SOULFLY - Ritual
October 22, 2018, a month ago
After Max Cavalera and Sepultura parted ways more than 20 (!) years ago, few were surprised that the Soulfly debut sounded like Roots and the various nü influences the ‘90s inflicted on the world. After all, Roots had been Sepultura’s most commercially successful album and Cavalera clearly felt part of the nü-metal scene, both as fore-bearer and contemporary. Though we all acknowledged, before the Soulfly debut was released, that the new nü route was what most likely was to come of the Soulfly project, a good deal of us hoped that Cavalera wouldn’t betray his roots (but maybe his Roots) and would grace us with if not another Beneath The Remains or Arise, then maybe Chaos A.D. That did not, in any way, happen.
To be fair, it only took the six years between the Soulfly debut and 2004’s Prophecy for Cavalera to mend fences with extreme metal. Since Prophecy, Cavalera has written real-deal metal, material that he probably would have put together if he had never left Sepultura. The first three Soulfly albums created that first, nü impression in people’s minds and it’s a branding issue that Soulfly never really managed to get over entirely.
But Cavalera’s been back in metal’s good graces for over a decade. And, in that time, each Soulfly effort has had a handful of tracks that, if put together on one album, might be some sort of successor to Cavalera’s Sepultura legacy. When Ritual, and its unfortunately uninspired title and sometimes lazy lyrics, was announced several months ago, we all kind of thought this was going to follow the by now predictable and reliable pattern (indeed, Soulfly has unbelievably released six albums over the last ten years, and Cavalera has also unbelievably performed on at least five others with side projects in that time). We were wrong.
Ritual, much to shock and delight, is the best thing Cavalera has done since Chaos A.D. and maybe even Arise. Though that honour previously belonged to the first Cavalera Conspiracy album (which is still strong, more than a decade later), Ritual has ascended to the throne. Ritual is exactly what we hoped Soulfly might accomplish on the ‘98 debut, and though it’s taken two decades to get here, the intervening years have made it clear that one day we would arrive. Ritual has all the hallmarks of Sepultura from Beneath The Remains to Chaos A.D., while being infused with contemporary production and a strong will not to sound nostalgic. There’s no need to isolate highlights here, as Ritual is, in its totality, a re-realization of the most appreciated moments of Cavalera’s sonic history, the type of meta statement that comes only once early in a discography (through pure drive and inspiration) and then only once later, if you’re lucky (borne of wisdom and the understanding of your life’s total past, including its mistakes and what you learned from them).
Which is a friggin’ wordy way of saying this album rules. If you’ve always wished for more classic Sepultura, or even just Max performing extreme metal at his peak, you must listen to Ritual. One wonders how this can ever be followed up, but let’s shelve that concern for another day. Right now Ritual is here, above the remains.