomites" which released in late July, and "Archangel" which released as the third single just days before the album release.
The album opens up with the lead single, "We Sold Our Souls to Metal," which is a very aggressive track that stays high energy, and which comes heavy on the groove and message. The title track and third single, "Archangel," is the second track on the album, which opens up with an audio sample and a cool little lead line on guitar. "Archangel" is really heavy on vibe, setting up a really intense "soundscape" for the song to sit in, but also finds a little bit of time for a blast beat and a fairly traditional guitar solo. "Sodomites," the second single from the album, opens up flirting with atonality and some good growled vocals quoting a few lines from the Book of Ezekiel over a sludgy guitar riff - this also has Todd Jones from the band Nail providing some guest vocals. The chorus reminds me a lot of the wicked witch of the west's marching guards on "Wizard of Oz." "Ishtar Rising" is another track that is really showing off the band's control of groove - which seems to just grow stronger with each album, despite any lineup changes. "Live Life Hard!" opens up with some guest vocals by Matt Young of King Parrot. I have to be honest - his vocals are hard for me to even tolerate, but I guess that is a matter of taste. Otherwise, the solo from "Live Life Hard!" is pleasant though it isn't extraordinary in any sense. "Shamash" opens up with some chanting, and moves into some of the best vocals and grooving riffs on the album. This track also has my favorite guitar solo from the album.
"Bethlehem's Blood" opens up with a tremolo-picked riff and a drawn out black metal screaming with slow-motion blast beats, but moves onto something much more interesting, with some actual brass instruments incorporated into the song. The solo on this one is pretty tight, as well, but it seems to end fairly abruptly. "Titans" reminds me in the first 15 seconds of the "Bleach" album by Nirvana, but it doesn't stay in that space for very long, and gets intense and metal well before the 30 second mark, and uses a cool echo/delay type effect on the vocals during the chorus. "Deceiver" is an intense track out the gate, and is just a really solid track with some cool lead parts incorporated. "Mother of Dragons" guests Richie Cavalera, Igor Jr. on bass, and Anahid "Master of Prussia" who I've only ever heard of from her screamed vocal covers of Sepultura and Soulfly songs. The bonus tracks for the deluxe edition include a cover of "You Suffer," which was originally recorded by Napalm Death. The only difference is Roki Cavalera prefacing the lyrics with the line, "Please exit the music business, punk!" The song "Acosador Nocturno," which translates to "Night Stalker" in English, and this is the only song on the album with non-English lyrics. The album closes out with "Soulfly X," which is a very bada-s instrumental track which incorporates some middle-eastern sounding instruments and melodies, and is just under six minutes long - this track doesn't get very heavy, but it is very intense.
Lyrics — 7
Max Cavalera's vocals have grown on me over the years, but in all honesty they used to get on my nerves pretty bad. I feel like he's provided a solid performance on the album, as well as the several guest vocals on the album. The only thing that really turned me off any of the vocals on the album would have to be Matt Young's contributions on "Live Life Hard!" The lyrics on the album are pretty diverse, though a lot of the lyrics do focus on deeper subjects, as has been Max's inclination, historically. There is a lot more focus on Christianity than on previous albums. Here are some lyrics from the opening track, "We Sold Our Souls to Metal": "Born to rage against the order/ F--k the world live forever/ We wage war against you all/ I don't need society/ I don't need your politricks/ We live our lives the way we want/ We sold our souls to metal/ We sold our souls."
Overall Impression — 8
I feel like Soulfly is kind of getting back into a good place, musically, their last few albums that reminds me more of their heyday. My favorite tracks from the album are "Shamash" and "Soulfly X." I would love to see how this goes as Igor Jr. gets familiar on the bass in the band and (hopefully) begins to operate more as a group effort instead of just Max's solo project (though it may be much too late for that type of change in dynamic). I have noticed that I greatly appreciate Max's work in collaborations such as his work with Killer Be Killed and Cavalera Conspiracy, so I'd love to see some of those types of creative elements adding to Soulfly.