There was a time when many had lost faith in Max Cavalera. Sure, his records sold, but there was a clear decline from the first Soulfly album, through ‘Primitive’ and ‘3’ which suggested that the former metal man’s days were numbered. Then came ‘Dark Ages’, a roaring tirade of an album that rode high on the biting guitar solos of Marc Rizzo and reaffirmed for many that Max had his mojo back. Gone were the fist bitingly horrific collaborations of the previous albums. Gone were the tired, down-tuned nu-metal riffs. In their place were razor sharp guitar riffs coupled with frantic shredding. It was like ‘Bleed’ had never happened.
That ‘Conquer’ manages to top ‘Dark Ages’ is some feat. In fact, not only does ‘Conquer’ top that album but it managed to slay almost everything released that year including Max’s own Cavalera Conspiracy. It’s almost as if Max felt he had to clear out the torpor of previous albums and make one head long furious assault on the senses and on ‘Conquer’ he most assuredly does. First song ‘Blood fire war hate’, which the band has opened with on the last couple of occasions I have seen them, is jaw droppingly heavy. Surfing in on a tribal war chant of the title, the leading riff drops like napalm, scorching everything in Soulfly’s questionable past. Moreover the choice of Morbid Angel’s David Vincent to contribute vocals ultimately contributes to the track rather than feeling like a fashion statement as some previous collaborations did. If the first track is napalm, then track 2 (‘Unleash’) featuring Dave Peters form Throwdown, is the follow-up infantry assault. Heavy as hell with familiar, yet brutalised, guitar wails over a brutal riff, it highlights the fact that Soulfly mean business this time. Having spent the first two tracks leaping around the room in agitated excitement, texting all my metaller friends and telling them to buy the album, it is something of a relief that the rest of the album maintains this high standard. ‘Paranoia’ blisters, while ‘Warmageddon’ arrives on a fat bass riff that makes all but the sturdiest of floors vibrate. Even the crazed psychedelic wig-out of ‘Soulfly VI’ fits perfectly, offering a brief respite from the raging torrent of anger that comprises the rest of the album.
For those who can track down the collector’s edition of the album, then three bonus tracks await (including a bizarre and not-nearly-as-good-as-you-might-think cover of Marilyn Manson’s ‘The beautiful people’) as well as a live DVD which is actually incredibly good. The show, from Warsaw’s Stodola club, is well filmed and recorded and the Polish fans, famous for their dedication to all things metal, are clearly having the time of their lives, while Max and the band are on fire. If you like metal then this release is little short of an essential purchase and the Collector’s edition goes above and beyond the usual promo video / extra tracks that are normally the province of such things. Welcome back Max, we’ve missed you.