Soulfly - Dark Ages - Roadrunner Records 2005
15 Songs
Running Time: 66:28

My utter hatred for Soufly (and any post-Max outing by Sepultura) has been well documented, but it seems Max and his revolving cast of members may have just gotten it close to right this time. Very close, in fact. Firstly, he's kept the core of the group that barfed up last year's abyssmal Prophecy, which isn't a selling point in my book. Somehow, though, Mad Max has managed to make the best use of the band's strengths this time around. Chalk some of that up to the touring for Prophecy, which found Soulfly in flux (as usual) but becoming more comfortable with their sound , and where they wanted to take it. And thus, 2005, and Dark Ages is upon us. Well, let's see what this is all about...

Ah, the dreaded intro track. When bands take the time and energy to not only give the intro a track number but a name as well, it's nine of ten times a sign of bad things to come. As it is, though, 'The Dark Ages' is short, and though pointless really, is quickly moved to the side by the most credible Metal song Calavera's been involved with since the Dave Grohl-fuelled Probot restored my faith in the man's ability to deliver. Roots-era tribal beats bash against the song's main groove, and in short order are replaced by the thrash-driven 'I And I'. Sure, the jump-metal is still present, but woven through its tracksuited threads is some quality metal. Around halfway through 'I And I', the dynamics for which Soulfly have been striving since their birth finally make themselves known in a soft interlude which gives way to a speedy finish. 'Carved Inside' recalls, yes, I'm saying it...Nailbomb in the verses, while the chorus falls back into that prisoncore mode that only Biohazard can truly call their own (and not for the past ten years, mind you). I understand that any mention of Nailbomb and Soulfly in the same review should normally be hailing one and shitting upon the other, but repeated listens to 'Carved Inside' - at least the verses - should bear witness. And now, the first monkeywrench in the oildrum, 'Arise Again'. Not that Soulfly's attempt at the fusion of punk's energy and the percussive engine of industrial is badly done. It's just overdone, and on an album with fifteen tracks, there was bound to be a good share of filler. 'Arise Again' is the first instance of this. 'Molotov' is next, Billy Milano proving once again that nothing sounds as angry as a large man yelling into a telephone (which is how his vocal track was recorded). I'm not sure the words "Life is a journey, beautiful and free" have ever been spat from Milano's mouth, but he's our fat bastard and we love him. Musically, 'Molotov' takes a page from the more hardcore-influenced Sepultura songs, namely 'Crucificados Pelo Sistema', only to fall into the bounce-metal of 'Frontlines', which would be a good song, were it not for the standard Soulfly-hazard riffwork of the chorus and the nearly blatant 'One'-ness of the outro. It's taken to almost the halfway point of Dark Ages, but in 'Innerspirit' we see Max "the Bob Marley of metal" (not my words) Cavalera slip back into Rastafarian mode. This time around, though, Cavalera eschews much of the posturing, simply letting the song flow, ala Bad Brains. Thanks are due in large part on this one to Serbian vocalist Coyote, who is responsible for the harmony and the trombone. After the slow, crawling 'Corrosion Creeps' - which would be much better if not sped up for the sake of speeding up from time to time -, 'Riotstarter' spends nearly two solid minutes in Brazillian/Mid-Eastern chant mode, sucking all the energy from an already weak song before it even begins. 'Bleak', however, is menacing like Cavalera hasn't been since 'Slave New World'. He's pissed off this time, and with people dying all around him (this time grandson Moses and Dimebag most notably), who can blame him? Dark Ages also gives us a more overt glimpse into Cavalera's "industrial" experimentation in the form of '(The) March', which would probably work were it more fleshed out. As it is, it's skeletal and just fills space that wasn't empty from the start. The anger boils again on 'Fuel The Hate', the lyrics "I don't give a fuck if you live or die." giving us back a bit of the Max gone AWOL for so long. 'Staystrong' closes the album proper, Cavalera's son Richie adding his vocals to this anthem of overcoming in the face of a loved one's death. Typically, the instrumental track (we're up to five now total) 'Soulfly V' ends Dark Ages. Fine, great, and the track is a study in the dynamics flirted with early in the album. I just hated having to wade through around fifteen minutes of filler throughout to get to it.

In the end, Soulfly pulls a dirty diamond from the coal of their past releases, and proves to myself and others that beneath all the hype and recently-shorn dreads of Mr. Cavalera, still beats the heart of a metal heavyweight.

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