Don’t be fooled by Massimiliano Antonio “Max” Cavalera’s bum-Christ look. Dude ain’t divine. He’s made mistakes. He’d be the first to tell you. Naming his post-Sepultura bromance band Soulfly is one. Soulfly’s new album is another. Conquer is a mélange of Sybil-worthy schizophrenia: unequal presentations of Korn-y nü-metal junk-trunk thump and recycled thrash-core fitted with irritating Playstation 3 sound effects. Ol’ Natty Dred even trots out some new tropes, melding patchouli-drenched Bahia reggae to dad-rock schlock, not unlike the stuff Dave Matthews continually passed off as “technically dazzling” emo-fluff for northeastern latté liberals.
Connective tissue is nil: Shit’s baggier than Cavalera’s hemp clothes. The only possible themes involve bogus anger (see the subtly titled “Blood Fire War Hate”), tribal Xavante flay-vah poorly imported from Cavalera’s native Brazil, and totally relevant lyrical content (“Warmageddon,” “Enemy Ghost,” etc.). Per Cavalera’s initial template of shared sounds and spiritual beliefs, Soulfly was a determined departure from Sepultura’s early brand of play-it-kaput thrash metal, which renders Conquer‘s abrupt struggle to one-up his prior outfit all the more embarrassing. Ultimately, Soulfly’s take on thrash sounds silly and artificial, as if the source tape’s been wound to the breaking point just to be awkwardly unspooled in a cartoonesque diarrhea of passionless cliché. And while bringing Morbid Angel’s Dave Vincent in for a vocal cameo feels like some smarmy quid pro quo (designed to bestow needed cred to Cavalera—and render hyper-exposure unto Vincent) rather than a worthy contribution, it’s all Cavalera can do after his incessant babbling about how heavy the new shit is.
But the real incongruity hits when Soulfly trots out closing track “Soulfly VI,” an über-banal take on yacht rock that resembles a Hawaiian-tropic jingle or a Skinemax porno soundtrack. Clearly the et tu? moment, this makes Sepultura’s five-year digression from Arise to Roots petty crime. At least the boys mercifully tacked their paean to Christopher Cross at the end of the record: You probably won’t make it that far.