Scrawl from The Saw’s Butcher Shop: Soulfly — Totem (2022) ALBUM REVIEW

Welcome to The Saw’s Butcher Shop! I am your host, The Saw (but you already knew that)! Are you familiar with the name, Massamiliano Antonio Cavalera? That’s right! Most people know him better as, Max Cavalera, co-founder of the mighty Sepultura in 1984 (with his brother, Igor Cavalera). He is also the founder of Nailbomb, Cavalera Conspiracy, Killer Be Killed, and Go Ahead and Die. In 1997, after leaving Sepultura, Max founded Soulfly as his main focus. And Soulfly has dropped their 12th studio album.

Totem was released on August 5, 2022 via Nuclear Blast. If I had to use one word to describe this new album, that word would be – RIFFS! Soulfly has covered a lot of ground in it’s 25 years of existence, starting out as Nu-Metal (with a twist), straightforward Heavy Metal (with Max’s patented vocal delivery), to Death Metal (again, because of Max’s vocals). Ironically, Totem continues the evolution of sound. In 2022, The Year of the RIFF, Soulfly has revisited the riff mastery that has made Max famous. With the exception of two songs (“Soulfly XII” and “Spirit Animal”), this record is a lesson in basic, riff-led, Thrash/Death Metal.

It is worth noting that Max’s son, Zyon Cavalera, is the drummer (2012 – Present). Mike Leon plays bass and sings backing vocals (2015 – Present). As of right now, Dino Cazares (Fear Factory) is the touring lead guitarist (2021 – Present). And, of course, Max Cavalera is the vocalist and rhythm guitarist (playing leads on the new record).

The opening track, “Superstition,” is a wicked throwback to Sepultura fame. It’s a banger that bounces! The common reoccurrence, song-after-song, is the structure and arrangement of the riffs! Screaming lead solos, and nothing short of pure Death Metal drumming rounds this song out well.

The second track, “Scouring the Vile,” features the living legend, John Tardy (Obituary). John saturates this banger with his trademark vocals and cadence.

“Filth Upon Filth,” “Rot in Vain,” “The Damage Done,” “Totem,” “Ancestors,” and “Ecstasy of Gold” are the meat of this album. I can only say, about each individual track listed, what a riff! Killer riffs, screaming solos, mid-tempo to quick-paced time signatures, excellent drumming and bass lines are a solid bottom-end, and Max’s vocals; these eight songs are an old-school riffing masterpiece!

“Soulfly XII” is a mellow instrumental that sets-up the final track, which is a bit different in style, “Spirit Animal.” The nine-minute song features Chris Ulsh (Powertrip) and Richie Cavalera (Incite). A crushing riff is layered with synths, tribal chants, jazz (horns and percussion), and classic Death Metal double-bass work. Clean vocals are the echoing haunt. I think this song reminds us of Max’s context; his history and his culture.

Rating: 9/10!! The power of the riff!

Favorite Songs: Scouring the Vile (because of J. Tardy!), The Damage Done, Totem, and Ecstasy of Gold

Stay Metal,