7th August 2015 – Nuclear Blast Records
01. We Sold Our Souls To Metal
03. Sodomites (featuring Todd Jones)
04. Ishtar Rising
05. Live Life Hard! (featuring Matt Young)
07. Bethlehem’s Blood
10. Mother Of Dragons (featuring Richie Cavalera, Igor Cavalera Jr. and Anahid M.O.P.)
The past year and a half has seen a remarkable late-career renaissance for Max Cavalera: Max’s Cavalera Conspiracy project, alongside his brother Igor Cavalera and Soulfly guitarist Marc Rizzo, released the outstanding Pandemonium; his supergroup Killer Be Killed released a debut album that was by all accounts a rousing success; and now Archangel sees Soulfly producing their strongest material since the days of Dark Ages and Conquer.
For fans of Max Cavalera’s work, there is no paucity of choice these days, and thankfully each of these projects have seen Max arise to the top of his game. It’s hard to imagine, but after three decades Max Cavalera is now as vital, aggressive, and fun as he has ever been.
While Max’s side-projects have never faltered in the slightest, Soulfly has rightfully received criticism with their string of albums following 2008’s excellent Conquer. Soulfly were still writing serviceable music, but they eschewed the tribal elements that made them unique among their peers and instead cranked up the aggression. This identity-eschewing move ultimately resulted in the band leaving less-memorable songs beneath the remains. Beginning with Omen, Soulfly had diminishing returns of quality leading into Enslaved, and the band hit a nadir with 2013’s Savages. Despite the massive strength of Pandemonium and Killer Be Killed, expectations for Archangel were kept firmly muted in light of the preceding three albums from Soulfly. Even in the context of assuming simply another rote affair from Max and company, Archangel is a triumph that will be remembered as one of Soulfly’s finest; an expertly crafted refinement that also feels like a return to Max’s roots.
“We Sold Our Souls To Metal” is a blistering and comically joyful opening tribute to the genre, of which Max is one of the chief figures. Cavalera’s almost childlike enthusiasm for metal after all this time is contagious and frankly adorable. All the tracks that follow ably evade with the major problems leveled against Soulfly’s albums; namely that they are overlong and contain substantial filler. At just ten tracks and thirty-six minutes, Archangel is the leanest and most focused the band have ever been, with nary a minute wasted.
The title track is devastating and has unusually intriguing lead guitar work courtesy of virtuoso Marc Rizzo. “Ishtar Rising” should emerge as a fan-favorite with its bouncy groove and simple chorus. At the midpoint is the idiosyncratic “Live Life Hard!” that, with its odd party-vibe lyrics and guest feature from King Parrot’s Matt Young, sounds like pure schizophrenia. Late album highlights include the morbid visions of “Bethlehem’s Blood” which fittingly oozes personality with effective use of trumpets to evoke the track’s apocalyptic feel, and closer “Mother Of Dragons” which comes and goes so quickly, yet with so much going on, that it’s hard to wrap one’s head around it on the first go through.
Ten albums deep into this project, Soulfly are reinvigorated in a way that few had any reason to expect would happen. Archangel is meticulously orchestrated, efficiently constructed, and flows even more beautifully than Max’s hair. Between Pandemonium, Killer Be Killed, and now Archangel, it seems the time is right for metal to call this Max Cavalera’s year. Perhaps “Chaos A.D.” has a nice ring to it.