Soulfly and Savage Messiah savage Islington Academy soulfully
At the risk of sounding like an old timer revelling in his rose tinted recollections of the past, it’s increasingly apparent that venues are just doing it all wrong these days. O2, along with other management companies, have joined the “let’s have two nights in one night” club, and so at Soulfly’s headline show at Islington Academy we get a ridiculously early stage time for opening band Savage Messiah. An unfair task then it seems, that they have the duty of delivering their modern take on late 80′s influenced thrash to a half full crowd at 7pm.
Despite the attendance issues, the surprisingly fresh-faced crew execute a tight performance. Displaying enthusiasm in abundance, they draw energy from their music as the crowd, initially at least, remain fairly static while the band run through a perfectly timed display of Slayer-tinged intros and Judas Priest-esque melodies all fused with a contemporary song arrangement.
During the track “Scavenger” guitarist Joff Bailey hurriedly runs off stage to mend a broken string and vocalist/guitarist Dave Silver makes a humorous comparison to the infamously awkward Spinal Tap antics that gives a cheer from the crowd, and a lightening to the mood. Furthermore, in a demonstration of proficiency, they hold up the next song without the presence of a lead guitarist in a show of true professionalism.
In a genre that is already at the end of its second cycle, it is clear Savage Messiah do not care for trends and as the set draws to a close they receive a rapturous response from a crowd that were previously resigned to a mild headbang. New song “Hellblazer” certifies that Savage Messiah have become a well-constructed thrash machine, clearly built to play much larger venues; their riffed up swagger seizing the attention of those in the venue, affirming the reason why they were chosen as openers for Soulfly’s UK tour.
The contrast in sound and style between Soulfly and the support act is immediately apparent as Max Cavalera walks onto the stage to the opening bars of “Bloodshed” and the crowd erupts with a deafening roar. The entire pit jumping in unison as groove laden riffs infect the room and Max’s aggressive vocals resonate throughout. His command over the crowd is a sight; there is no doubt this veteran has the power to change the atmosphere at the drop of a hat and yet his kind nature shines through the rawness off Soulfly’s delivery and subsequently there are smiles all round.
Despite being a headline show in promotion of their latest release Savages, there’s no denying how potently influential and ground-breaking Max’s previous work is. The tribal intro of “Refuse/Resist” rolls in, sparking a full on riot in the crowd as they chant along to this sonically-delivered beast and the adrenaline in the room becomes instantly heightened. Max’s son Zyon then smashes his way into the immediately recognisable opening of “Territory” along with Mario Rizzo’s excellent lead parts defining the layers in the song. All the while, Max focuses his attention on the crowd as the musicians take on the weight of the music, Soulfly have never sounded so crushing
In an age where in a live environment, bands rely on clicks and backing tracks to tighten their performance, it is somehow refreshing to hear a group who would rather stick with passionate and spur of the moment musicianship than the boundaries of metronomic technical geekery. Controlling the motions of everyone in the room, allowances can be made for the often erratic tempo changes as it only adds to the primal transition between thrash beats and half time mosh friendly rhythms.
It’s interesting to note that Max Cavalera tonight sports a NAILS tee – having always been an advocate of emotionally raw music, it further clarifies what Soulfly are about; pure energy, holding nothing back and representing where metal came from and what it’s truly about. Soulfly are playing entirely in the moment. Other acts should take note; drop the in-ear click tracks, trust your instincts, keep it raw.