Two years ago ex-Sepultura singer Max Cavalera assembled a gaggle of dissimilar vocalists and crafted the eclectic, experimental Soulfly disc Primitive that, while intriguing, didn't exactly gel.
So for his latest offering, III (June 25), Cavalera has returned to the type of belligerent, hammer-pounding tumult that defined his band's 1998 self-titled debut.
"For Primitive the concept was to have a hip-hop kind of idea for a metal record with lots of guests (including Sean Lennon, Slayer's Tom Araya, Deftones' Chino Moreno and Brazil's percussive Mulambo Tribe)," he said from a hotel in Italy. "This album was supposed to be Soulfly solid songs, and I think the fans are really going to sink their teeth into it because they've been wanting that for a long time."
Not that III is all bludgeoning lunkhead metal. Cavalera still experiments with tribal beats and the occasional ambient atmosphere he just uses them to color and flavor his songs these days instead of making them integral and schizophrenic elements of their own. And while the rhythms of tracks like "Downstroy" and "Enterfaith" are devastatingly heavy, other songs like "One" and "Tree of Pain" include melodic vocal hooks that make the music more accessible.
"I don't think anyone will accuse me of going soft," he said, "because I introduced this kind of thing little by little in each record. Perhaps this is even heavier than anything I've done with Soulfly. I just think it's really cool to expose my fans to new things, and we need to do that in order to continue the natural growth of the music."
The first single from III will be "Seek 'n' Strike," a bludgeoning cut powered by a staggered beat, a lunging riff that repeats menacingly and the echoing cry "Here We Go."
"It's about my life in general. It's about waking up in the morning and just attacking the day. It's kind of a Red Bull or coffee song. Instead of drinking coffee, I listen to 'Seek 'n' Strike' in the morning. It's like my version of a "Hey, ho, let's go"-type of song," Cavalera said, referencing a line from the Ramones' pumped-up rocker "Blitzkrieg Bop."
Later this month Soulfly will shoot a video for "Seek 'n' Strike" with Nathan Cox (System of a Down, Disturbed). Cavalera said he wants the clip to capture the manic energy of the song without relying too much on performance footage.
"I want to do something really different than everything else. A lot of my videos are band-oriented, and that was cool, but I feel like it's time to do something really [special] now. I have no idea what it's gonna be, but it's gonna be everything but normal."
The band started working on III in August at Chaton Studios in Phoenix. At the time about half of the tracks were written, and over the next four months Cavalera bashed out the other half. Soulfly self-produced the record, then hired Terry Date (Pantera, Deftones) to engineer it ("He made the guitars bigger than big," Cavalera said).
Since III was mostly created in the aftermath of 9/11, Cavalera wanted to include a song about the tragedy. But the more he thought about how to approach the tune, the more blocked he became. Finally he decided that the emptiness he felt would be best expressed by a minute of complete silence.
"The minute I got the idea of the minute of silence, I was more satisfied than even trying to write a song," he said. "I felt that there is no song I can ever write that can really express what happened that day. It was just so chaotic, so crazy, so hard to believe that a minute of silence was the only thing I could grasp."
Track list from III, according to Roadrunner Records:
- "Seek 'n' Strike"
- "Tree of Pain"
- "One Nation"
- "9-11-01 (One Minute of Silence)"
- "Call to Arms"
- "Four Elements"
- "Soulfly III"
- "Sangue de Bairro"