Twenty years after their inception, Soulfly are going back to the primitive on Ritual, fusing groove/death metal together with Native American chants and percussion. To mark its release, main man Max Cavalera takes us on a track-by-track tour through one of the most aggressive and poignant albums of his career.
“Ritual was the closest we got to classics like Roots, Primitive or Prophecy. I worked with the Navajo and recorded all of their chants. I wanted them to be on the album somewhere but didn’t know where. I gave them to Josh [Wilbur, producer] and he put them at the beginning of Ritual. That was so killer that they became the intro to the record. It feels like a real classic Soulfly song.”
Dead Behind The Eyes
“Zyon [Cavalera, drummer] and I built the whole thing together as a father/son project. It was originally called ‘Cenobites’, because it was all about Clive Barker and Hellraiser. Josh is good friends with Randy Blythe and Randy fell in love with Dead Behind The Eyes. He sang on it and, with his voice, it became even more Hellraiser! It’s some of my favourite stuff on the record.”
“It’s about exploitation of the tribal world by white people; how they came in, forced religion on them and stole their culture. Musically, it starts with a blast-beat, which we’ve never had before. Then it has a cool, death metal kind of groove. Then, after that, comes this machinery: this dark, Code Orange sound mixed with death/thrash metal.”
“It’s a really cool groove song, inspired by propaganda. The lyrics are about how our leaders use their power for evil, all the way from Hitler to Trump. It’s a political disease. So it has a cool, Chaos AD kind of topic. And it’s a double-bass thrash song; I feel good about that.”
“Under Rapture’s insane! It’s three songs in one. The first part is mid-tempo, with lyrics about life, death and the spiritual world. The second, with Ross [Dolan, Immolation frontman], is inspired by Terrorizer, Morbid Angel and Immolation. I wrote that fast stuff for him. The third part is the ending, which mixes electronic sounds with the super-heavy. It’s the closest thing you’ll get to a doom song on a Soulfly album.”
“Demonized has a beautiful acoustic intro, which Marc [Rizzo, guitarist] wrote. It was going to be the intro to the album, until we got the chants of the Navajo. Demonized is the closest thing to a Dark Funeral song that you will get on this album. My vocals are a bit heavier, especially when I’m saying ‘Drown God!’ and ‘Red skies!’ It’s real metal, all the way; no bullshit.”
Blood On The Street
“It’s a true story: a Navajo girl was murdered by the police and nothing happened to the cops. It’s a documentary kind of song; I did a couple of them on Chaos AD, like Manifest, which is about a jail riot. I love doing that. And it’s a trip! It starts with a Navajo flute, then goes into this tribal groove that Zyon created, then goes into this black metal riff and an Iron Maiden or Gojira sort of ending.”
Bite The Bullet
“Bite The Bullet is Eye For An Eye, part two. Josh was bugging me to include more groove songs on the album and we wrote Bite The Bullet. Instrumentally, it’s fun: a lot of percussion, catchy grooves, catchy chorus. It’s a World War II song. ‘Bite the bullet’ is a term from World War II and I’m a big World War II buff; I like a lot of World War II movies and documentaries.”
“I listen to a lot of bands that are inspired by Motörhead, like At War and High On Fire. That was the idea behind Feedback!: to make our own Ace Of Spades or Iron Fist. To me, it was cool to step out of my comfort zone and into this rock ‘n’ roll world that isn’t mine. It’s like Motörhead meets Iron Maiden, and the second half of the song is a tribute to Cro-Mags and New York hardcore.”
“The original riff is almost twenty years old; it was really influenced by melodic Metallica songs like Welcome Home (Sanitarium) and One. Marc put some beautiful guitars over it and then we had a saxophone for the cherry on top of the cake. The saxophone just brings it all together. I think it’s cool, like the Sabbath albums that ended with melodic stuff, like Mob Rules or Heaven And Hell.”
Soulfly's new album Ritual is out now via Nuclear Blast and available from Amazon (opens in new tab).