Massachusetts Daily Collegian

Soulfly tackles experimentation at its own pace on “Archangel”

By Alexander Beebe

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Most bands that became successful through the nu-metal explosion of the early 2000s are hard to take seriously in this day and age, as they continute to cling to outdated riffage and juvenile lyrics as if an entire decade has not gone by. But bless Max Cavalera’s unruly soul for taking the initiative to distance his music from those frowned upon trends of yesteryear with each new Soulfly album.

Having been around the block a few times with the sounds of industrial and thrash music, “Archangel” is the latest outing from Cavalera’s long-running post-Sepultura project and adds a dash of black metal influences to an already harmonious, groove-laden death metal sound.

Cavalera said the album was inspired by prominent black metal acts such as Behemoth, but those suspicious of another attempt at bandwagon-jumping need not worry, as “Archangel,” released Aug. 14, is a genuine effort to expand the sound of Soulfly into a progressive direction.

While it is the group’s shortest offering, at a mere 36 minutes in length, “Archangel” stands out as the band’s most straight-forward release in a while, and perhaps the heaviest Cavalera project since his days with Sepultura. The group’s previous album, 2013’s “Savages,” concentrated on tightly-knotted grooves and barbaric aggression to achieve a primal and organic sound.

“Archangel” takes a page from the methods of many black metal artists and amplifies this raw tone even further by not pursuing high production values but instead allows the resulting lo-fi sound quality to accentuate the distorted grit.

For a band led by a man who has always been about getting up close and personal, “Archangel” contains a surprisingly cavernous atmosphere that’s highlighted during the occasional psychedelic outro. This acts as relief from the constant onslaught of throat-shredding bellows and bludgeoning guitars that characterize Soulfly, and gives “Archangel” a sense of grandness that’s been absent on Cavalera’s more recent projects, such as the supergroup Killer Be Killed.

Despite being thoroughly solid for what it is, “Archangel” is not going to please everybody. While the dabbling in black metal and doom metal provides some much-needed enhancements, they sadly fall short of a complete overhaul to win over purists of the underground scene.

Longtime fans who recall the classic black metal-influenced sound of the earliest Sepultura albums will certainly find a lot about “Archangel” to enjoy, but without anything in the way of innovation, this album’s minor advancements are not enough for it to be wholly embraced into metal circles outside of its niche.

Cavalera has always implemented a process of gradual change that carries across everything he records, which is why it’s almost surreal to think that “Archangel,” a grinding death-thrash album with acidic grooves and a guest feature from Todd Jones of powerviolence band Nails, is from the same band whose debut album showcased knuckle-headed down-tuned chords and the notoriously goofy Fred Durst of Limp Bizkit as a featured guest.

In that respect, “Archangel” is a testament to how far the band has come but also shows why Soulfly outlived the hundreds of nu-metal bands of the past. That is because Cavalera is still choosing to tackle experimentation at his own pace as opposed to making this album into the relevance ploy that it easily could have been.

Alexander Beebe can be reached at [email protected].

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