Now some fifteen years into his post Sepultura career, Max Cavalera’s latest airing of his Soulfly alter ego sees the old boy in invigorated, spiky and typically belligerent form. Enslaved is an often ferocious and cantankerous record, full of bile and venom; as with previous Soulfly records it also has that uncanny ear for melody, albeit melody wrapped in razor wire and delivered with a relentless pummelling to the head.
Much of the lyrical themes of the record cover well trodden Cavalera ground: the impending apocalypse, tyranny, injustice and societal barbarism- most of which we get in the opening few bars of the first two tracks. World Scum sounds like classic Soulfly/ Sepultura: thematically, it’s a 21st century rework of Slayer’s Angel of Death but, in typical Cavalera style, a man not exactly renowned for the half measure, it covers all tyrannical regimes not just the Nazi holocaust. Gladiator is a runaway train of a track- it veritably hurtles along, caring little for any casualties along the way as Max bellows the “Hail Caesar!” chrous as a man possessed. Legions continues the Roman theme and starts with a sound effect of a (presumably) marching Roman army before diving headlong into a pounding, infectious track that’s catchier than a winter cold and scalpel sharp. You get more of the same (yeah, Max is spoiling us) on the equally brutal American Steel that has Cavalera in full venomous mode.
Treachery is sure to be a live and future favourite- its relentless chrous is wrapped in a chunky riff and driving rhythm. Chains has that typically Cavalera-esque build up, spitting vocals underscored by an efficient and effective guitar part and huge pounding drums; it’s one of those tracks that builds and builds until it immerses the listener in its aural assault.
I have never been much of an adherent to the “Sepultura: good; everything else Max does: bad” school of thought; I’ve bounced around to much of his Soulfly output, enjoyed the charming (never thought I’d use that word) spectacle of him and his sons putting Cavalera Conspiracy through its paces at last year’s Sonisphere and, as a result, I came to Enslaved with something akin to an open mind. It pays off if you do too, I think. If you’re in the other camp, then there won’t be much here that’s going to change your opinion. That’s ok: you can leave this caustic, pile driving record for the rest of us to wallow in. A blast.