Soulfly - _Dark Ages_
(Roadrunner Records, 2005)
by: Jackie Smit (
As of this moment, Soulfly are a collective Gunnery Sergeant Hartman, and I am a quivering, embarassed Private Pile. Perhaps I tempted fate (in a good way, as it turns out) by pointing to the inherent failure and subsequent disappointment that has dogged Max Cavalera's career post-Sepultura when I reviewed Marc Rizzo's stunning solo effort -- and, if only to placate myself, I was almost certainly not alone in my thinking. A large chunk of Cavalera's disciples had indulged in and even admired the diminutive growler's desire to explore the tribal musings of his native country on _Roots_, but by the time the dust had begun to settle on the acrimonious split with the band that made him famous, and the first Soulfly record dropped on an expectant public, the idea had already come dangerously close to wearing itself out. Steadfast in his determination to "keep it real" however, Max followed underachievement with more of the same, essentially repeating himself for an additional four consecutive albums, which in many ways makes the unexpected turn that _Dark Ages_ has taken all the more sweet.That being said, it would be nothing short of sheer folly to brand Soulfly's fifth full-length a return to form; at least in the sense that it doesn't directly retread the familiar ground covered by the likes of _Arise_, _Chaos AD_ and _Point Blank_, as some have claimed. Instead, the album oscilates comfortably between all three, going from thrashy ("Arise Again"), to mid-tempo stomp ("Babylon"), to a combination of both fused into a full-on industrial assault ("Riot Starter"). Max's love for world music is ever present as well, but under the expert eye of Terry Date, it all seems more subdued and ultimately considerably more effective.There's a genuine sense of renewed vigor that courses through even softer numbers like the self-titled track that rounds out the fifteen-song collection, but _Dark Ages_ is not without its flaws. In an ironic twist, Cavallera pitches us a curveball on "Innerspirit" that is desperately off the mark; combining the tedium of the Soulfly of yore with an agonizingly mismatched bout of clean singing. It's the album's flakiest moment, and unfortunately not the only instance where the band tread water. Yet, for its brief spurts of inconsistency, there's a wealth of outstanding material on _Dark Ages_; not quite the complete resurrection of the genius that spawned _Beneath the Remains_, but most definitely several strides in the right direction.
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