Abaddon magazine

Music magazine

Monday, October 3, 2022

Review: Soulfly – Totem

Label: Nuclear Blast

Date: August 5th, 2022

When you hear Soulfly, you also hear Sepultura and backwards. People in Serbia love Soulfly very much. Is it because of Mister Cavalera or because they really sound like second Sepultura or Max’s love for Serbia, I don’t know. This is one of the bands in Cavalera dynasty, let’s say. Not worse or better than Sepultura or Cavalera Conspiracy.

Soulfly will never be an American band for me. They can’t run away from their roots as they proved us one more time. “Totem” is their twelfth album and, in my opinion, the best one. In these times when religion is still top notch subject to talk about among people, they chose a good timing to publish it. Religion will never go out of style and many metalheads are either atheist or they are somehow pagans. Those who think of themselves as satanists only because they love black metal, please, guys, don’t lie to yourselves. There is even a subgenre, pagan metal. It’s that big of an inspiration.

Tribes in South America, especially in Brazil, were always really popular among scientists because we as the rest of the World don’t know anything about them. They keep their privacy on a high level but let’s say that Sepultura, with their album “Roots”, opened a big door for them. We all know how the official video for “Roots Bloody Roots” was made. And ‘til today it’s the most popular Sepultura album. Something like their mark. They love the history of their birthplace and they represent it through aggression and dark sides but also the other side of it.

“Totem” consists of ten songs. Every single one of them is a story for itself but they still remain in one big circle. The subject is essential and connects them all. Intro for the song “Superstition” is in Max’s style, pompous, loud and he begins to smash right away! Written for moshes and thrash metal part of the audience.

As we go further, “Scouring the Vile” (or any other song, not just this one) has killer lead guitar riffs. In the whole album accent was given to guitars and drums so for guys / girls who love music melodically perfect, you are just in the right place. Drum patterns done by Cavalera’s son, Mister Zyon Cavalera are beyond good and fit in the right place for such a good band. For me, drums really gave a good trademark to the entire album, especially on instrumental parts in “Totem”. While at “Totem”, this song is, I think, the most complex. The lyrics speak about essentials of everything. Totem is a sign of some god / goddess but his roots stem even before paganism, in prehistoric period. When he said:

“Where were you?

When I was burdened, helpless

Where were you?

When I was tortured, senseless

Totem

Idol of barbarity

Totem

Totem”

He didn’t think of that romanticized picture of paganism most pagan bands give us. He thought of all those helpless moments when totem / gods left people alone. No, prehistoric men weren’t intelligent as much as modern men now, but they also had their moments of mental breakdowns. Nature around them and in themselves was changing really fast. They felt it and were left alone. As one man said a long time ago: “People made up God when they couldn’t trust other people anymore”. As we can see it’s really millions of years ago concluded. But even that God sometimes leaves them on their own. God is merciful as much as he is evil sometimes. This song isn’t important just because it gave the title to the album. It’s the message that the song writer wanted to send.

My favourite song is “Ecstasy of Gold”. Not just because of the lyrics that are brutally dark and honest but because of damn good background guitar riff. The last song, “Spiritual Animal”, has two guests. Chris Ulsh (Powertrip) and Richie Cavalera. The melody is made in thrash / black metal vibe with epic intro that leads us to another dimension of music. Slow but fast in the same time sounds like some kind of a “mantra” (repeating prayer song). End of it is a big surprise and something not much in Max’s style. You will hear the rest.

This album is the best so far. High quality of sound, members and lyrics make one pompous album. Gods will hear this. Cover picture is really effective and morbid. It looks like it has evil Yoda on itself but I assume it represents many totems, not just one.