Review Summary: Caution: If you are not fully acclimated to brutal music, please contact your doctor before listening to Conquer. Side affects may include; headaches, ear infections, depression and the irresistible urge to headbang.
During another one of my lonely days surfing the internet for music, I chanced upon the video for "Unleash" by Soulfly. I'd heard of Max Cavalera several times (he was even featured in a recent issue of Guitar Player) but I had never actually heard him perform. It was a little bit jarring. What I noticed immediately was the extremely guttural and violent vocals. Max's voice almost seemed inhuman. Not to mention the track is played against extremely brutal guitar riffs and jackhammer drums. Not surprisingly Soulfly came across to me as a whole bunch of sociopaths that somehow learned to play musical instruments. However, I was wrong. The interlude of "Unleash" is filled very interesting guitar and back beats that sounded completely different from what I had just heard a minute ago. Intrigued, I decided to delve deeper.
I was not impressed with the first song "Blood Fire War Hate." It seemed like an excuse to use angry words over and over in an attempt to scare the audience. It didn’t scare me, but it just about bored me to death. Fortunately, the rest of the album was better. "Paranoia" had a creepy, edgy, and of course a very paranoid mood. I couldn’t help but look over my shoulder to make sure Max Cavalera wasn’t sneaking up behind me with an axe. From very early on, it’s quite apparent that Cavalera isn’t a very good lyricist but the sheer intensity of his voice (which could give grown men nightmares) more than makes up for it. Then again, people that listen to this kind of music aren’t exactly looking for lyrical depth. If your looking for one of those high IQ deathcore bands go somewhere else, Cavalera cant seem to stay away from words like blood, death, hate and a certain four-letter word.
As you may know, Soulfly is frequently compared to Slipknot (mostly because their in the same genre) but they aren’t very similar at all. For starters, Soulfly doesn’t have a DJ or a sampler like Slipknot, partially because it would be overwhelmed by the guitar. Second, although Jim Root and Mick Thomson are decent guitarists, they do NOT match up to Max Cavalera's level of skill when it comes to making something melodic or anything other than fast. Max's riffing skills on this album are also quite notable (especially in songs like Doom). The only thing similar between these two bands is the extremely talented drummers. Both Joey Jordison (Slipknot) and Joe Nunez can pack a punch. Nunez incorporates an awesome tribal sound to his drums that is very unique to the genre. Pair that up with fast rolls and great flow and you get some very decent sounds.
The guitar throughout is very dynamic. At one moment, it’s comprised of frantic riffing and the next it’s wandering through hauntingly beautiful solos and interludes. Also, unlike many other bands today, Soulfly does not drown out the bass guitar. The interludes are surrounded by dark, depressing bass fills that seem to weigh very heavily on the mood of the song. "Rough" and "Doom" are great examples of this. Another unique feature of Max's playing is his actual guitar. he only plays with four strings! And no, surprisingly it’s not the B and E strings. He's removed the two strings that have the lowest pitch. What’s incredible in the amount of dark, violent riffing he can pull out of the treble strings.
Soulfly's most unique element is its Brazilian roots. Many times throughout the album you will hear congo drums and tribal beats, backing up a plethora of stringed instruments that I have no hope of naming. Vivid examples of this can be heard at the end of "For those about to rot."
Despite the brutal and static lyrical themes and composition Conquer, is a decent album if you’re looking for heavy thrash metal with a little extra flavor.
For those about to rot