Soulfly – Totem: Album Review

Soulfly continue to stand the test of time as the Cavalera’s continue to thrive.

Released: 5th August 2022

Record Label: Nuclear Blast

Format: CD / LP / Cassette / Digital

25 years, and twelve albums in, Soulfly continue to blaze their own distinct trail. Totem is another collection of unrelenting songs that clobber you in all directions and leave you gasping for breath. Produced by Max Cavalera alongside Arthur Rizk (Code Orange, Ghostemane, Outer Heaven), Totem boasts guest appearances from John Powers (Eternal Champion), Chris Ulsh (Power Trip), and John Tardy (Obituary).

Superstition opens up the album in typically savage fashion and the pace does not abate for the duration of the record. Tribal drums immediately give way to a maelstrom of furious riffs and a breakneck tempo. No time is wasted by Max Cavalera in adding his distinctive vocal style to the mix. Solo licks and a middle tempo change allow for diversity.

An anguished scream opens Scouring The Vile before flurried guitars and a slower, but no less devastating tempo. Zyon Cavalera, Max’s son, really has the drum tone nailed. His backbeat alongside Mike Leon’s bass create a solid bedrock for the band. Filth Upon Filth and Rot In Pain continue in similar fashion. The former has a real groove to it as it moves through and begs you to bang your head.

The title track is one of the longer pieces on Totem, clocking in at five and a half minutes. Doomier tempos and corrugated guitars make for a dense listening experience. Max Cavalera is a master of heavy and he really shows his expertise in the songs here.

Percussively, Totem really shines. The fills that are put in using different instruments and different styles ensure that Totem is dynamic on many levels. Whilst the music is unforgiving, there is plenty of variety in the mix that keeps things truly exciting throughout. Ancestors is the perfect example of this. Gnarly vocals and a huge amount of guitar styles and motifs really prick the ears. Ecstasy Of Gold is not a Morricone cover; you wouldn’t have this one opening a Metallica show! Max Cavalera shows his guitar solo chops off with a tidy mid song solo.

As far as highlights of a record go, you could pick from many on Totem, but the closing pair of songs really impress. Soulfly XII is a short, and somewhat mellow, instrumental piece with layered synths and more deft touches; it sets up the epic ending…Spirit Animal.

Closing out with an epic on a record could be considered cliché; Soulfy play into the cliché but by god do they do it their way. As the title suggests, Spirit Animal is a wild ride that clocks in at nearly ten minutes. Looking at the cover of Totem, you could see the sounds of the animals included as the song starts. Huge sweeping chords and otherworldly chanted vocals weave the tapestry as the dissonance of the guitars builds. It really is a trip. The nature of the song is reminiscent of some of the work that Tom G. Warrior has produced with Triptykon. Cavalera even takes notes from the great Celtic Frost man in some of his vocal cues. Copy, however, this is not. For anyone that has followed Soulfly, you will know that this is true of the bands identity. It is a stunning finish to a brilliant record.

Listen to Superstition from Soulfly, below.

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